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December 2022 Newsletter

Dear Friend,

Many thanks for taking the time to look at my latest newsletter for December 2022.

I hope you enjoy this update of some of the work I have been doing in Erith and Thamesmead and in Parliament in the last month of 2022.

At the bottom of my Newsletter I provide a list of contacts for anyone seeking support, help or guidance during this Christmas period.

As ever, if you want to get in touch, don’t hesitate to contact me using the email address: abena.oppongasare.mp@parliament.uk

Abena

Merry Christmas to all in Erith & Thamesmead

I want to wish everyone in Erith & Thamesmead a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. As the Member of Parliament, I have been grateful to join a number of events across the community to celebrate this festive season with constituents.

I recently had a fab time catching up with Vicar Simon Archer and friends as we switched on the Christmas Tree lights at All Saints Church in Belvedere. I recommend everyone to pop along if you haven’t been there already!

Abena at All Saints, Belvedere

It was also great to be involved once again in the Erith Christmas Tree Festival at Christ Church, Erith. Along with many local families, charities and businesses, I was glad to decorate my tree to contribute to another successful festival. The Trees are available to view until early January and I’d recommend everyone who hasn’t goes along for a visit.

Abena at Christ Church, Erith

I also did a reading at Christ Church’s Christmas Carol Concert. It was lovely to catch up with friends and meet the new Reverend, Anthea.

Sorry I couldn’t join all the events in Erith and Thamesmead, but I’m sure they were all a great success.

Merry Christmas everyone!

My Christmas Card Competition Winner

I also want to send a big thank you to all the students who got involved in my Christmas Card Competition this year.

The theme for this year was: ‘Love Erith and Thamesmead’. I asked pupils to draw or paint a design that shows what they love about places in our constituency. This might have included the parks or open spaces, local communities, shops, landmarks or even family and friends, all of which makes up our community of Erith and Thamesmead.

Congratulations to this year’s winner, Kosi, aged 11, from St John Fisher Catholic Primary School. Visit my website to find more about the winner.

Thanks also to the local sponsors who kindly supported this year’s competition – Co-op Belvedere, Red Lion Noodle Bar, Rima & McRae, A-Star Financial Solutions, Edible Oils and Gordon and Thompson Solicitors.  

I would also like to thank the teachers and parents who helped with the many submissions from across schools in our community.

You can find more information about the winner and updates on the competition on my website here: https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/mp-christmas-card-competition/

Southeastern introduces their new Timetable

As you may know, Southeastern have now introduced their new rail timetable with reduced services across South East London. 

I’ve been campaigning to stop these cuts.  

I have repeatedly challenged the Government and Department for Transport, to get to the bottom of how Southeastern were allowed to proceed with service cuts without public consultation.  

Responding to written questions I submitted, the Transport Minister finally admitted that the Government gave Southeastern permission, via a written derogation in August this year, to proceed without consultation.  

Rail operators are usually required to consult the public before changing their timetables, but we now know that the Conservative government explicitly gave Southeastern permission to ignore these rules.  

I wrote a follow-up urgent question to the Department for Transport to find out how many rail operators have requested derogations from the rules this year. Their answer, which missed the deadlines for urgent questions, was just one. Of all the rail operators in the country, Southeastern is the only operator who have sought permission to ignore the rules. 

This month, I met with the Rail Minister and Southeastern CEO and spoke in a debate on Southeastern cuts in Parliament. 

On 1st December, I met with Huw Merriman MP, Transport Minister and Steve White, Southeastern CEO. I told them that I was unhappy with the new proposed timetable, frustrated by the lack of consultation and the poor communication of the changes, and wanted assurances for the future. 

Abena meets with the Transport Minister

I am happy to see Southeastern has now published an Equalities Impact Assessment for the changes, but this came far too late. I want to see passengers consulted on any future changes and a strong commitment from Southeastern and the Department for Transport that we will not see changes without consultation again. 

I was grateful to neighbouring MP for Eltham, Clive Efford, for securing a debate in Parliament on the cuts. I spoke in this debate alongside my Labour colleagues and was glad to see the level of cross-party consensus.  

On December 6th, I shared stories from Erith and Thamesmead constituents about how the cuts will impact them, whether it is the loss of direct services harming older people, parents of young children, and disabled people who will have to navigate the change at London Bridge, or key workers relying on the loop line to get to work. 

Abena speaking in Westminster Hall on the cuts to the Southeastern Timetable

I welcomed the Transport Minister’s commitment to a full evaluation of the timetable changes and will press for this to be completed in a timely manner and shared publicly with MPs and service users. 

You can find more information about the cuts, see my updates, and share your thoughts here

Small Business Saturday

Small Businesses are the lifeblood of Erith and Thamesmead, providing jobs and supporting families. I am delighted to have supported Small Business Saturday on 3rd December and encourage people to shop local and support local businesses and families.

I was so pleased to be invited to see a number of thriving businesses and to discuss their important needs as our economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the day, I was able to visit Buds of May, Morgan’s Greengrocers, and Crumbs Bakery in Northumberland Health. I was also able to visit the Birchwood pub, Afunkie Beauty and Erith Flooring Ltd in Erith.

Many thanks to all those working so hard for our local businesses.

Cost of Living Help this Christmas

While Christmas is a fun and enjoyable holiday for many across the country, we must not forget the extremely tough time that thousands in our community are facing this winter.

I know people are scared about getting through the winter. While there’s lots of advice out there, it’s not always in one place.

I’ve decided to put together a cost of living booklet that will be able to assist constituents in these difficult times.

The booklet is available on my website here and I will be providing the information directly to constituents who have recently been contacting me about their need for additional support. 

Here is also a list for anyone seeking support or help during this Christmas period:

If you (or someone you know) are in immediate danger, please call 999.

If you need help, but it is not an emergency, please call the NHS on 111 or the police on 101.

If you are struggling with your mental health and would like to talk to someone, you can call the Samaritans (116 123) or text Shout (85258) 24 hours a day. You can also contact Oxleas’ Mental Health Crisis Line (0800 330 8590) 24 hours a day for support.

If you are a woman experiencing domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline (080 8200 0247) 24 hours a day. Men experiencing domestic abuse can call the Men’s Advice Line (080 8801 0327).

If you are worried about your or someone else’s drinking, you can call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110.

If you are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness, please contact your Local Authority as soon as possible:

  • Greenwich Council’s Housing Inclusion team: 020 8921 2863
  • Bexley Council’s Prevention and Assessment team: 020 8303 7777

You can also seek support by emailing your phone number to Crisis at 0300 636 1967. If you are 16-25 years old, you can also call Centrepoint on 080 8800 0661 for support.

If you see anyone sleeping rough, you can contact Streetlink to connect them with support: https://www.streetlink.london/Streetlink_London_HomePage

If you need help with any other housing issue, please contact your Local Authority using the details on their website:

You can also seek free and independent advice from the following specialist housing services:

  • Shelter: 0300 330 1234
  • Greenwich Housing Rights: 020 8854 8848

If you are experiencing any other issue with your Local Authority, you can contact them at:

If you are dealing with an immigration issue, you can contact the UK Visas and Immigration Contact Centre on 0843 816 6363. For issues with your passport, you can contact HM Passport Office on 0300 222 0000. You can also call the following services for expert immigration advice:

  • Greenwich Migrant Hub: 07742 126160
  • Plumstead Community Law Centre: 020 8853 9993
  • Citizens Advice Bexley Immigration Helpline: 0208 694 0323, extension 001
  • Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants: 020 7251 8708

If you are abroad and need consular support, you can find information on the nearest embassy or consulate online: https://www.gov.uk/world/embassies

If you would like advice on any issue, you can contact Citizens Advice on 080 8278 7965 in Greenwich and 080 8250 5709 in Bexley. For debt advice specifically, you can contact the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 or StepChange on 0800 138 1111.

If you are struggling with the cost of living, you can use my website to find out what help is available locally: https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/cost-of-living/

Please note that not all of these services will be available 24 hours a day or throughout the whole Christmas period.

Furthermore:

  • Happy Chanukah to everyone celebrating in Erith and Thamesmead and beyond. Chag Sameach! 🕎
  • Congratulations to the England team for their impressive performances at the World Cup. The whole country can be proud of them and look ahead to a team that will only get better in the future.

Sign up to my Coffee Morning

If you are interested in coming along to a future Coffee Morning, I’ve just launched my webpage where you, your family and friends can sign up to register your interest in attending a meeting.

Sign up:  https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/upcoming-events/coffeemorning/

Stay updated on social media

For regular updates on my activities, follow me on Twitter (@abenaopp), Facebook (Abena Oppong-Asare MP, Erith and Thamesmead), and Instagram (abena.oppongasare.mp).

You can also sign up to my digital newsletter at www.abenaoppongasare.com/get_in_touch


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November 2022 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Many thanks for taking the time to look at my latest newsletter for November 2022.

I hope you enjoy this update of some of the work I have been doing in Erith and Thamesmead and in Parliament over the last month.

As ever, if you want to get in touch, don’t hesitate to contact me using the email address: abena.oppongasare.mp@parliament.uk

Abena

Kearne and Charlie – Rest in Peace

Like all of you, I was absolutely devastated to learn on Saturday night that two 16-year-old boys had been murdered in Thamesmead and Abbey Wood. 

My thoughts are with the families and friends of Kearne Solanke and Charlie Bartolo, and all those who knew and loved them. 

It is impossible to put into words the pain their families will be feeling at this time, and I know our community will rally together to provide support. 

I also know that many of you may be feeling concerned and unsafe as a result of what has happened – our young people, and those who are parents or carers to young people, may be particularly in need of support at the moment and I am keen to see that this is provided. 

As your MP my door is always open, particularly at times of crisis and if you have been personally impacted by this tragedy in any way you are very welcome to make contact with my office and I will be very happy to see how I might be able to help.

I have been briefed by Metropolitan Police, including by the Borough Commander about these devastating events which are obviously a live criminal investigation, and this impacts what I can say publicly at this time.

What I will say however is that I know that the people of Thamesmead and Abbey Wood will come together to stand against violence, including serious youth violence, and to call for all young people to be safeguarded, valued and supported. 

Right across London and beyond, serious youth violence has been all too common in recent years and it is essential that our whole community, our professional agencies and our many wonderful grassroots organisations all come together to reflect on how we can prevent such tragedies happening in the future. 

I will be having many such conversations in the coming days. 

Whilst a lot of effort has gone into tackling youth violence in recent years, the tragic deaths of Kearne and Charlie make clear that we have done nowhere near enough and many difficult conversations will have to be had. 

We cannot go on like this.

Anyone with information can call 101 and quote reference 4943/26nov. Information can also be provided to Crimestoppers, anonymously, online or by calling 0800 555 111.

Remembrance Sunday

On Remembrance weekend, we paid tribute to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and we stand with our armed forces, veterans and their families.

I was honoured to lay wreaths across our community in remembrance of all those in Erith and Thamesmead who gave their lives to protect our freedom. Standing together with members of the constituency, we expressed our gratitude for those who serve and their families.

On Saturday 12th November, I laid wreaths at Thamesmead War memorial followed by the War Memorial at Plumstead Cemetery.

On Remembrance Sunday, I attended the remembrance service at St. Michaels & All Angels Church in Abbey Wood and then laid a wreath at the Abbey Wood Memorial Gardens.

I want to express my thanks to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Royal British Legion for arranging the services. I was also happy to support their poppy appeal in Thamesmead, who continue to do an invaluable service as they raise funds for our armed forces community.

We will remember them.                                                                                                                                        

My campaign to stop the Southeastern cuts reveals Government involvement

This month, activists across Erith and Thamesmead have been distributing my leaflet calling for a reversal of the planned cuts to Southeastern rail services in December.

Since then, I have repeatedly challenged the Government and Department for Transport, to get to the bottom of how Southeastern were allowed to proceed with service cuts without public consultation. These cuts will see no direct services to Charing Cross or Waterloo from Abbey Wood, Belvedere, or Erith stations.

Responding to a written question I submitted, the Transport Minister finally admitted that the Government gave Southeastern permission, via a written derogation in August this year, to proceed without consultation.

My Written Question to the Transport Minister (link here)

I know these cuts are going to seriously impact people across Erith and Thamesmead, whether you are commuting to work or traveling for leisure. Rail operators are usually required to consult the public before changing their timetables, but we now know that the Conservative government explicitly gave Southeastern permission to ignore these rules.

I wrote a follow-up urgent question to the Department for Transport to find out how many rail operators have requested derogations from the rules this year. Their answer, which missed the deadlines for urgent questions, was just one. Of all the rail operators in the country, Southeastern is the only operator who have sought permission to ignore the rules.

I am sure many of you will be very frustrated by this news. I have a meeting with the Rail Minister next week, where I will be pressing him further on the Government’s handling of this mess.

Click here to read more about my campaign to stop the cuts, where I will be posting regular updates.

I am trying to capture constituent’s stories about how the timetable changes will impact them negatively. If anyone has any personal stories that they would like to share with me please email me at abena.oppongasare.mp@parliament.uk.

My Response to the Autumn Statement

After months of turmoil, the Conservatives have now announced on 17th November their most recent economic plan for the country in the Autumn Statement.

This Autumn, working families in Erith and Thamesmead continue to struggle with a decade of wage stagnation, high inflation, low growth and crumbling public services. This Autumn Statement makes clear that the Government’s economic policies are failing and they do not have the answers.

We now know that real household disposable income will likely fall by 7% over the next two years, making this the largest drop on record. The head of the IFS described the fall in real household disposable income as “simply staggering”. It’s clear that this Government has mismanaged the economy, making lives worse not better for the public they serve.

What our country is facing right now is a Tory economic crisis that’s holding us back.

I believe that Britain has so much potential. If we have the correct long-term economic plan, we can get our economy growing again. Labour has a modern industrial strategy working hand in hand with businesses to invest in jobs across the country. We want to fix business rates so we can make our high streets thrive again and we plan to put skills at the centre of our plan for growth. 

I am deeply concerned about falling living standards, high inflation and our crumbling public services and will continue to work hard to make sure residents in Erith and Thamesmead have a government and policies that work for them. Last month I released a webpage and booklet dedicated to providing Cost of Living help to constituents seeking advice and assistance. This can be found on my website or using the following link

Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

Ethnic Minority Business Reception

On Tuesday, 22nd November, I was pleased to join over 100 businesses from across the UK in celebration of the achievements of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Business Owners. It is so important to promote the advancements of enterprises led by everyone and I was happy to hear of the great accomplishments made, especially in this challenging economic climate.

Not only do we need to unlock the potential of businesses led by ethnic minority businesses and entrepreneurs, but it is also vital to ensure that these businesses have their views represented in Parliament.

As Co-Chair of the APPG for Ethnic Minority Business Owners, I spoke about the achievements of the APPG and key recommendations that need to be implemented for the benefit of ethnic minority businesses and the whole UK economy. At the reception, I also spoke to a number of business leaders from different sectors of our economy about the barriers they still face and the opportunities that remain untapped.

I am pleased also that the government minister on small businesses and the banking industry’s trade association has agreed to meet with the APPG on a regular basis to discuss these important issues.

You can read more about the achievements and goals of the APPG on Ethnic Minority Business Owners here.

                                                                                                                                           

My Treasury work in Parliament

I have had a busy month in my role as Labour’s Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

At Treasury Questions in the House of Commons Chamber, I asked the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, why his Government refuses to reverse the ban on onshore wind. Reversing the ban would give us a vital tool to reach net zero, make Britain a clean energy superpower, and open up new investment and growth opportunities. Keeping this ban will make energy bills £16 billion higher between now and 2030, but the Chancellor told me he would not be ending it.

I led the Bill Committee scrutiny stage of the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill. Labour supports the UK Infrastructure Bank, which will invest in projects that help tackle climate change and grow regional economies. Unfortunately, the Government opposed all our amendments to strengthen the Bank, including ensuring the Bank creates highly-skilled, well-paid jobs of the future through its investments.

An update on Constituency Casework

This month, I met with several constituents who are facing extremely tough circumstances. I will continue to work with them and stakeholders in our community and in Parliament to provide constructive and prompt solutions.

Issues include housing insecurity and disrepair, Home Office delays, challenges caused by the rising cost of living and anti-social behaviour.

I have also continued to engage with local housing associations to discuss a variety of troubling issues in our community and how they will improve their standards for local residents.

I recently met with Orbit to talk about their policy for dealing with damp and mould, which is particularly important after the tragic death of Awaab Ishak. I will also be engaging with other social housing providers in my constituency about their handling of damp and mould. This is a vital issue especially given the high amount of casework I receive on a daily basis on the topic.

My team of dedicated Caseworkers and I will continue to assist constituents on these issues and my office can be contacted using the following channels:

Email: abena.oppongasare.mp@parliament.uk

Telephone: 01322 342991

Thanks to all the submissions for my Christmas Card Competition

I am pleased to say that I’m once again holding a competition to design my Christmas Card. I’ve invited students from schools across Erith and Thamesmead to take part. 

Thanks to all the students who submitted their designs and the winners will be announced soon.

The theme for this year is: ‘Love Erith and Thamesmead’. I asked pupils to draw or paint a design that shows what they love about places in our constituency. This might include the parks or open spaces, local communities, shops, landmarks or even family and friends. 

You can find more information and updates on the competition on my website here: https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/mp-christmas-card-competition/

Sign up to my Coffee Morning

If you are interested in coming along to a future Coffee Morning, I’ve just launched my webpage where you, your family and friends can sign up to register your interest in attending a meeting.

Sign up:  https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/upcoming-events/coffeemorning/

Stay updated on social media

For regular updates on my activities, follow me on Twitter (@abenaopp), Facebook (Abena Oppong-Asare MP, Erith and Thamesmead), and Instagram (abena.oppongasare.mp).

You can also sign up to my digital newsletter at www.abenaoppongasare.com/get_in_touch