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Campaigning Summer School 2022

 

At this jam-packed 3-day summer school, young people aged between 16 and 18 had the opportunity to gain the skills needed to make a real difference in our community.

This was a hands-on, first-hand insight into the exciting world of political and social campaigning. The school brought together a wide variety of speakers from businesses like Graylings UK, showing the students tools they can use to influence the Government and make change, and from Meta, to discuss how important Facebook and social media is to campaigning in the 21st Century.

We were also joined by important influencers who have been at the frontline of campaigns that have caught the public’s attention. We heard from Laura Coryton, who started the very successful #EndTamponTax petition, and from former Love Island contestant Shaughna Phillips, who is now advocating for a better public discussion on body image and mental health.

I know from my own experience that whether you’re dealing with environmental issues, crime, or education, effective campaigning is the key to influencing and challenging those in power. So, I am determined to do all I can to empower our young people to be the change they want to see in the world.

Over the course of 3 days, attendees designed their very own local campaigns on important issues such as women’s rights and increasing accessibility access in our community. What’s more, I am personally helping action the best ideas into real campaigns to benefit our residents.

For the students, this was a unique opportunity to see their ideas turned into action and to learn how they can make their voice heard in our democracy.

 

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Abena speaks on the Windfall Tax Bill

The cost-of-living crisis remains the biggest issue facing the country right now. While the Tory leadership candidates trade insults and trash their own Government’s woeful record, I know that many families across Erith and Thamesmead are still struggling to make ends meet.

On the 11th July I closed the Second Reading debate of the Windfall Tax Bill on behalf of the Shadow Treasury Team.

In that debate, I spoke about the financial pressures that many people in Erith and Thamesmead and across the country are facing. Food, fuel and energy bills continue to rise, and I know many are already worrying about the winter that lies ahead.

So it was a relief that the Government finally followed Labour’s lead and u-turned on the windfall tax. However, since Labour first called for the windfall tax on oil and gas producers, energy bills for typical households have risen by a shocking £700, inflation has rocketed to its highest level in 40 years, and, of course, people’s taxes have gone up as the Government have pressed ahead with the national insurance increase. In that period, oil and gas producers’ profits have soared. Indeed, we estimate that between Labour first calling for the windfall tax in January and the former Chancellor and soon-to-be former Prime Minister finally accepting our arguments at the end of May, nearly £2 billion of tax revenue could have been raised to help people with the cost-of-living crisis.

In that time, Conservative MPs voted against our plans for a windfall tax not once, not twice, but three times. Ministers repeatedly claimed that such a plan would not work. Famously, the current Chancellor said that oil and gas producers were “already struggling”.

It is shameful that it took the Government so long to come to their senses and finally do the right thing. That is yet more evidence, if we needed it after the past couple of weeks, that this Tory Government is on its last legs: out of touch, out of ideas and now truly out of time. With the windfall tax and with so many other issues, it is Labour that leads and the Conservative party that follows.

You can watch my speech using the following link here, and you can read my speech here.

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Next Stop Thamesmead – Abena meets the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Peabody and leaders from Greenwich and Newham Council

The campaign to bring the DLR to Thamesmead continues, this month I met with the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Peabody and leaders from Greenwich and Newham Council for a tour of the key sites in Thamesmead and the proposed location for the DLR station.

It was great to have stakeholders come together to discuss the next steps. I also raised the campaign in a recent Transport debate asking the government to commit to the project and back it with proper funding.

Abena Oppong-Asare said:   

“The residents of Erith and Thamesmead deserve the benefits of transport connectivity that many others across London already enjoy. For too long, Thamesmead has been left off the transport map. Extending the DLR to Thamesmead would unlock significant new housing on both sides of the river and would open up access to work and educational opportunities for my constituents.

“Now is the time for the Government to commit to this project, back it with proper funding, and get on with building the DLR extension to Thamesmead.”

Cllr Anthony Okereke, Leader for the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said:    

“The Royal Borough of Greenwich and the London Borough of Newham share many of the same objectives. I look forward to collaborating with the Mayor of Newham, as well as Abena Oppong-Asare MP, and our partners to bring forward essential transport links to an area that has so much potential to offer.

Cllr Averil Lekau, Deputy Leader for the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Cabinet Member for Cabinet Member Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said:   

“Having represented Thamesmead for eight years I am well aware of how crucial better transport links are for the area. SE28 is the only postcode in London without a train station. We’re already seeing how the Elizabeth Line is benefiting Woolwich and Abbey Wood and we need to bring these benefits to Thamesmead too.”

Seb Dance, Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, said:  

“A DLR extension from Gallions Reach in Newham to Beckton Riverside, and across the river to Thamesmead, would be transformative for the area, considerably improving access to public transport in both boroughs and helping people access jobs, education and culture across London with the potential for thousands of new homes on each side of the river. City Hall will continue to work with TfL, the boroughs, Homes England and key landowners to develop a strong business case for this extension.

“Investment in the capital’s transport infrastructure can help to improve the lives of Londoners and support businesses. This lies at the heart of the Mayor’s vision to build a better London for everyone – a city that is greener, fairer, healthier and more sustainable. Investing in our transport network is also crucial to supporting the economy in London and across the UK. We will continue to call on the Government to work with us to agree a fair, sustainable, long-term funding deal for TfL – for the benefit of London and the whole country.”

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Abena officially opens renovated bottling facility at Erith

Edible Oils Limited (EOL) recently hosted me at the site in Erith where I officially opened the newly renovated bottling facility following an investment programme worth almost £24m. I took a tour of the both the Erith and Belvedere facilities ahead of a ceremony to mark the completion of works.

Abena Oppong-Asare MP said: “It is fantastic to see Edible Oils bring new investment into Erith and Thamesmead with the expansion of the Erith site. It is quite the achievement to have successfully completed this venture during the pandemic. As one of the largest employers in the constituency, the expansion demonstrates their commitment to the area and it is great to see more high-quality local jobs and opportunities for residents.”

Managing Director Mark Church said: “We’re delighted to have completed this investment programme which is a major milestone for the business and reflects several years of hard work by our teams and partners, including of course through the height of the pandemic. The investment has significantly boosted our capability and capacity by bringing 5 litre production in house we have been able to lightweight the bottle and will eliminate around TBC tonnes of plastic every year”

“It has been a pleasure to demonstrate the scale of this investment to Abena and our continued commitment to provide high quality employment opportunities in the area.”

 

 

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Celebrating the Jubilee in Erith and Thamesmead

With everything from jamborees, storytelling, markets and street parties, there was no shortage of fun in Erith and Thamesmead for the Jubilee weekend. I loved seeing communities across the constituency come together and celebrate such a momentous occasion.

Thursday marked the lighting of the Queen’s Beacon and Lesnes Abbey Woods and Cygnet Square were among thousands of beacons lit across the county to celebrate Her Majesty’s Jubilee.

Thank you to the thousands of volunteers across Erith and Thamesmead that made the Jubilee weekend such as success.

 

 

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Government must do more to support people to self-isolate

As part of my role in the Shadow Treasury Team, I have been pushing the Government to provide more support to people who need to self-isolate.

Labour has always said that health and economic measures must go hand-in-hand, but the Government’s failure has meant too many people have to choose between self-isolating and paying the bills.

At this weeks’ Treasury questions, I asked the Chancellor about reports that the Treasury had suppressed information about how the furlough scheme could be used to support self-isolating employees. This shocking revelation show’s how poor the Government’s approach to economic support during the pandemic has been.

I called on the Chancellor to appear before the joint parliamentary inquiry into the handling of the Covid crisis to explain why the Government has not listened to the experts and introduced a robust self-isolation support scheme.

 

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Speaking up for hard-hit local hospitality businesses in Parliament

Hospitality businesses in Erith and Thamesmead have had an enormously difficult year. On Wednesday 24 March, the House of Commons held a debate to consider support for the hospitality industry during this pandemic.

I spoke at the debate, highlighting the enormous difficulties our local businesses have faced. Not only have they been closed for many months, but when they have been allowed to open, they have faced a constantly changing set of rules and regulations. Many have not received the financial support they needed from the Government, and many are fearful for the future.

In my speech I raised the concerns of several local pubs – including the Abbey Arms in Abbey Wood which I visited in December as part of Small Business Saturday. Pubs that have reached out to me like The Duchess of Kent in Erith and The Victoria in Belvedere are centres of our communities and they need assurances from the Government that they will provided with support not just to reopen but thrive.

The wedding and events sector has also been extremely hard hit as nearly all their usual business disappeared. Especially worrying is the fact that many businesses in the events sector have been repeatedly refused grant funding by Bexley council – who cite the Government’s tight criteria.

If it is properly supported, the hospitality industry can and will play a vital role in reviving our economy after this most difficult year. But we need action from the Government right now to ensure this happens.

You can watch my speech below:

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Speaking up in Parliament for businesses and individuals struggling during the pandemic

On Wednesday 24 February I rose to the Opposition despatch box to give the closing statement for the Shadow Treasury’s Opposition Day Debate on ‘Supporting Businesses and Individuals Through the Coronavirus Crisis’.

As your local MP and as Labour’s Shadow Exchequer Secretary I am determined to speak truth to power and provide a voice for the despair so many people are feeling.

Although the Chancellor didn’t show up to defend his failings during this crisis, several Labour colleagues gave powerful speeches about how the pandemic has affected businesses and individuals in their constituencies. Their passion, in the face of Tory callousness, is an inspiration. Not everyone can wait for the Chancellor to come to Parliament.

People across our country are facing the very real prospect of their job disappearing, or their businesses failing, and we must continue to push the Government to set out clear measures that will support businesses and families over the coming months.

As it stands, the Government’s support schemes have left gaps that leave millions forgotten, unsupported, and excluded. It’s not good enough.

You can watch my speech below:

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8,710 jobs at risk in Erith and Thamesmead unless Chancellor delivers “smart” furlough scheme

Rishi Sunak’s “Plan for Jobs” has been a disaster.  Seven months after its launch, we’ve got record redundancies, soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.

Analysis by the Labour Party shows that as of late January 6845 people are claiming out of work benefits and 8,710 people are still on furlough in Erith and Thamesmead.

The Chancellor’s initially triggered a one-size-fits-all wind down of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in his Plan for Jobs last July. After several last-minute changes over the autumn and winter, the scheme is now set to expire at the end of April.

As well as being your local MP, I’m also Labour’s Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. With 4.6 million people still on furlough nationally, I’m calling for the Chancellor not to repeat the mistakes of last year. The scheme must not be wound down while public health restrictions are in place and demand is still suffering.

Sunak must immediately announce an extension to the furlough scheme. Local businesses and workers need that certainty. We are also calling for urgent reform to make furlough smarter, with new training to help furloughed workers improve their skills and tough conditions on employers to stop abuse.

Labour is also demanding immediate action to recover jobs by overhauling the failing Kickstart scheme and to help create new jobs in the technologies of the future by reforming the shambolic Green Homes Grant.

Our figures show that 5800 people in Erith and Thamesmead had made claims under the Coronavirus Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) by the end of July. It is appalling that the Chancellor has left the millions of self-employed people relying on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) scheme in the dark about future support.

Labour is calling on the Chancellor to set the fourth grant of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) at 80% of pre-crisis profits – and to do it now, not at the Budget.

Labour has also called for the scheme to be opened to the 200,000 people who only have a 2019/20 tax return, and for the Chancellor to urgently fix the holes its support schemes that have left millions of others excluded from support.

People can’t afford to wait for the Chancellor to get his act together. They need emergency action today, not more dither and delay until the Budget.

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Small Business Saturday Constituency Tour

Usually Small Business Saturday would be a day of celebration of the our great high streets and community businesses. This year has been tremendously difficult for businesses and my whistle stop tour of the constituency highlighted just how difficult this year has been.

Small Business Saturday occurs every year on the first Saturday in December. This year on Saturday 5 December shops, restaurants, bars and gyms were able to open for the first Saturday after the second UK wide lockdown during November. I visited 6 local businesses as part of Small Business Saturday to show my support and also hear first hand what help is needed from the Government.

The first stop on my tour was to see Charlie and Kim who run ‘CrossFit Against the Fire’. New Government restrictions have allowed gyms to remain open but for much of the year this important part of people’s daily physical and mental health routine has been cut off. Charlie told me that it was her gym members who have kept the business afloat this year. Over 50% of CrossFit Against the Fire members, were able to continue to pay their membership fees even when the gym was forced to close. This generosity, compassion and commitment by members of our community, is something that the Government should mirror nationally to ensure that gyms like CrossFit Against the Fire can survive.

Crossfit Against the Fire Visit on Small Business Saturday

From the gym, I went to meet another couple working together, Claire and Laurence, the owners of the Theatre Street Dance Company at The Link. Claire is a Chorographer and Laurence is a composer. Working in the arts has enabled them both to tour the world and for the last 20 years, they have been broadening the horizons of Erith and Thamesmead’s young people by supporting them into careers in the arts. Thanks to the Theatre Street Performing Arts, you’ve seen our young people on TV in shows such as Tracy Beaker and on stage, in the West End.

Theatre Street Dance Company Visit Small Business Saturday

Next up I visited Phoenix Tours – a local, multi-generational family run business owned by the lovely Patel family. They have been transporting our children to school, taking community groups for day trips to the beach and providing touring holidays to the Highlands and Europe on their luxury coaches, for over a decade.

Phoenix Tours are a creative and resilient business, but they need support. They need the Government to step in and ask the finance companies and insurance companies to go-easy. They need Local Government to be efficient and proactive with business rates relief. They need a responsive testing system that allows employees to feel safe and secure – because people want to work, but inefficient test and tracing is preventing them from doing so. Following this visit I spoke in a Parliamentary debate to urge the Government to unveil a plan to support coach companies.

Visit to Phoenix Tours Coach Company Small Business Saturday

I then went to the wonderful Abbey Wood Christmas Market where I enjoyed browsing the great variety of local vendors. I also met with the organisers of the market Chris and Catherine, who recently won a local business award for services to the community. I stopped to talk to Dean from Tree Wise Men who was selling Christmas Tree’s outside the Abbey Arms who told me about his plans to build his business for next year.

Tree Wise Men Small Business Saturday visit

I then went in to the Abbey Arms to discuss their challenges during COVID-19. Pubs are at the heart of our communities and are places where we connect but many are struggling after being closed for months.

It was great fun to be able to visit so many amazing businesses as part of Small Business Saturday and get into the festive spirit. However, it is really concerning to hear first-hand how much businesses are struggling. Business owners have been severely impacted by gaps in Government support, rising business costs during the pandemic, a lack of communication from the Chancellor and the inability to trade for many months of the year.

My biggest concern is that after Christmas we will see lots more members of staff laid off and huge numbers of local businesses forced to close. People in Erith and Thamesmead benefit from great local traders who are the heart and soul of our community. This pandemic must not mean the end of the local high street and I will be ensuring that the Chancellor realises just how bleak the future looks for local businesses if more support is not offered.