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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