Although August is a little less frenetic than the rest of the year, there's still a lot going on locally and I've been working on a number of local issue with local businesses, the police and on the environment. Locally we're now also facing a disruptive postal strike and I've met with local postmen already to listen to their concerns and also express mine at the impact the strike has on our local economy. Read on for more of an update!
Supporting local businesses during the recession
Our local economy is built on small businesses, many of them shops and I've been concerned about the recent rises in business rates and just as worryingly, those that are planned for next year. I met with the Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce and heard from their members about how they are faring and what business rate rises will mean for them. Earlier this week, I wrote to Rosie Winterton, the Minister overseeing business rates to again raise my concerns about the unaffordability of more rises on behalf of local shops. Earlier in August I met with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to get their views on how they think businesses are going to be affected by business rate changes next year. It looks like it will be extremely difficult with London and the retail sector in particular bearing the brunt of the rises. Our local businesses need support during the recession rather than having their rates put up even more. I'll do my best to keep getting that message across to Ministers.
Meeting with Environment Agency on Thames sewage
For some time the Putney stretch of the river has had a problem with the sewer overflows pumping effluent into the river locally whenever we have a substantial rainflow. Our sewerage system was built in Victorian times and though they put in a huge amount of extra capacity, London's population growth means it now cannot cope as well as it used to. The Tideway tunnel project will add a lot of sewer capacity - its really a massive tunnel that will take sewerage underneath the Thames to be treated further east down the river. When I met with the Environment Agency, I went out onto the Thames to see how they are dealing with the problem we have in the meantime before the Tideway project is built. There are a couple of so called "bubbler boats" which reoxygenate the water and some "skimmer" boats which get the debris off the water surface. As the Tideway tunnel is built more of the river will link up to it which at least will mean that the resources we have can more intensively focus on our part of the river. I've discussed with the Environment Agency about getting an early warning system in place for rowers to better communicate river water quality. Better news is that we still do have a huge amount of fish and life in the Thames and over time the EA are taking the opportunity of development along the Thames to put in more planting and habitat around the edge of the Thames to encourage fish and birdlife - locally the Wandle has been a real focus.
Last year I organised a meeting for our local rowing clubs in Parliament to meet up with Thames Water, the Environment Agency and also the Port of London Authority to discuss our local issues and I will continue to keep those communication lines open.
Neighbourhood Policing Meeting
We now have a new Chief Inspector, Graham Simpson who leads the Safer Neighbourhood Policing across Wandsworth. I met with him and our Putney Inspector, Kevan Martin to discuss crime issues in Putney, Roehampton and Southfields. It was really helpful to be able to discuss the issues that people are raising with me and to hear from CI Simpson about their plans for neighbourhood policing locally. I work very closely with our local police on a whole range of issues, so if you have any concerns about crime or community safety, do let me know on email@example.com and I will make sure I raise them with Inspector Martin.
Putney Postal Strike
Earlier this week, I met with a local postmen to discuss their strike and their concerns. It was very useful to hear their concerns which I am following up with the Chief Executive of the Royal Mail Group, Adam Crozier. However, whatever the disagreement between postal workers and the Royal Mail management I am very concerned about the impact of a strike on residents and our many small businesses who completely depend on the postal service, especially when we are deep in a recession. The last time we had a strike it took a couple of weeks for the service to recover back to a normal service and our local economy cannot afford that. Nevertheless, any changes that are being brought in must be cost effective and support the local postal service. They also need to be brought in smoothly so that we don't have a disrupted service due to new working ways, and that's a concern I have raised with Adam Crozier. Like many people I've been frustrated to see our post offices close locally, and I certainly don't want to see our postal service deteriorate aswell even in the short term.
Don't forget that you can always get in touch with me if you need my help. If you'd like to come along to my weekly MP surgery which is at a local library, just give me a call on 0208 946 4557. You can also email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA (postal strike permitting). I saw lots of residents at the Roehampton festival and Kings and Queens event recently so if you see me out and about, do come over and have a chat, especially if you've a local concern you think I can help with. I'll do my best to help.
Justine Greening MP
September 4, 2009