It brought a smile to my face to see Twickenham’s very own Church Street featured in a Guardian article last week on readers’ favourite independent shopping streets in the UK! The pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have not been easy for many small businesses, so it’s wonderful to see places like Church Street thriving. It’s such a special place at the heart of our community. You can read the article here.
In other local news (and not far from Church Street), I was pleased to see that Richmond Council has approved plans to transform Twickenham Riverside.
Twickenham residents have a huge affection for this beloved stretch of waterfront in our community, and I know there have been strong feelings both for and against the plans – but I truly believe this is the right decision and a positive step forward.
The future of Twickenham Riverside has been in limbo for 40 years, and the approval of the plans means the Council can move finally move forward to improve the riverside for the benefit of everyone in the community.
The plans will increase public open space – including the addition of a new playground – and will also provide much-needed affordable housing for young people and key workers priced out of the rental market in our area. You can read more about the plans here.
In Parliament, my main focus has been on trying to get further clarity on what the Autumn Statement means for schools. Whilst the budget increase that was announced will provide some relief, local headteachers have told me they are worried about the lack of detail as they try to plan for next year. You can read more further below.
In the media
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement provided some relief to many London schools who had planned to reduce support staff and cut school trips to balance the books. Yet the Government is wrong if it thinks this money will transform education, given the sweeping cuts they have forced upon schools since 2015. We still don’t know how this money will be handed out, leaving headteachers and governors in limbo as they try to plan for next year.
A Twickenham headteacher shared some of the difficulties that schools in our borough, and across the country, are facing in this article. I’ll continue to stand up for schools and headteachers, and challenge the Government on what the budget means for schools. You can read my response to the Autumn Statement here.
In other education news, you can read my comments in the i newspaper on why the government needs to invest more in early years education here. I also spoke to the Evening Standard about the Government’s failure to deal with air pollution in London, impacting the lungs of yet another generation of children (read the article here).
Local meetings, events and news
Discussed local issues with the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner
I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Mark Rowley, the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, with other community leaders at Twickenham Police Station. We discussed challenges in our area, including police numbers, as well as the burglaries and catalytic converter thefts worrying local people. Sir Mark raised the issue of police time being taken up supporting patients in mental health crisis when specialist NHS beds aren’t available.
Latest news on Teddington Police Station campaign
I’ve received a number of emails from constituents asking for the latest news on my Teddington Police Station campaign. We are still awaiting news from the Mayor of London regarding the sale of the police station.
In the meantime, I am focused on clarifying the legal position through an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) which would ensure that publicly owned assets like Teddington Police Station can be retained for public good, rather than sold off to the highest bidder. I expect the debate on the Bill to take place before Christmas, and I have a meeting with the relevant minister to discuss how to constructively take forward my amendment, which has secured cross-party support. You can read the latest news on my Teddington Police Station campaign here.
Lighting up Hampton Hill and Whitton
It was lovely to join the Christmas light switch-on events in Hampton Hill and Whitton. I enjoyed the fabulous craft fair and yummy cakes at Hampton Hill Theatre, and had a proud mummy moment in Whitton as I watched my daughter sing with the Bishop Perrin school choir. Thank you to the Hampton Hill Association and Love Whitton for two wonderful events!
A spirit of giving this Christmas
A number of organisations in our community are working to help people in need this Christmas. The Mulberry Centre is taking part in the Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, the UK’s biggest match funding campaign. Until 6 December, you can double your donation and help the Mulberry Centre support people on their cancer journey. Find out more here.
Richmond Christmas Day Dinner is calling for help in ensuring a wonderful Christmas for children and young care leavers. You can book here to help wrap presents; donate to the Amazon wishlist or directly to their Just Giving page; or visit the website to donate wrapping paper. They are also looking for local musicians and entertainers, as well as hairdressers, make up specialists, nail technicians and face painters who could help on Christmas morning.
Remembrance Day events
It was an honour to lay wreaths for Remembrance Sunday on behalf of my constituents at St Stephen’s in East Twickenham, then at Radnor Gardens and at Hampton War Memorial. It was a beautiful day, with hundreds turning out to remember those who gave their lives for our freedoms.
Richmond Borough named a climate action leader
It was fantastic to see Richmond’s Liberal Democrat-led council named on CDP’s list of 122 global cities and boroughs leading on environmental action and transparency! Proof of what Lib Dems can do in local government: tackling the climate crisis begins in the community. You can read more here.
Find local warm space hubs
A number of local churches and organisations are offering warm space hubs. All Saints’ Hampton provides a hot lunch in a warm space through its Living Space Project, where you can also find information on other warm spaces. ‘Churches Together in Teddington’ also offers a warm spaces programme. For other resources, visit the Cost of Living page on my website.
Take part in Teddington’s White Ribbon Torch Walk
On 10 December, you can help raise awareness about violence against women and girls by taking part in Teddington’s White Ribbon Torch Walk. Find out more here.
Standing up for you in Parliament
Grilled Chancellor on free school meals following Autumn Statement
As the cost-of-living crisis bites, the Chancellor announced nothing in the Autumn Statement for the 800,000 children in poverty who miss out on a hot, nutritious free school meal. A hungry child cannot learn, yet the Conservatives continue to let them down.
In Parliament, I asked the Chancellor how he could fund £6.5bn in tax cuts for the biggest banks, but not expand free school meals. His response: tax cuts for banks are a good thing. The silence on hungry children is deafening.
As part of my campaigning on free school meals, I’m also supporting the Feed the Future campaign, led by the Food Foundation and many other organisations with cross-party support, to expand free school meals in our schools and provide a lifeline to struggling families and their children.
Demanded more support for nurseries and pre-schools
Nurseries and pre-schools got nothing from the Autumn Statement. When parents are already facing eyewatering childcare bills, cutting the early years would be disastrous and short-sighted. Liberal Democrats see affordable, high-quality childcare as an investment in our country’s future.
Spoke out against proposed changes to childcare ratios
The Government simply isn’t reading the room when it comes to altering the adult to child ratio changes in childcare settings. Parents oppose them, providers say it won’t help reduce fees and, most importantly, children in need of catch-up support will lose out. This is a lose-lose policy.
Challenged Minister on freeing up police time to focus on catching criminals
Following my meeting and discussions with Sir Mark Rowley in Twickenham, I called on the Minister of State for Crime and Policing to work with the NHS to ensure officers can spend their shifts out and about protecting the community, rather than stuck in A&E with those in mental health crisis.
Called on Government to secure release of British national in Egyptian prison
I was pleased to meet my constituent Helen at the Free Alaa vigil in Parliament last week, shining a light on the imprisonment of activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. As Egypt hosted COP 27, the Liberal Democrats called on the Government to urgently step up their efforts and secure Alaa’s release.
Pushed forward on support for kinship carers
I chaired a meeting between the cross-party group on Kinship Care and the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, where we discussed her Family Review and improving support for children in kinship care. Our wide-ranging chat included schools and educational support, family-focused services and better data – especially on informal kinship care arrangements.
Led a debate on women and girls in sport
A HUGE thank you to all those local sportswomen who shared their views on women and girls’ access to sport for my recent debate in Parliament celebrating the Lionesses’ victory, and how we can build on their legacy! You can now read a full recap of the debate here.
Called on the Government to improve cancer care
I was pleased to attend the Catch Up with Cancer event last week and sign their letter to the Prime Minister. We discussed the record-breaking cancer waiting times across the UK. With tens of thousands of patients still waiting months for treatment, the Government must act to catch up with cancer now.
Joined Sense About Science event
It was great to join Sense About Science last week for their Evidence Week , a chance for researchers to share their findings with MPs to inform future policy. 61% of the public think the government should show evidence for all important policy decisions. I couldn’t agree more!
Supported special needs services
All too often, parents of disabled children have to fight tooth and nail to gain access to the services they need. I signed the Disabled Children’s Partnership’s pledge to build a fairer system for families.
Lent my voice to UK Parliament Week
Nothing gives me more joy than seeing young people getting excited about politics, so it was great fun to appear in the assembly for UK Parliament Week. 12 schools and clubs in Twickenham participated in UK Parliament Week, including Radnor House school and Twickenham Primary Academy. I recorded a video message for the 1st Teddington Scout Group, who were celebrating UK Parliament Week by holding a debate and a vote. The Scouts agreed that:
- The voting age should be reduced to 16 (Liberal Democrats agree!)
- School uniforms should be abolished and replaced with a dress code
- Jaffa cakes are cakes and not biscuits!
Attended women in politics event
I rounded off UK Parliament Week with a huge thank you to Elect Her for their fantastic event earlier this week celebrating women in politics. We’re still a long way off a 50:50 Parliament, but the Liberal Democrats are proud to be bringing us closer, with nine female MPs (out of 14!) on our benches!