19 July marked the so-called ‘Freedom Day’, meaning that the vast majority of Covid restrictions have now come to an end. Whilst I welcome a return towards normality, I encourage everyone to remain cautious in the coming weeks. Cases continue to soar, and the pandemic is far from over. Boris Johnson is taking a huge gamble with re-opening, and it is important that we stay safe.
In order to ensure that everyone is protected from harm, there are a number of precautions which I would urge people to take. First and foremost, it is recommended that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded areas, and this is compulsory on all Transport for London services. Secondly, I would encourage residents to meet outdoors where possible, as well as letting in fresh air when indoors. Richmond Council is asking visitors to all of its buildings (e.g. libraries, sports centres, and the Civic Centre) to continue to wear face coverings, to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before entering and maintain a safe distance. The government is also advising people to limit the close contact they have with those they do not usually live with.
The best way to protect yourself and others is to ensure you are double vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccines are available to anyone over 18 and can be booked online or you can just walk into the Harlequins Rugby ground at the Stoop without appointment. I will continue to use my position as Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care to put pressure on the government to provide support for the most vulnerable and those who are not yet fully vaccinated.
Latest Covid Numbers
In the week July 14-21st, there were 996 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 503/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 450/100,000 and England-wide rate of 527.5/100,000. These figures show that cases have continued to increase in our borough, across London, and across England as a whole.
Data source: https://www.datarich.info/covid-19/
Covid testing available to all
All residents in the borough are now eligible to book a free rapid COVID-19 test in Twickenham, Hampton & East Sheen. Book now.
In addition, three pharmacies in Twickenham and Teddington are also providing free supervised tests. Full details available online and again, please book in advance.
A free ‘Community Collect’ service – providing take-home testing kits is available at Twickenham Civic Centre and St Mary’s University Broom Road sports campus and selected pharmacies. Find the nearest collection point to you.
Home test kits can also be collected at Hampton, Twickenham, and Whitton libraries. See opening times here.
These tests are for people NOT experiencing symptoms. If you have any of the main Covid-19 symptoms you should arrange a PCR test here.
Walk-in and pop-up vaccination clinics
A walk-in clinic will be open at Teddington Health and Social Care Centre from Tuesday 20th July until Saturday 24th July, every day from 9am-4:30pm.
Details of other local walk-in and pop-up vaccination clinics, including which vaccine is being offered and eligibility criteria are available here.
Anyone 18 or over is eligible for a vaccine can also book their jab either online or by calling 119.
People aged 39 and under who are eligible and pregnant women will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in line with updated guidance.
Across the Twickenham constituency (which includes Teddington, Whitton, the Hamptons, St Margarets, Strawberry Hill), a total of 63,290 people have had two doses of the Covid vaccine and 83,070 first doses have been administered as of 23rd July.
Local meetings, events and news
Hammersith Bridge reopens to pedestrians and cyclists
Whilst mainly affecting the eastern end of the borough, I am sure many residents will be interested to know that Hammersmith Bridge has at last reopened to pedestrians and cyclists.
The bridge was closed completely in August 2020, after Hammersmith and Fulham Council engineers found worsening cracks in the structure after a period of severe heatwaves. Following comprehensive safety investigations, the bridge is now safe to open, and can be used by pedestrians and cyclists. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Richmond Council for all of their hard work in getting the bridge up and running again.
Twickenham track renewals
I was recently notified that there are upcoming railway improvement works in the Twickenham area that will affect train services over the August bank holiday and into the Autumn.
Network Rail have sent neighbouring properties a list of the dates and times for when they will be working near their homes. In addition to this, a dedicated community virtual drop-in will be held on 28th July. Local residents are welcome to contact the Network Rail community helpline on 03457 114141, quoting ‘Twickenham track renewal’. Dates and line closures can be found here.
Residents encouraged to get their home rady with a Green Homes Grant
Eligible residents can submit their applications for the Green Homes Grant scheme now, in order to have improvements installed before winter.
The Green Homes Grant is a scheme for homeowners and landlords in England to support the installation of energy efficient and low-carbon heating improvements to their homes. It provides residents with the opportunity to save up to £600 a year on their home energy bills while making their homes warmer and more comfortable ahead of the winter months. Both homeowners and landlords are eligible to apply for the scheme.
More information on the Green Homes Grant scheme can be found here.
Free school meal vouchers offers over the summer holidays
I am pleased to report that Richmond Council will once again be able to help families entitled to Free School Meals with vouchers to cover the Summer holidays. Since October 2020, 3,800 children have received vouchers in the school holidays, and I am glad that this support will continue throughout the summer.
Grants will also be awarded to local voluntary organisations to support residents who are struggling to afford food. Families who require additional assistance, can apply for funding from one of our local partners here:
Telephone: 020 8831 6070
Citizens Advice Richmond
Telephone: 080 82 78 78 73
Persistent flooding in Lincoln Avenue, TW2
A number of residents emailed me last week about the terrible and persistent flooding in Lincoln Avenue, TW2. I escalated this to a senior level with Thames Water who sent someone out urgently to look at the issue and are investigating underlying causes. I have also escalated the matter with Richmond Council who have responsibility for clearing the drains and gullies.
If you are affected as a local resident, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for updates on this issue and action being taken. Local Cllr Piers Allen is also dealing with this, and can be emailed at email@example.com.
Meeting with Chairs of school governors
At my regular meeting with school governors from across the constituency we discussed a wide range of topics, including funding issues, young people’s mental health challenges, and the impact of Covid regulations. There was universal agreement that the government should do everything in their power to avoid additional school closures in the Autumn because of the adverse effects on pupils’ wellbeing.
Other local visits and meetings:
- I attended the monthly NHS North-West London MP briefing. We discussed the challenges currently facing the NHS, including increased Covid admissions, the care backlog and increased pressures on mental health services.
Standing up for you
Ensuring schools reopen in September and stay open
The Vaccines Minister announced this week that all teenagers will not be vaccinated against Covid, only the most vulnerable or those who live with other vulnerable people. With Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, warning that England could face further restrictions in just five weeks’ time if Covid hospitalisations rise too high, I sought assurances on behalf of local parents and children that schools would not be shut.
I was horrified by the Minister’s failure to reassure us that schools will open again in September. Like so many other parents, I had a child at home this past week due to COVID infections.
Watch the exchange in Parliament here.
Face masks on South Western Railway services
The Mayor of London has confirmed that masks will continue to be mandatory on all Transport for London (TfL) services. I support that decision, and I have urged South Western Railway (SWR) to follow suit.
SWR’s services are likely to become busier as restrictions are lifted , and it is important that we continue to keep people safe through the use of face masks. I have co-signed a letter with my Liberal Democrat colleagues asking SWR to require customers to wear face masks at all times to protect themselves and those around them.
Supporting the most vulnerable as Covid restrictions ease
In the House of Commons, I again called on Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to consider the 3.8 million most clinically vulnerable in society. Many clinically vulnerable people are increasingly worried about the impact of most mandatory Covid restrictions being lifted.
The guidance was published late and there is no accompanying support for those who are not able to attend their place of work and cannot work from home.
Watch the exchange in Parliament here.
I opposed the Health Secretary’s power grab from the NHS in the Health and Care Bill
Last week MPs debated the Health and Care Bill – the biggest legislative overhaul of the NHS in the past decade. The bill gives ministers the power to interfere in the day-to-day running of the NHS and how local services are organised, which risks politicising clinical decisions.
Whilst a key aim of the bill is to integrate health and social care, it completely fails to address social care reform, and will not fix the workforce crisis. In the middle of a pandemic, this is hardly the time to reorganise the NHS.
Watch my speech in Parliament here.
Fought against foreign aid cuts
Like many others, I was devastated by the foreign aid budget cut that was passed in Parliament last week. Whilst all 12 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the cuts, the Tories were able to pass the motion by a margin of 333-298.
The commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on aid to the world’s poorest was championed by Liberal Democrats when we were in Government. As even Theresa May said, the foreign aid budget cut will lead to fewer girls being educated, more children going hungry and more of the poorest dying. These cuts are a betrayal of the poorest people in the world, and I will continue to press the government to increase levels of financial aid to help developing nations.
NHS staff pay rise
After a day of chaos and confusion, the Department for Health & Social Care announced a paltry 3% pay rise for NHS staff which, given the rise in inflation, is a real-terms pay freeze. Given their sacrifices over the past 18 months, our nurses, doctors and other healthcare staff deserve better. The government press release followed a statement by the Care Minister in the House of Commons when she was expected to make the announcement but strangely did not. I called the Government out on its dither and delay.
Watch the exchange here.
Resumption of tours in Parliament
I am pleased to announce that Parliament will at last be welcoming visitors back over the Summer for 90-minute multimedia guided tours.
During the tour, members of the public will visit the House of Commons, The House of Lords, and Westminster Hall, among other spaces. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about the extensive work that goes on behind the scenes, and you will be walking in the footsteps of monarchs and prime ministers, both past and present.
Tours of Parliament can be booked here.
Sign my petition: Green Education for a Brighter Future
Climate change affects us all. This is especially true for the younger generations, who are inheriting a climate crisis. Sea ice is melting, permafrost defrosting, and global temperatures are rising. We must equip young people with the tools they need to combat and cope with the climate emergency.
Climate change is the most important issue young people face, and they should be taught what causes climate issues, how we can fight back, and how this will impact their lifestyle and livelihood in their futures. Yet there is no established educational pathway to inform children about climate issues, with the quality of climate education differing from school to school.
That is why I’m campaigning for climate education to be made an independent subject. Sign my petition here: