Looking ahead to the winter, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the discontent that we are already seeing brewing. The shortage of HGV drivers leading to empty shelves, rising energy prices and the Government’s recent callous Universal Credit cuts combined, could lead to this being a very difficult winter for many families.

Many of you will be affected by the fuel shortages and gaps on shelves in supermarkets. Indeed, I witnessed the local consequence of this this week, on a visit to Sainsbury’s St Clares in Hampton, where there was traffic chaos caused by people queuing to fill up with fuel. Post-Brexit immigration rules prevent HGV drivers from working in the UK and the Government has failed to support the industry to adjust. I have pressed the Government for emergency visas for HGV drivers, but the Government acted with too little, too late. 

I had the opportunity to speak about this issue on BBC Question Time last week and emphasised how the Government must look for solutions by bringing in migrant workers and putting in place a visa route to enable HGV drivers, abattoir workers and food packers to come to this country and work. The announcement on the following day of a three-month scheme which would see workers being forced to leave the country on 24th December exemplifies the Government’s short-term approach which sees them moving from one crisis to the next. Long-term planning is needed to help these industries through the transition to the post-Brexit more restrictive trading arrangements. 

In many supermarkets there has been a fall in about a quarter of the fulfilment of their deliveries. Shortages are expected this Christmas, with far less choice available, leading to price rises which impact the poorest, hardest. 

Unfortunately, the £20 per week Universal Credit cut will only intensify hardship this winter. These cruel cuts will deepen societal inequalities and cause suffering for hard working families. The £20 cut, combined with rising gas and electricity costs, is going to make it extremely tough for many this winter to heat their homes and put food on the table. Before the pandemic, there was already record uses of food banks and the Government’s cuts will exacerbate this.

To address this, I have written to the Chancellor conveying how significantly the cuts will impact nearly 7,000 local residents, many of whom are already facing extreme difficulties with the end of the furlough scheme. The letter can be seen in full further on in this newsletter. 

I will continue to fight these planned Government cuts on your behalf, to prevent even further discontent ensuing as winter approaches. 

Useful Information

Latest Covid Numbers

In the week September 20th-26th, there were 595 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 300.3/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 204.2/100,000 and England-wide rate of 333.6/100,000. These figures show that case numbers are rising again in our borough and across England as a whole compared with two weeks earlier.  

Data source: https://www.datarich.info/covid-19/

Covid testing available to all

To book your free rapid lateral flow COVID-19 test or find your nearest take-home testing kits collection point, visit: https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/

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

The nearest walk-in clinic for vaccinations is at Boots, 42 Union St, Kingston upon Thames. Details of which vaccines are being offered and eligibility criteria are available here.

Anyone 16 or over is eligible for a vaccine can also book their jab either online or by calling 119.

Local meetings, events and news

New eating disorder support services launched for local residents 

After requests for help tripled during the pandemic, Beat has launched a new support service to help South West London-based carers, including those in Twickenham. It is called Nexus , a weekly telephone coaching service for carers, parents and siblings. A peer support group on Zoom called Solace, has also been launched.

The pandemic drastically impacted people suffering with an eating disorder and the families. Beat has been working with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation trust to provide services. One to one guidance is offered to each family’s unique situation and GPs can also refer people straight to Beat.

You can call Beat’s Helpline on 0808 801 0677, the Studentline on 0808 801 0811 or the Youthline on 0808 801 0711. Helplines are free to call from all phones and open 365 days a year, from 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays.

Orleans House Gallery calls for submissions from local artists 

Orleans House Gallery is inviting submissions from artists who live or work in the borough for a November exhibition called Breaking Ground. In line with Richmond Literature Festival, the strapline is: ‘how we can build a better world that is more sustainable, more inclusive and more equal?’.

The exhibition will be from 6 to 21 November at the Stables Gallery, Orleans House. The deadline to apply is 12noon on 11 October. For more information and to apply please see here

Meeting with Alzheimer’s Research 

To mark World Alzheimer’s Month, I joined Alzheimer’s Research UK at an event in Parliament to show my support for dementia research. The aim of the event was to highlight the importance of the Government’s manifesto promise to double funding for dementia research, known as the Dementia Moonshot. In the UK nearly 1 million people are living with dementia, and it is one of the leading causes of death. 

Read in full about the meeting here.

Macmillan Cancer Support Coffee Morning

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the parliamentary coffee morning with Macmillan. It was great to chat and understand more about the outstanding care and work that the charity does for the millions living with cancer in the UK. 

Found out more about the charity’s coffee morning initiative or donate here.

West Middlesex Hospital Centenary Celebration

I attended a beautiful service at All Saints in Isleworth to celebrate the centenary of the amazing West Middlesex Hospital. It was wonderful to be able to chat to the hardworking staff (and listen to them sing!). All the hospital staff work tirelessly to support our local community. Photos here

I found it fascinating to learn also about the history of the hospital beginning as Brentford Union’s Infirmary 100 years ago. The future development plans for the Hospital were exciting to see too.

A huge Happy Birthday to West Middlesex Hospital!

Hampton Wick Village Fete

I was pleased to attend the lovely Hampton Wick Fete. Congratulations to local councillors and businesses who put the event together at short notice. 

High Tide Festival

Last weekend, I went to High Tide Festival in Twickenham. It was fantastic to see young talent from across the borough showcased and so many other great acts. 

Church Street was buzzing with people enjoying the glorious sunshine – the atmosphere was electric. Thank you to Eel Pie Records for organising a memorable festival. 

Photos and more here.

Meet Your MP

Thank you to everyone who came to speak to me at the “Meet Your MP” session at Sainsbury’s St Clares. It was great to meet many of you and hear your views. I will be conducting more supermarket Meet and Greet sessions in the coming weeks. 

Carlisle Infants and Hampton Hill Junior School visit

I always enjoy visiting local schools and answering the insightful questions children have and Carlisle students did not disappoint asking questions which ranged from, “how I could change the world?” to “where I got my shoes from”. Photos here

At Hampton Hill I was shown their impressive garden which includes chickens! Thank you to students, staff, governors, and members of the PTA who showed me around. 

Twickenham Fire Station open day

Thanks to Borough Commander, Rob Davies, and all the crew at Twickenham Fire Station for hosting a fantastic open day last week. I joined many other local families and my son enjoyed clambering into the fire trucks and watching the demos! Phots here:

Disabled Children’s Champion

I recently became a Disabled Children’s Champion to show my support for a Covid recovery plan for disabled children, young people and their families. More than 90 organisations make up the Disabled Children’s Partnership campaigning for improved health and social care and providing a platform for their voices to be heard. 

More information on the Partnership is available here and I look forward to being able to support them further.

Standing up for you

Continued action on Twickenham trains set to be cut by South Western Railway

I have received hundreds of responses to my request for views from constituents on the planned changes to train timetables proposed by South Western Railway (SWR). The consultation closed on  19th September and I based my response on your feedback. Read my submission here:

I believe the changes will be detrimental to the borough, increasing overcrowding on trains and at stations. Whitton and St Margarets will be particularly badly impacted with a 50% reduction in services for large parts of the day. These changes also in direct conflict with my commitment to encourage the use of public transport and alternatives to driving. I will continue to fight these drastic cuts to services.

Last week I jointly sent, with Ed Davey MP and Sarah Olney MP, a letter to Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Transport Minister, requesting an urgent meeting to continue the fight against South Western Railway’s proposed changes. Our letter is here:

Calling on ministers to rule out any further school closures

In the House of Commons, I asked both the former Vaccines Minister and the Health Secretary for a ‘cast-iron’ guarantee that schools will not close again this winter. A staggering 900 million days of school have been missed, it is estimated, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and children have suffered greatly as a result.

I welcomed the decision by the Government to offer vaccination to 12-15 year olds. However, this alone is not enough. Ventilation improvements, funding for air purifiers in classrooms and face coverings in some crowded places are also all crucial.

Therefore, I urged the Minister to press his Department for Education colleagues to provide the necessary funding needed to prevent future school closures and keep them safely open. The Minister was unable to confirm this.

 My question to the Vaccines Minister in full is available here and to the Health Secretary here

Challenging ministers on their social care plans

The Government rammed through legislation in one day to hike up National Insurance, without a clear plan on how it will tackle the social care crisis. I challenged Treasury Ministers how families facing catastrophic care costs between now and October 2023 will be helped by this tax rise. 

Action on Universal Credit

As mentioned at the start of this newsletter, I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, urging him to reconsider the cuts to Universal Credit. Universal Credit is a vital lifeline for many and these cuts will have a devastating impact on millions of families. The Government should be protecting these working families.

Citizens Advice in Richmond had already seen an increase in cases because of the pandemic. Indeed, nearly 7,000 local residents will be affected by this callous cut.

Read the full letter here

BBC Question Time on Universal Credit Cuts and HGV lorry driver shortages

Last week, I was invited to join the BBC Question Time panel. When discussing the HGV lorry driver shortages, I emphasised how the Government must find a solution by bringing in migrant workers and putting in place a visa route to enable HGV drivers to come back to this country. I outlined how this highlights the Government’s approach of moving from one crisis to the next, rather than long-term planning. It is a ‘just-in-time’ Government rather than carrying out the necessary contingency planning needed to take place around our ever-changing workforce.

I also spoke on the terrible Universal Credit cuts referencing how it will impact my constituents, such as those with disabilities, particularly hard. Combined with the food shortages and the National Insurance rise, the cuts to Universal Credit will have disastrous consequences leading to increasing poverty in this country.

You can watch the clips here.

BBC Question Time on Climate Change

On Question Time there was a question about the recent Insulate Britain protests on the M25. I oppose the blocking of motorways which is dangerous and counter-productive. However, I agree that much more needs to be done on insulation. I outlined how energy prices are going up in part due to poor insulation in homes. When the Liberal Democrats were in Government between 2010 and 2015 there was a zero-carbon home standard that has since been scrapped by the Conservatives. Not a single carbon zero home has since been built. I argued that to cut fuel poverty, bills and harmful emissions an emergency insulation programme needs to be implemented.  

A clip of my answer is here

Educational Policy Institute’s Panel

At the Liberal Democrat party conference, I called for education catch-up vouchers for parents to spend as they see fit. 

Wellbeing of pupils is reported to be the biggest issue by headteachers. Therefore, the Government must do everything it can to get our pupils back on track.

Action on Udney Park

I wrote to Lord Fink, Chairman of AHH, to express my disappointment about the rejection of the community bid for Udney Park. In April this year, I met representatives from the Udney Park Community Fields Trust to give my support to their proposed community-based bid. 

The bid, led by Jonathan Dunn, aimed to purchase the playing fields from the current management company, Quantum Teddington Development ltd, and protect them in perpetuity for amateur sports use. This bid was rejected despite backing from Sport England and the CEOs of the ECB and the RFU. I believe this is incompatible with AHH’s stated “social purpose”.

Read more and see the letter in full on my website 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.