There’s been a bit of a longer gap than usual since my last newsletter, given the horrifying events of the past 10 days, both locally and in Southend. Thank you to all those who sent me and my colleagues supportive and encouraging messages following the statement I sent out on Monday. It means a lot.
Last week I was pleased to be appointed as Education Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats. Locally I have been spending a lot of time visiting schools in recent months. From these visits, together with my regular meetings with headteachers and discussions with local parents, I am very aware of the immense financial strain that our schools are under. I am also acutely aware of just how much more support our children need following the various lockdowns as a result of the pandemic. Much of that support is emotional and social, as well as academic, and the Government’s limited catch-up funding does not go anywhere near far enough to meet the enormous need. Schools are having to use parental donations and PTA fundraising to meet these needs. I hold out little hope that next week’s spending review announcement by the Chancellor will offer much more.
The past 22 months, I have held the post of Lib Dem Health & Social Care spokesperson, which has been an enormous challenge, holding Ministers to account for their response through the Covid pandemic. With case rates, death rates and hospitalisations all rising, the pandemic is, of course, far from over. As your MP, I will continue to seek opportunities to raise concerns and questions on Covid, other health issues and social care reform.
Parliament returned last week following a three-week recess due to the party conference season. I have spent much of recess undertaking local visits and constituency work, some of which is detailed in this newsletter.
Latest Covid Numbers
In the week October 9th-15th, there were 867 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 437.6/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 236.4/100,000 and England-wide rate of 433.7/100,000. These figures show a sharp rise in case numbers in our borough and significant rise 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 and can also book their jab either online or by calling 119.
New website on COVID-19 vaccine for young people
To demystify the vaccine for young people in the borough, a new website EverythingCOVD.info has been created to provide information about COVID-19 vaccine and testing. It is designed and built with help from the Richmond and Kingston Youth Council.
Local visits, meetings, events and news
The future of Kneller Hall
I recently met Aatif Hassan, Chairman of Dukes Education, the owners of Radnor House School Twickenham. Dukes Education has recently purchased Kneller Hall in Whitton. Mr Hassan gave me a tour of the site and explained the future plans for the new school. More here.
I was pleased to hear commitments to allow community use of the planned sports facilities. I will continue to press for local state schools, as well as amateur sports clubs, to be able to access the facilities as plans develop and progress through the planning process. I have also requested strong community engagement.
Townmead Road Recycling Centre access
Many local residents have contacted me about the Townmead Recycling Centre and Mortlake Crematorium being part of the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion, which is due to be implemented on 25 October.
Constituents may have to pay £12.50 to access both the Recycling Centre and Crematorium, depending on their vehicle. To check if your vehicle will incur the charge visit the ULEZ Expansion page on the TfL website.
In response last week, I wrote to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, asking him to intervene with TfL and make a change to the ULEZ scheme by removing Townmead Road. The full letter is here.
I have now received a letter in response from Heidi Alexander, the Deputy Mayor of Transport. Heidi Alexander noted the constituents’ concerns and laid out the air quality and health aims of the ULEZ scheme. Unfortunately, because of this, and the fact that other waste facilities and crematoria in London would also need to be made exempt, the scheme is going ahead. Richmond residents who have a vehicle that does not meet the standard can use the Space Waye recycling centre in Hounslow instead.
Teddington and Hampton Wick Voluntary Care Group AGM
I had the pleasure of attending the brilliant Teddington and Hampton Wick Voluntary Care Group AGM. The Group, made up of dedicated volunteers, do a huge amount to support residents. It was good to see so many happy faces of those that the group supports.
Visit the website to find out more here.
Visit to St James’s Catholic Primary School
I visited St James’s School and received a comprehensive tour by the headteacher Mr Beatty. In a Q&A with the children, there was a strong focus on environmental concerns with questions on pollution, climate change and tree planting. Hopefully this is promising sign that future generations will be environmentally astute and aware. Photos here.
Visit to the Teddington Community Café
I had a great time visiting the Teddington Community Café Opening hosted by Teddington Parish and Activate Church. The excellent initiative is promoting wellbeing and helping combat loneliness, providing an important facility for the local community. I was able to take my mother and the cake was delicious.
Huge thanks to Lisa, Claire, Sarah, Chris, Joe and the rest of the wonderful team.
Visit to Stanley Primary School
I visited Stanley School to congratulate the Friends of Stanley School on their fundraising work for a new defibrillator that will serve the whole community. The defibrillator is located near the entrance to the school.
I also was given a tour of the school by year 6 children who were dressed up as 1940s evacuees as part of an immersive Second World War history day.
Some great photos of my visit are here.
Visit to Lady Eleanor Holles School STEM
LEH kindly invited me to visit the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) research projects. I was shown an array of projects the pupils are working on, from environmental sensors to dementia aids to sending cubes into space, in partnership with the Royal Society, King’s College London and NASA to name a few! I was blown away by the talent and I am certain a number of these impressive pupils will be leading research scientists in the future.
Friends of Twickenham Green Meeting
It was lovely to meet Sandra Roberts and the Friends of Twickenham Green who did such an outstanding job with the United Reform Church organising a local collection for Afghan refugees.
Thank you so much to everyone who donated to such an important cause. The Afghanistan & Central Asian Association is no longer accepting donations of second-hand clothes but other ways to support can be found here.
Tour of South West London NHS Mental Health Trust
Last week, Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, and I had the pleasure of visiting the construction site of Springfield village , which, upon completion, will combine healthcare and residential neighbourhoods in a parkland setting. The site will include two mental health facilities, providing critical services to our constituents. Photos here.
This ambitious and visionary project is a very encouraging step in the right direction for residents in South West London who need access to better acute mental health facilities.
You can read more about it here.
Meeting with the space2grieve Team
It was a privilege to meet with the space2grieve Team at the ETNA Community Centre last week and hear about the fantastic charity.
Space2grieve is a new charity that has launched providing free, confidential, personal support for adults, families, children and young people who live in the borough. The charity, which launched on 1st September, is locally founded, run and managed, as well as being the only community-led bereavement service for local residents.
Expert volunteers provide a space for people to talk in one-to-one sessions in person either via phone or Zoom or at the ETNA Community Centre.
Young Writers’ Festival
Arts Richmond’s Annual writing competition has been launched for local young people who either live or attend school/clubs in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Deadline for entries is 3 December.
Shortlisted entrants will be invited to a gala awards event in Spring 2022 and Arts Richmond will appoint a Junior and Senior Laureate.
More information and competition rules can be found here.
Small Business Saturday
The Small Business Saturday campaign is back this year on 4th December. Last year, more than £1.1 billion was spent at small businesses on the day.
Plan ahead now to visit your local small businesses on Small Business Saturday. You can share your great experience of supporting local businesses on social media.
Standing up for you
Calling for more police on our streets
Following the tragic fatal stabbing of 18 year-old student, Hazrat Wali, in Twickenham last week, I wrote to the Home Secretary and Mayor of London regarding the desperate local need for additional police officers. Good community policing is vital to tackling crime and saving lives, yet our police officer numbers have been cut to the bone and the few we have are often called to support incidents in other parts of London. You can see my letter to Priti Patel here.
Ramping up children’s vaccinations
With Covid spreading at a high rate in schools, many thousands of children across the country are out of school with Covid, and many teachers too. This week I challenged the Health Secretary on the slow rollout of vaccinations to 12-15 year-olds and why local schools are being advised against re-introducing measures such as face-coverings. You can see our exchange here.
Renewal of the Coronavirus Act
I spoke out against the lack of scrutiny Ministers have allowed for far-reaching powers in the Coronavirus Act which was rushed through Parliament in a day in March 2020, with very limited time granted at each six-monthly renewal. Although the most controversial powers have now finally been scrapped, Government is setting a dangerous precedent in how it treats Parliament when taking away our liberties. This does not bode well for measures such as vaccine passports which may yet become mandatory in certain settings, although I did secure a commitment from the Health Secretary to a parliamentary vote on the measure. See my contribution to the debate here.
Continued action to prevent cuts to South Western Railway services
On Friday, Sarah Olney and I met with the Rail Minister about the planned South Western Railway (SWR) cuts to services. We also held a debate on rail service cuts where the minister committed to publish data on passenger numbers which can be used to identify when there is enough demand to have services re-instated.
It has become clear over the past few months that the need to reduce the cost of the rail network to the public purse is the key driver of the proposed cuts. I challenged the minister to publish the expected savings from these cuts and accurate and timely passenger numbers for the stations impacted.
I joined the #RefugeesWelcome rally in Parliament Square this week, organised by Freedom from Torture and other organisations to protest against the cruel Nationality & Borders Bill, which seeks to criminalise those fleeing persecution and war. I had the opportunity to meet Twickenham residents who were demonstrating.
Panel discussion at The Childhood Trust London Child Poverty Summit
I spoke at the 3rd London Child Poverty Summit as part of London Challenge Poverty Week. The focus for the summit this year was on the future for disadvantaged children in the context of the pandemic.
London has the highest rate of child poverty in any English region, with 37% of all children in London living in relative poverty. The current Government has overseen a rise in poverty which has worsened since the pandemic and will continue to worsen with the £20 Universal Credit cut.
Held in partnership with the London Child Poverty Alliance, the summit was an insightful one-day event featuring presentations, panels, and debate from a wide range of experts on child poverty, including government representatives, educators, youth workers, and young people impacted by poverty. I discussed the urgent need for more social housing, more affordable childcare and engaging more young people in politics, as well as the damaging cuts to universal credit, with co-panellists Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham, and Zack Polanski, Green Party London Assembly Member.
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.