I share the concern about the latest COVID-19 developments regarding the Omicron variant and the need to be cautious. The WHO has designated Omicron as a variant of concern due to fears of increased transmissibility and possible reduction in the effectiveness of the current vaccines. 

It is important to note that we don’t have hard evidence at this stage, so I support the Government’s decision to tighten regulations as a precautionary step. From Tuesday 30th November it will become a legal requirement to wear face masks in shops and on all public transport, except if you are medically exempt. Also, please check the updated rules for foreign travel if you have any trips abroad planned.

Rates in the Richmond Borough continue to be significantly higher than the national and London- wide average. We must all work to prevent the spread of the virus, particularly for the sake of the most clinically vulnerable. If you are not yet vaccinated, it is now more important than ever to get your jab. The Government announced today that boosters will be offered to all adults 3 months after their second dose. People will be invited in descending age order to book their jab. More Covid information can be found at the end of this newsletter. 

Local meetings, events and news

Sign up for My Local Business Forums

It has been an incredibly difficult couple of years for businesses, large and small. Over the past two years, they have had to navigate the hugely challenging impacts of Brexit, Covid restrictions, lockdowns and rapidly changing consumer behaviour.

Following last month’s Budget, I will be hosting a series of local business forums to hear from local businesses of all sizes about the difficulties they face and their plans for the future.

If you are a business owner or manager in the local area, this is your opportunity to discuss these challenges with your local MP and fellow senior business professionals. If you would like to attend any of my local business forums, they will be held online over the coming months. Please sign up here:

Visit to Deer Park School

Last Monday I visited Deer Park School for the morning assembly and a  school tour. The learning environments were beautiful and interactive.

Thank you to Mr Lee, Ms Coward, student council members and Years 4 and 5 for having me and asking some great questions. See photos from my visit here.

Support the Christmas Day Dinner for young care leavers

Please do sign up if you are able to help out at this wonderful event. It is always a special and memorable day for the guests. 

There is a dinner on Christmas Day itself for young carers in the Richmond area, but they also need help with wrapping gifts for the guests in the run up to Christmas. There are lots of time slots available and there is also the option to donate to the event, if you are unable to volunteer time. 

Please click here to find out more. It is such wonderful way to give back and support the local community this Christmas.

Local Christmas Lights Switch-On

Following the Twickenham Christmas Lights switch on last week, next up locally was Teddington, which of course did not disappoint. 

It was an incredible evening at Teddington Lights Upwith former footballer and Teddington resident, Paul Merson, switching on the lights alongside the Deputy Mayor. Thousands of people were out enjoying the music, food and drink and supporting their local businesses. I also bumped into the Park Lane Stables team again and I am so pleased they will be moving back home soon. Thank you to all who organised and were involved with the event.

See some more photos of the evening here

Later on in the week was East Twickenham’s Lights On and carols led by Michelle Luscombe. Again, the atmosphere was great and there was an excellent turn out by local residents. Father Christmas made an appearance, and it was another lovely evening, with a reception hosted at ETNA afterwards. 

On Sunday, Whitton turned on their Christmas lights with the Light Up Whitton event. There were some wonderful stalls and again a fabulous festive atmosphere despite the freezing conditions. See photos from Sunday here.

Thank you so much to all those involved with the Christmas Lights events over the past couple of weeks.

Richmond Soup Kitchen 

Richmond Soup Kitchen is open Wednesdays and Thursdays 5pm to 6pm between the 17th November to 20thJanuary next year. Free takeaway soup, hot drinks and sandwiches will be served for anyone in need at St John the Divine, Richmond, TW9 2NA. 

If you would like to volunteer, please contact richmondsoupkitchen@gmail.com

Small Business Saturday

The Small Business Saturday campaign is back this year on Saturday 4th December

Last year, more than £1.1 billion was spent at small businesses on the day. To join the Tour either virtually (on our Facebook Live series) or in person: https://smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com/the-tour

Plan ahead now to visit your local small businesses on Small Business Saturday. You can share your great experience of supporting local on social media.

Get Lucky Local’s First Birthday 

Our borough’s community lottery Get Lucky Local celebrates its first birthday this month. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, over 51,000 tickets were sold during the year and 61 Good Causes across the borough have been signed. The amount of money donated to the Good Causes is £52,446.

I attended the launch last year and I am so glad to see so much support being provided to projects across the borough.

Standing up for you

Questioning ministers about local housing for Afghan evacuees 

Last week I asked why the Government had not yet housed Afghan refugees in our borough despite the council securing several family homes for them. I emphasised how proud I was that locally so much work had been done to support, welcome and rehouse Afghan evacuees in Richmond.

However, no families have yet been settled in these homes. I argued that this is wasting taxpayers’ money but also points to the fact that many families are still stuck in unsuitable hotel accommodation. I ended by asking the Minister what was being done to speed up resettlement of evacuees into suitable homes. As a response to this, unfortunately, instead of taking the issue seriously, the Minister decided to make a party-political point. The Home Office needs to move with urgency and act with compassion.

See my question in full here.

Calling on Government to plan properly for the NHS workforce

I spoke in support of Jeremy Hunt MP’s amendment to the Health & Care Bill which would force Ministers to publish an independent assessment of NHS and social care workforce needs every two years, so that we are recruiting and training the doctors, nurses, carers, physios and other professionals we need for the future.

As an example, the workforce that supports those with mental health concerns now has over 16,600 full time equivalent vacancies but a waiting list of 1.5 million. This is only one workforce among many and illustrates that the report calling for an amendment every two years is vital to hold Ministers to account.

Watch my contribution here

Out on the beat with the Heathfield Safer Neighbourhood Team 

At the end of last week, I hit the beat in Heathfield with the Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT), to witness how they engage with the local community. I joined PC Mark Smith, PC Sam Parkinson & PCSO Daniel Green on their regular beat, starting on Heathfield Rec and chatting to those who run the Food for Thought project there, then visiting the Hounslow Heath Estate on Edgar Road. 

Read more about it on my website.

Down Syndrome Bill Support

People in this country with Down Syndrome deserve  better provision, support, opportunities and outcomes. Therefore, I was very pleased to support Liam Fox’s Down Syndrome Bill last week. I also met with him in Parliament at the beginning of last week.

Support for houseboat residents 

Last week, I showed my support for my constituents who live on the water. I enjoyed meeting the houseboat residents at Thistleworth Marine. It was good to listen to their concerns and gain a better understanding of the issues they face living on the river. 

Meet your MP event in Whitton High Street

Despite the freezing, windy and wet weather experienced, it was good to meet and speak to many local Whitton residents in the High Street last weekend. We discussed local issues, including the permanent reductions to the train service and the proposed changes to the parliamentary boundaries, which would mean Whitton would no longer be part of the Twickenham constituency. Thank you to all those who braved the weather to come and chat!

Government responds to environmental concerns

After receiving a large volume of correspondence from local residents, I contacted the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) regarding environmental welfare and protecting precious uplands. The response from DEFRA is on my website.

Stars in our Schools

The 26th November was Unison’s Stars in Our Schools Celebration Day which I proudly support.

This campaign celebrated the wonderful job support staff do every day in our local schools. Support staff have been vital to children’s welfare over the past 18 months more than ever. This has helped schools remain open for vulnerable children.

Covid Information 

Latest Covid Numbers

In the week November 21st to November 27th, there were 1120 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 565.3/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 316.4/100,000 and England-wide rate of 388.2/100,000. 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 for both 12-15-year-olds and those 16+ is at Harlequins Rugby Ground Twickenham from the 30th to 2nd December. Details of which vaccines are being offered and eligibility criteria are available here.