Like all of my colleagues in Parliament, I was relieved to hear that the Prime Minister was released from hospital over the weekend and will continue his recovery at home. I wish him a speedy return to health.
Thank you to everyone who abided by the lockdown guidance and stayed home over the long weekend. I was pleased to see the parks were much less crowded last weekend, although the towpaths remain a problem. Please try to avoid using them; they are too narrow in places to accommodate social distancing. I would like to invite keen cyclists to enjoy our now virtually traffic-free roads, avoiding both the parks and the towpaths.
THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
I have been contacted by a number of constituents who have been accused of breaching Covid-19 measures by strangers in public. I would like to clarify that certain people have been granted exemptions from the ban on cycling in Richmond Park. These include people who need to cross the park for regular medical appointments and essential workers crossing the park to get to work. These individuals have been granted exemptions on the basis that cycling through the park enables them to avoid the hazards of public transportation.
If you see someone cycling through Richmond Park, please give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are entitled to be there. You will have no way to know why they are cycling through, but the park is being monitored and it will be more likely than not that they have permission.
I would also like to clarify that professional dog walkers are still allowed to walk dogs in the park, as long as the dogs stay on leads. They may be walking the dogs of key workers who are at work, or people who are sick or self-isolating. Dog walkers have not been banned from operating, so please give them the benefit of the doubt as well.
Lastly, please consider your neighbours when playing music in your garden or with your windows open. Your neighbour may not share your taste, or may be trying to read or listen to the birds in their own garden. Headphones are a cheap and easy way to listen to music while endeavouring to Be the Neighbour You Want.
I had a productive conversation today with Chief Superintendent Sally Benatar, who leads the Met Police's Southwest London Police Command Unit. She is happy to report that thefts, burglaries and knife crime are all down since the lockdown began. However, there is still some anti-social behaviour occurring, which should be reported to your local Safer Neighborhoods Team. Find yours by putting your postcode in here: https://www.met.police.uk/a/your-area/
Chief Superintendent Benatar also shared with me the Met Police's Four Es's, which describe their approach to managing the lockdown. They are: Engage, Explain, Encourage and only if necessary Enforce. I have been contacted by constituents with a variety of views on the police response so far, so I thought it might help to share this guidance here. CS Benatar assures me that Met Police officers "will continue to apply our common sense and experience, taking a sensible and graduated approach to the situation."
You can report COVID breaches to the Met Police by phoning 101, using the response form on www.met.police.uk, or messaging the Met Police on Twitter using @MetCC .
POST OFFICE SERVICES
The Royal Mail has written to ask me to let constituents know about a few changes:
Non-franchised Post Offices and WH Smiths branches are now open 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 12:30pm Saturday.
At branches which aren’t franchised or in other shops, the first hour of every day is for elderly or vulnerable customers and those working in NHS or care services.
You can search for the nearest open branch using the branch finder on the Post Office website https://www.postoffice.co.uk/branch-finder
Welfare payments in post offices will be brought forward and paid on a double (two-week) basis to reduce the need for customers to leave home.
Appointment of Temporary Agent: Extension of the ‘Temporary Agent’ facility means you can authorise someone else to withdraw money on your behalf. Application form: https://www.anpost.com/AnPost/media/PDFs/Appointment-of-Temporary-Agent.pdf
Many residents have contacted me in the past few weeks about housing issues and the government's emergency provision. The housing charity Shelter is available to help answer questions about the new emergency housing legislation. Their COVID-19 housing advice is regularly updated here. You can also call their free national helpline on 0808 800 4444, or use their webchat at: https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help/webchat.
SAMARITANS MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
The Samaritans' service is continuing to operate 24 hours a day seven days a week. You can get in touch about anything that’s troubling you, no matter how large or small the issue feels.
They want you to know that "We are here to listen, no judgement, no pressure, and help you work through what's on your mind. We'll never tell you what to do." Call them on 116 123.
Shielding at home and needing help?
Kingston Stronger Together has asked me to advise Kingston residents to contact them if you are unable to leave your home and need support. If you need help please complete the online form or call the hub on 020 8547 5000.
Free bicycle repairs for NHS workers
Kingston Council wants to say thank you to RBK Cycle Instructors Eric Chasseray and Andy Litchfield who have been fixing key workers’ bikes for free. They have been hosting bike repair surgeries at NHS sites and are planning more such events.
Local company and local school both making PPE visors
Nine thousand full face visors have been created and donated to the frontline and social care workers in Richmond by local graphics company Data Reprographics. The company is appealing to the community to help them purchase the materials needed to make more masks. Anyone wanting to donate, can go to: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/marie-gallagher-3
Hampton School's Design and Engineering Department is also producing face masks to donate to local NHS workers, using the school's DT equipment and materials.
Richmond Council News Page
Richmond Council's web site has a useful and very readable news page with all the latest information about their response to the Covid-19 crisis from all their service departments. If you want to keep up with what Richmond Council is doing have a look here: