Happy May Day to everyone in Richmond Park. We have come through a full calendar month in lockdown and have positive results to show for our efforts. Thank you for all you are doing to stay home and follow government guidelines. Please keep going, though, as we are not out of the woods yet. We still need to do more to protect people who are frail, sick or disabled, and their carers.
FUNDING FOR LOCAL COUNCILS
Both of the councils in my constituency have risen to the Covid-19 challenge magnificently, working tirelessly to build the safety net of care needed to meet the needs of residents in many positions of vulnerability. They have sourced PPE, supported vulnerable residents, advised schools, delivered food parcels, picked up staggering amounts of waste, changed road patterns, safeguarded children, moved council services online, built helplines, organised volunteers, offered counselling, and signposted people to help of all sorts. Both councils have been everywhere, anticipating and addressing problems at a speed that larger government entities can't match. If there is one lesson from Covid-19 it is the paramount importance of top notch local government. I would like to thank Gareth Roberts in Richmond and Caroline Kerr in Kingston for showing true leadership in this difficult time, and ask them to pass our thanks to every one of their councillors and council officers.
I was happy to see the Government act early to pledge funding support to all of the local authorities at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. But the one-off sums offered will not cover the additional demands on council services. Councils are facing an enormous shortfall from both increased expenditure due to Covid-19 and loss of income from council tax, leisure centres, parking, etc. The national government must step in to help bridge the gap for local authorities, whose powers of taxation and other fundraising are limited by law.
I was happy to sign my Lib Dem colleague Tim Farron's letter this week calling on the government to provide a sufficient and long term funding settlement for councils as a matter of urgency. As Tim says "If our Councils are going to continue to support our communities they need more funding now and concrete assurance of funding into the future."
SHARING THE ROAD
I think we can all agree that inconsiderate people do not helpfully stick to one form of transport. There are pedestrians who stare at their phones, joggers who brush past pedestrians, cyclists who jump red lights and motorists who cut up cyclists and then immediately turn left. I think in many cases this friction arises more from a lack of understanding than from selfishness. Accordingly, I have made requests in previous posts for joggers to give even more room to pedestrians, and for cyclists to leave the narrow tow paths to people on foot. Today I want to ask motorists to remember that cyclists have an equal right to use the roads, and to please take responsibility for ensuring that your vehicle does not endanger them. Here are a few things to be aware of:
Cyclists are not obliged, legally or otherwise, to hug the left side of the lane, even if there is a bike lane there. Hazards near the edge of the road or social distancing often make the middle of the lane safer, and this is perfectly legal. Cyclists need to take the full lane if they intend to turn right across traffic or go straight over a roundabout.
According to official guidance, a car passing a cyclist should leave at least 1.5m clearance between itself and a cyclist (and more if travelling 30mph or more.) This means that unless the cyclist is in a very good cycle lane the car will almost always need to move well into another lane in order to pass them safely. It is not safe to squeeze past a cyclist in the same lane, even if they are hugging the kerb.
As a passing car will need to use the oncoming lane to pass a cyclist with the safe1.5m minimum clearance, cyclists riding two abreast will actually be making it easier for cars to pass them safely, not harder, because the car will need to spend less time in the oncoming lane.
Please, no matter how you are getting around, be respectful and considerate of everyone around you whether they are walking, running, riding or driving.
SAFE SPACES AT BOOTS FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE VICTIMS
People living with domestic abuse will be able to access safe spaces at Boots pharmacies from today. Those needing help can ask staff at the counter to use the consultation room, where they will be able to contact services for help and advice.
Charity Hestia launched the scheme in response to the desperate situation many people are facing. There has been a surge in violence since the lockdown began, with calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline up by 49% and killings doubled. Thank you to Boots for offering to help, and please pass this info on to anyone who may need it.
The National Archives are offering free access to all of the digital records on their website while they are closed. Registered users can order and download up to 10 items at a time, up to a maximum of 50 items over a 30-day period. You can read more about the service here.
HEATHROW NOISE SURVEY
The No Third Runway Coalition launched a survey this week on Heathrow aircraft noise during the lockdown. They are asking people to respond with their experience of the reduced flights in and out of the airport. The survey is anonymous, though they are asking for the first part of respondents' postcodes so they can approximate the location of those responding. Please feel free to share the survey, which can be found here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/T4G18I/
They would also welcome short (30-60 second) video clips of people enjoying the peace and quiet offered by the current situation. Please send them to email@example.com.
RICHMOND RUGBY FOOD BANK DONATIONS
Richmond Rugby Community Department is working to help ensure thousands of residents receive essential goods and support. They have a drop off point at the Richmond Athletic Ground from 12pm – 4pm on Saturdays, where you can donate non-perishable food and second hand tech, which will collected by The Dons Local Action Group and then delivered to those most in need across South West London. Second hand tech items could be old laptops or tablets that could help kids keep up with their learning or keep in touch with their friends. For further information or if you’re interested in volunteering to help at the drop off point please contact Dom on: CommunityDept@richmondfc.co.uk
KEW GARDENS POST OFFICE REOPENING
With so many post offices unable to stay open at the moment I was pleased to hear that Kew Gardens post office will be reopening from Monday May 4, 10:30-2:30, Monday to Friday only. Kew residents will be happy to see them again, I'm sure.
HEALTHWATCH KINGSTON ASKING FOR FEEDBACK ON LOCAL HEALTHCARE
Healthwatch is Kingston's independent champion for people who use health and social care services, ensuring health providers always put people at the heart of care.
In order to help them understand the experiences of people using health and social care services they are asking anyone who has used NHS or social care services during the Covid-19 crisis to fill out this short survey: https://www.healthwatchkingston.org.uk/share-your-views
Growbaby is a Kingston charity that provides free baby clothing and equipment to anyone in need, regardless of their income, faith or background. Their support is also available in Richmond. At present they are the distribution point for formula, baby food, nappies and other practical support for early years children. Please contact them if you need help. Call or text 07900 212 567or email firstname.lastname@example.org .