For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the UK has announced zero daily Covid-19 deaths. While this is welcome news, it comes against a backdrop of uncertainty and caution surrounding the Indian variant. It's also important to bear in mind the lag in reporting deaths that occurs the day after the weekend.
With that in mind, I am concerned to see the extent to which Covid-19 cases have increased in Kingston over the past month, relative to other parts of the country. With a rate of 70.4 cases per 100,000 people, it is far higher than the nation-wide rate, which is 30.3.
I am presently seeking some further information from the Director of Public Health Kingston, but would in the meantime once gain encourage you all to take your vaccine when offered. There are also a number of ways that residents can take rapid tests in Kingston, which will similarly help us supress the spread of the virus. For more information, please click here.
The latest TfL funding settlement was announced today and included a proposal for a cost-sharing deal that would see the Government contribute up to one-third of the cost of repairs for Hammersmith Bridge.
Specifically, it states that, “during the period of this agreement, we expect to draw up a memorandum of understanding between Her Majesty’s government, TfL and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) to fund the reopening of Hammersmith Bridge – initially to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic and, depending on cost, to motorists.”
Amongst the conditions for the funding are that “the independent board responsible for the case for continued safe operation will conduct a new assessment for controlled and limited reopening of Hammersmith Bridge to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic once further investigations and report validations are completed at the end of June.”
While LBHF has announced that they do not intend to take up the Government's offer, I am relieved to see the Government finally attempting to work constructively with others. For the sake of all those who have endured enormous disruption to their lives, I would urge all parties to continue working together so that an agreeable deal can be reached.
POLICE PRESENCE IN RICHMOND
Following recent tragic events in Richmond, myself, Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham, and Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, have written to the Mayor of London calling for a greater police presence in Richmond, as well as the reopening of Richmond Police Station.
I absolutely recognise both the widespread concern amongst my constituents and the urgent need for visible action. We therefore expect his office to consider ways of providing greater levels of protection on our streets, and hope to work constructively with him in the coming weeks and months. To see the letters click here and here.
ARTS SUBJECTS FUNDING
It was recently revealed that a consultation by the Office for Students (OfS) and the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, suggested halving the amount of money spent on "high cost" higher education arts subjects in England, with the rationale being that they were not "strategic priorities."
I have therefore written to Gavin Williamson urging him to reconsider this move. The proposed cut sends a damaging message about the place and value of the arts, undermining students and Higher Education providers who are active in these disciplines. Without such funding, creative skills development risks becoming even more exclusionary. I was thrilled to be joined by 50 cross-party MPs and Peers in the signing of the letter, and look forward to working closely with Public Campaign for the Arts, who have long been campaigning for arts, culture and creativity in the UK. To view my letter, click here.
On Friday I was fortunate enough to spend the entire day in the community, meeting with various individuals and organisations. I started with a visit to Vineyard School where we discussed the ongoing issue of unsafe traffic during drop off and collection times. I was pleased to hear the Headteacher discuss their plans to resolve this, which included encouraging families to explore other ways of travelling to school. I will also be reaching out to the Council to see if they can engage with local businesses so that they change their delivery times such that they no longer clash with drop off and collection times.
I then met with Roger Hillyer, the new chair of Friends of Richmond Park where we discussed the group's work in advocating for the protection and conservation of the Park. We also discussed some of the ongoing issues of concern, including the closure of Ham Gate toilets, the Movement Strategy Trial and dog lead requirements.
I also met with Sara Wilcox of Age UK and Dementia Awareness where I was able to find out more about plans to make Richmond dementia friendly. I will be writing to the Richmond BID and Chamber of Commerce as business support will be absolutely vital if we are to achieve this. I will also be engaging Richmond Council to encourage them to meet with the charities and explore ways of providing their support.
Finally, I met with the trustees of Kingston Mosque where we discussed, amongst other things, the current situation in Palestine and the lack of burial ground in Richmond. I will be conveying their concerns to the relevant Councillors and look forward to maintaining a productive and constructive dialogue with them on all matters moving forward.
WARNING AGAINST SWIMMING IN THE THAMES
With the forecasts promising a spell of hot weather, Richmond Council has released a video urging people against jumping and swimming in the River Thames. Every summer a number of people jump off of both Teddington Footbridge and Teddington Lock Bridge. The dangers involved include the risk of cold water shock and the possibility of jumping into discarded shopping trolleys, railings and bicycles, all of which can be indiscernible through the dark waters. To see the video in full, click here.
CYCLING IN RICHMOND
This week is national Bike Week. If you own a bike but either do not ride it or ride it infrequently, now is the time to get it out of the shed, check it and rediscover the health benefits of cycling. If you are ready to try cycling but can't ride a bike or lack confidence on the road, the council offers free one-to-one sessions with a trained instructor.
Richmond Council is also launching a shared eCargo bike scheme where local businesses and organisations can share the cost of an eCargo bike with others. If you are not sure whether you would like an eCargo bike, they have teamed up with Peddle My Wheels, meaning you can try your bike before you buy. To express your interest in the shared bike scheme, contact email@example.com by 30 June 2021.
JOBS AND TRAINING FAIR
Kingston Council and South Thames Colleges Group are working with several partners to organise a first-of-its-kind job fair to help local people into employment and boost the local economy.
On 23 June, job seekers can watch virtual sessions delivered by industry experts, on a variety of subjects, covering topics such as creating CVs and job searching, digital and creative industries, starting your own business, health and wellbeing and much more. Each session will provide potential employees with a list of current job vacancies in the sector, advice from employers who are looking to recruit and training options available in the sector.
If you are unable to access the event from home, the event will be at several broadcasting centres around the borough. To find out more and book your place, visit: stcg.ac.uk/kingstonjobs.
USE OF AI TECHNOLOGY TO BETTER UNDERSTAND USE OF CYCLE LANES
The councils, as part of the South London Partnership’s InnOvaTe Project, will use Vivacity’s AI and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide anonymous data on different transport modes and movement patterns.
Sensors will be deployed to gather more information about each borough’s cycle infrastructure, including the number of cyclists currently using the existing cycle lanes and main roads within the borough, and the number of unauthorised vehicles illegally using the spaces. This will help the councils to consider the areas to be included in any future expansion of their cycle infrastructure.