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Richmond Park News: 10 March 2023


INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY AND WOMEN IN WESTMINSTER


It was a pleasure to attend the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames’ International Women’s Day celebrations on Wednesday. I was delighted to be asked to speak at this event alongside a number of inspirational and successful women. I would like to thank the organisers at Richmond Council for putting on the event, and the other speakers and panellists for stimulating such an engaging discussion.

I was also delighted to be included in this year’s Women in Westminster: The 100 list and to attend their Parliamentary reception in celebration of International Women’s Day. I would like to congratulate the 99 other women across politics, journalism and public service who made the list this year. If you would like to read their profiles or find out some more information on the Women in Westminster initiative, please click here.



PUBLIC ORDER BILL

Many constituents have emailed me this week to share their concerns on the Public Order Bill which would grant wide-ranging powers to the police to crack down on protests. I passionately support the right to peacefully protest and for this reason, I voted in favour of several amendments to the Bill that would have tackled some of its most draconian measures. I do understand and share in concern about the disruption caused by protests. No one should be blocking ambulances from getting where they need to go - it puts lives at risk and does nothing to build public support for a cause. However, the police already have the powers they need to deal with protestors, as we’ve seen with people being arrested when they go beyond what's acceptable for a peaceful demonstration. The Conservatives’ new laws are not about stopping people from blocking roads – they are about cracking down on everyone’s rights to peaceful assembly and protest. Senior officers did not ask for these new powers and fear that they will undermine the public trust and confidence they need to do their jobs. If the Government was genuinely interested in preventing ambulances from being delayed, it would be doing far more to tackle the crisis that is leaving people waiting hours in an emergency.



APPG FOR BAME BUSINESS OWNERS


This week, I hosted the annual general meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ethnic Minority Business Owners.

This group has been pivotal in supporting ethnic minority business owners through first the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis. Currently, our emphasis has been on improving access to data on business owners, so Government support can be better targeted to the communities who need it.

This is particularly important at the moment, as many of the business owners the APPG supports face unprecedented increases in their energy bills.


Without further Government support, it is likely some of these businesses will fold; I, therefore, took the time to reinforce the APPG’s call to extend business energy support for a further six months at current levels, and give business owners the much-needed financial reassurance they deserve. You can read more about the APPG's work here.


PROTECTING LEASEHOLDERS


I was appalled to learn this week that some leaseholders in the Kew Riverside development have had their service charge raised by thousands of pounds, with no thought given to extra pressure residents are being placed under due to the cost of living crisis. The leaseholder-freeholder relationship is a fundamentally unequal one, where leaseholders have only limited bargaining power and very little ability to challenge unfair bills. This is born out in the case of the leaseholders at Kew Riverside, indeed, it was disappointing to see that the freeholder and management company have not only raised service charges but failed to even adequately explain why charges are being increased.


The Government has accepted the system needs to change, but it has been dragging its heels on the subject for far too long. Last year, I penned a letter, co-signed by Sir Ed Davey MP and Daisy Cooper MP, calling on the Government to commit to reforming this broken system and I will continue to lobby for change through my role on the Leasehold and Commonhold Reform APPG.


If you find yourself in a similar situation to those in Kew Riverside, there is help available. The Leasehold Advisory Service is a Government-funded independent advice service for residential leaseholders while the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership are a charity which information and support for leaseholders. To learn more about the Leasehold Advisory Service click here, and to access the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership click here.



THAMES WATER ABSTRACTION PLAN


On Thursday, I met with Munira Wilson MP and a group of organisations from across Richmond upon Thames and London to discuss the Thames Water abstraction plan. This is a scheme designed to remove 75 megalitres of water a day from the river near Ham, with the lost water to be replaced by treated wastewater from Mogden Sewage Works. Although a range of topics and concerns were raised at the meeting, what is clear is that Thames Water does not understand how central the river is to our community. Amazingly, it appears they did not expect this plan to be received as anything other than a minor infrastructure project, and have been shocked by the depth of feeling it generated.


The consultation on the draft project is closing on the 21st of March. If you have a view you would like to express, I would urge you to submit a response as soon as possible. You can do so with the link here.



SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES


On Friday, I met with local business people in Kew and took the opportunity to discuss how they have been impacted by the cost of living crisis. While many were confident they will be able to whether the storm, the rise in energy prices and the lack of Governmental support has clearly been weighing heavily on shop owners' minds. Unfortunately, this is likely to only get worse after next week's budget, as the Government plans to cut almost 85% of the support businesses are relying on to survive.


Ahead of the budget next week, I will be calling on the Government to extend energy support for businesses for at least the next six months. The price of gas may be falling but without certainty and stability it is incredibly hard for businesses to plan, prepare, and grow. If you need help with your energy bills, visit my dedicated cost of living support page here.



CONSTITUENCY VISITS


Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Alexandra School in Kingston and meeting a group of students dubbed the 'Right Knights'. This group has made it their mission to fight for causes they believe in, both on a local level and across the nation. Hearing their thoughts on local developments, the environment, and free school meals, I was extremely touched to see such young people working to make the world a better place.


That same day, I also had the opportunity to visit Dowler Court, a supported living complex in Canbury Gardens. The residents there have been working with local gardeners to regenerate the space behind the complex which shares a border with the local school. It was great to hear plans for an intergenerational initiative, where younger and more elderly people can be brought together through gardening and a love of their local community.




THE ROYAL PARKS RENOVATION WORKS


I'm sure that regular users of Richmond Park will have witnessed the flurry of activity taking place in the park recently. While there are many aspects to these improvements, I was particularly pleased to hear that the Kingston Gate and Ham Gate toilets are now under repair and will hopefully be reopened at the start of April.


Alongside these works, the Royal Parks are conducting extensive renovations to the paths near to the Isabella Plantation, the walls at Robin Hood Gate, and multiple pedestrian crossings across the park. It's great to see so much being done to keep this wonderful centre of our community in good order.



ST RICHARD'S CHURCH, HAM - ROOF FUNDRAISER


It was a privilege to be invited to St Richard's Church in Ham on Sunday to speak to residents about why churches and the communities they represent are so important in the modern era. The event was held by St Richard's as part of their efforts to raise half a million pounds towards the restoration of the church's roof.


St Richard's is a remarkable building, and its six-pointed roof creates a space designed to place an emphasis on the connection between all parts of the congregation. The style and design is incredibly rare and I hope it will continue to be a centre for the community in Ham for years to come. If you would like to donate to the restoration you can do so through the link here.




Richmond News


RICHMOND SOCIAL HOUSING DISREPAIR CAMPAIGN


In recent weeks, a coalition of voluntary sector organisations including RUILS, Age UK, Citizens Advice, and Richmond Aid have launched a campaign to support residents living in poorly maintained social housing. They would like to hear from all tenants who have reported a maintenance issue with their property and are seeking to understand how housing associations are responding.


They will be hosting several drop-in sessions across the borough over the coming weeks, and while all events are open to anyone, no matter where they live in the borough, the events that are most accessible to constituents of Richmond Park are listed below:


  • Tuesday, April 18th, 2023: 6 pm - 7 pm. Online

  • Thursday, April 27th, 2023: 11:30 am - 1:30 pm. St Mary's Church, Mortlake, SW14 8JA


For more information and other drop in dates, click the link here.


KEW ECO FAIR


Tomorrow morning, at 10:30 am, BBC broadcaster Jeremy Vine will be opening the Kew Eco Fair at St Luke's Church. I hope that this event will inspire people to take action on climate change and help residents make changes in their everyday lives to help protect the Earth. There will be the opportunity to swap your old clothes for new ones, visit a repair café to fix your old possessions, shop for eco-friendly goods and have a bite to eat. The event is open to everyone and is free to enter, you can find more information with the link here.



Kingston News


KAPDAA - DONATE TO INNOVATE


KAPDAA is a small business based in Kingston which is focused on using reclaimed textiles that would have been thrown away and transforming them into new, sustainable accessories and stationary. Recently, Kingston Council has joined with KAPDAA to research new ways to recycle old garments in the borough more effectively.


To conduct this research, KAPDAA are looking for 200 kg of textile waste to conduct their experiments on. They are already incredibly close to their target, but they need just a little more support to get over the line. If you have any clothes you were thinking of throwing away in the next few days, I would urge you to donate them to KAPDAA's research. You can find the full details about the scheme and how to donate here.


TUDOR LIBRARY FRIENDS LITTER PICK


The Tudor Library Friends Litter Pick will be taking place again this Saturday from 10:30 am starting outside Tudor Library. At their last event, 15 members of the local community came together to help clean up the neighbourhood with people of all ages joining together to give back to the community. It is a truly wonderful event and if you have some time on Saturday morning, I would urge you to go along.



SEWING ANGELS - SPRING CRAFT SALE


Tomorrow, between 10:30 am and 2 pm, the Sewing Angels in Kingston will be selling hand-knit and hand-crafted gifts for mother's day outside of the Co-op on the King's Road in Kingston. All the proceeds from this incredible initiative will be donated to local charities supporting the community.




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