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Richmond Park News: 10th May 2024

On Saturday, I was delighted to witness Cllr. Gareth Roberts AM declared the Assembly Member for South West London at St Mary's University in Twickenham. Gareth is the first non-Conservative to ever hold the seat, and the first Liberal Democrat Constituency Assembly Member in the Assembly's history. 


I know that he will be a staunch advocate for our community and for South West London as a whole and I very much look forward to working with him during his time at City Hall. 


STANDING UP FOR SMALL BUSINESSES  


Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we are lucky to have a huge number of them here in Richmond Park.


Unfortunately, the last few years have been extremely difficult for these companies. The combination of the pandemic, rising costs, Brexit, and a lack of government support resulted in over 76,000 small businesses closing their doors.


That is why the Liberal Democrats have called for a reform of business rates and further assistance with extremely high energy bills, particularly in the hospitality industry. 


On Wednesday, I spoke in Parliament on behalf of small business owners, calling on the Government to finally listen to their concerns and provide the support they need to help their businesses thrive.


You can see a clip of my intervention here. 



PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE (PAC) - FREE CHILDCARE EXTENSION PROGRAM


Earlier this week, I attended a PAC session on the preparations that are being made to extend childcare entitlements for working parents in England. 


During this session I questioned the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Education, Susan Acland-Hood alongside the Director General for Families, Justin Russell, on the relative pros and cons of making sure the scheme is ready by September but at the cost of scrapping the original pilot phase.


Whilst I am glad the government is taking action to support working parents, ministers do need to review the rates paid to providers to ensure they cover the actual costs of delivering high-quality childcare and early years education. 


I know that childcare is an issue that affects many of my constituents and therefore understand the importance of this significant expansion of free childcare and I want to ensure that this programme is sustainable. 



SUICIDE AND SELF HARM PREVENTION ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP


This week, I attended the annual general meeting of the Suicide and Self-harm Prevention All Party Parliamentary Group. The group, which brings together MPs from all sides of the House of Commons with an interest in preventing suicide, does brilliant work in championing the issue alongside charities in the sector.


I first became involved in the group following the campaign launched by myself and constituent Philip Pirie, whose son Tom tragically died by suicide in 2020. Since then, Philip has been working tirelessly to challenge outdated suicide risk assessment tools and methods, and I am delighted to continue supporting him in his efforts.


If you would like to find out more about the group, you can do so here, and about Philip’s work here. 





PROTECTING RIVER USERS


Earlier today, I met with a group of campaigners, councillors, scout leaders and the team behind Albany Outdoors at Leander Sea Scouts in Canbury Gardens to discuss the critical state of the river. With so much sewage dumping taking place, and the Government unwilling to help, Albany Outdoors has begun testing the water's quality regularly to ensure people out kayaking and canoeing in the river are not exposed to harmful levels of bacteria.


During the meeting, something that became immediately apparent is the damage sewage dumping is doing to the businesses and groups that use the river. Parents are justifiably concerned but visiting the centre you see how passionate their staff are and how committed they continue to be to keeping the river clean and their users safe.


Unfortunately, there is a risk that if Thames Water does not clean up its act, and if the Government does not take real action to crack down on polluters, we may lose these amazing assets to our community for good.


Click on the links here, if you'd like to learn more about Albany Outdoors or the Leander Sea Scouts.



TRAFFIC ACROSS THE CONSTITUENCY


Residents in both Kingston and Richmond may have been caught up in the huge traffic jams that plagued the constituency this week. While there is no one reason for these queues, a combination of works at Manor Circus and Kingston Hill Roundabout, train strikes, and emergency gas repairs on Petersham Road's junction with Sandy Lane may have all been contributing factors.


With rail disruption hopefully at an end for now, and the gas works on Petersham Road concluding on the 15th, the second half of next week should be clearer.


If you want to keep up to date with traffic in the area you can see Richmond Council's roadworks bulletin here and Kingston Council's traffic updates here.



POLICING AND CRIME


Earlier this week, I heard from several constituents that a group of masked individuals had been harassing families and children in Palewell Park earlier in May. I'm pleased to say that after my team reported the incident, local police took immediate action and have been running additional patrols in the area to secure the park and reassure the community.


Our local police work incredibly hard to keep our streets safe, but they are stretched far too thin. This week, the Evening Standard uncovered that the Metropolitan Police have once again failed to hit their target to fill vacancies. Yet, instead of working together, the Mayor and the Government seem more intent on bickering than solving the problem.


You can read the full article and my comments in the Evening Standard online here.



DEAF AWARENESS WEEK


Over this week, charities, businesses, and Government agencies across the UK have been doing their part to raise the publics' awareness of the deaf community and the small things we can do to make our society more inclusive.


My constituent, Feras Al-Moubayed, a sign language teacher and deaf awareness campaigner, has put together a short one minute video explaining some of the steps you can take to make sure deaf people can understand you in conversation. There is also a short guide which lays out all the information in writing here.



RICHMOND NEWS


HAM OPEN GARDENS CHARITY EVENT


I'm very happy to report that the biennial charity event, Ham Open Gardens, is taking place again on Sunday May 19th, offering residents a chance to look around normally private gardens in Ham. There will be afternoon tea, a BBQ, and a local jazz band by the pond on Ham Common.


Last year, the event raised £17,000 for local organisations like Home Start and Ham and Petersham SOS. Tickets can be bought for £15 on the day or £10, in advance, at the link here.



RICHMOND MAY FAIR


Tomorrow between 10am and 5pm, the Richmond May Fair will be in full swing on Richmond Green. With over 200 stalls and near 100 options in the Craft tent, this year's event promises to be bigger and better than ever!


With the weather looking like it will be perfect, I'd highly recommend dropping by for the dog show, fun-fair, fire brigade and stalls. You can find all the information on their website with the link here.



KINGSTON NEWS


KINGSTON ANTIQUES AND VINTAGE FAIR MARKET


On Sunday, 26th May, between 10 am and 4 pm the Ancient Market Place will be playing host to a treasure trove of eclectic finds. There will be 24 stalls selling antiques, collectables, vintage items and vinyl records. So whether you are hunting for a unique new decoration, a bargain on old classics, or simply want to spend some time looking around, it should be a great afternoon out.









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