I was very sorry to hear of the deaths this week of two of Richmond upon Thames’ longest-serving councillors, Cllr Martin Elengorn, and Cllr Geoffrey Samuels. I send my deepest condolences to their families and friends, and also to their council colleagues, who will remember both men with warmth and gratitude.
STATE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT
On Tuesday, King Charles delivered his first speech in Parliament as King as part of the State Opening of Parliament. The King’s Speech set out the Government’s legislative agenda for the year ahead and contained 21 pieces of legislation. This is the fewest number of Bills in almost 10 years, many of which had already been announced or carried over from the previous session. You can read a list of proposed Bills in this BBC article.
I welcome the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill which will ban the export of cattle for fattening and slaughter, however I am disappointed that the Government has chosen to leave out other key animal welfare measures such as banning the import of hunting trophies or legislation to tackle puppy smuggling. I also welcome the Renters Reform Bill which will strengthen protections for tenants after many years of dither and delay, and the Pedicabs (London) Bill which will create a regulatory framework for rickshaws. See the Hammersmith Bridge section below for more information about what the pedicabs bill could mean for local residents.
I am, however, very disappointed that the Government did not offer anything in the King’s Speech to help ease the cost-of-living crisis, nor a single piece of legislation to address the crisis facing our NHS. There was also nothing to tackle the climate emergency or to prevent sewage from being pumped into our waterways.
The King’s Speech is followed by five days of debate. I will be participating next week to set out my priorities for the legislative year ahead and to discuss the measures that have been announced.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE SESSION
On Thursday, I led an evidence session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as part of our inquiry into the Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) 2020-21. The WGA consolidates the accounts of over 10,000 public organisations, including central government departments, local authorities, devolved administrations, the NHS, academy schools and public corporations such as the Bank of England, to provide the most complete and accurate picture of the UK’s public finances. The WGA is independently audited by the National Audit Office and then scrutinised by PAC.
My colleagues and I questioned senior Treasury officials on the timeliness and quality of the WGA and the impact to the public finances from the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find out more information about the inquiry and read a transcript of the evidence session on the PAC website.
This weekend, we remember all those who have fought and died in defence of the United Kingdom. At Parliament, each MP plants a cross in the Constituency Garden of Remembrance to pay tribute to the soldiers from their community who fell in service to their country and I felt honoured to be able to carry on this tradition on behalf of Richmond Park.
This weekend, there will be several services of remembrance. One held at the War Memorial, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond at 10.40am with another at New Malden Memorial starting at 9:30 am. Full details of the other services that will be taking place across both borough's can be found here for Kingston and here for Richmond. Anyone who wishes is welcome to join the ceremonies and pay their respects.
MOVING PEDIATRIC CANCER CARE FROM ST GEORGES HOSPITAL: MP ROUNDTABLE
The NHS is currently consulting on whether to move paediatric cancer care for our area from St Georges Hospital and the Royal Marsden to the Evelina Hospital in Lambeth. On Wednesday, I met with a group of MPs and Health Minister Will Quince to discuss these proposals and while the Evelina is an excellent hospital, I do not believe this would be the right decision.
St Georges Hospital has more than 25 years experience delivering dedicated paediatric cancer care supporting parents and children through unthinkably difficult times. Many of its staff are highly specialised, and the hospital hosts some of the country's handful of paediatric neuro-oncological surgeons. Comparatively, the Evelina would need to build many new teams almost from scratch.
Furthermore, to access the Evelina by car, parents would have to pay the congestion charging zone fee and travel through heavy central London traffic. For children on immunosuppressants, public transport is not a viable option and so easy access by private transport is essential.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE: TRANSPORT OVER THE BRIDGE
In the King's speech on Tuesday, I was very pleased to hear that after years of lobbying, the Government has agreed to implement a law that will allow for the proper licensing and regulation of pedicabs and rickshaws. While much of the focus has so far been placed on ridding central London of illegitimate and unsafe vehicles, I believe this bill represents a fantastic opportunity for Richmond residents.
As such, on Thursday, I spoke with the Mayor's Commissioner for Walking and Cycling about introducing a pilot rickshaw scheme across Hammersmith Bridge and the surrounding area when the carriageway reopens to cyclists in 2024. The old community provided scheme was a fantastic service, and I would like to see local, regional, and national government support for a new formalised provision serving older and less mobile residents.
The Commissioner was extremely supportive of the proposal, and recognised the need for transport over the bridge while the funding settlement for the strengthening works is finalised. In the wake of the meeting, I have now approached the DfT to gain their support for this vital project.
MANOR CIRCUS WATER MAIN BURST
Residents living close to Manor Road in Richmond will have seen that since Tuesday last week, a leaking water main has been pouring thousands of gallons of water onto the street and surrounding area. I have been appalled at the glacial response from Thames Water and TfL on this issue, and while I believe they intend to begin work shortly, I cannot understand how they have allowed the leak to go unattended for this long.
TfL have indicated that they remain confident this should not affect their ability to reduce congestion by the end of the month, however, given how much chaos the repairs have caused, I am joining North Richmond's ward councillors in their renewed calls for 24 hour working to get the area clear as soon as possible. To receive updates on roadworks in the constituency, follow the link here.
TEDDINGTON DRA: SAVING HAM LANDS
This week, a freedom of information request carried out by my office and the Liberal Democrats uncovered that since 2020, Thames Water have dumped at least 72 billion litres of sewage into the Thames including a release of 1 billion litres on a single day.
This horrifying revelation comes as Thames Water continue to consult on their Direct River Abstraction proposal which will pump up to 75 million litres of treated effluent into the river at Ham every day when fully operational. While I wish to be clear that the effluent released will not be the same as the sewage that is dumped during storm overflows, I have serious concerns over the damage it will do to local water quality.
Thames Water's current consultation focuses on the route residents would prefer the pipeline to take from the Mogden Sewage Treatment Works to the outflow at Ham Lands. My personal view is that this question is moot, as the project should not be pursued in the first place.
THOMAS’ COLLEGE OPENING IN RICHMOND
On Wednesday, I met with members of the senior leadership team at Thomas’ London Day Schools to discuss their plans to open a new school on the Richmond Hill campus on Queen’s Road. They plan to open a co-education independent secondary school called Thomas’ College in September 2025 following extensive refurbishment of the original campus.
The site has a rich history as an educational establishment and was most recently home to the American University. The main building is Grade II listed and the site is also subject to a covenant which limits its use to educations purposes. I am therefore delighted that Thomas’ have taken on this project and that the site will continue its long history.
In the meeting, we discussed Thomas’ plans to deliver tangible benefits for the local community and to limit the disruption of both the construction works and the through-flow of traffic once the school is open.
RICHMOND SUSTAINABILITY FORUM
Richmond Council will host its first borough-wide Sustainability Forum on Wednesday evening 29 November, to provide a space for businesses, community groups, public sector partners and passionate residents who are leading climate initiatives in their communities to discuss collective action to accelerate Richmond upon Thames’s journey to becoming a Net Zero Borough by 2043.
NORTH KINGSTON CHRISTMAS FAIR
It may only be November, but for my North Kingston residents I have a date for your diaries. On the 2nd of December, the North Kingston Christmas Fair on Park Road and Coombe Road will be in full swing with local choirs, crafters, activities and special offers from the shopkeepers. It is looking like it will be a fantastic celebration of Christmas and our community and if you live in the local area, I am sure it will be worthwhile visit.
The Sewing Angels are a wonderful local charity selling handicrafts from bags to aprons to cards with 100% of the profits donated to local charities like Kingston Foodbank.
On Saturday 18th they will be at Swinnerton Hall, 62a Gibbon Road, KT2 6AB, where you can enjoy mulled wine, mince pies and tea or coffee while you browse. The week after on the 25th, they will be at their usual stand outside the Co-op on the Kings Road, KT2 5HU. If you're looking for a unique gift to give a loved one this Christmas, I cannot recommend them highly enough.