PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE REPORT ON BREXIT
This week in the Public Accounts Committee we published our report, ‘EU Exit: UK Border post transition’. We found that, since the transition period ended in 2020, trade volumes have been suppressed by the pandemic, Brexit and wider global pressures. It may not be possible to separate the impact of these individual elements on the UK’s trade with the EU, but it is clear that Brexit has had an impact, and that new border arrangements have added costs to businesses. We have repeatedly raised issues about changes to trading arrangements on businesses of all sizes, and we remain concerned.
The government has ambitious plans to create “the most effective border in the world” by 2025, which includes plans to make it easier and simpler for traders to submit information on goods crossing the border. While this is a noteworthy ambition, it is an optimistic one, and we are not convinced that it is underpinned by a detailed plan to deliver it. In our view, departments should be doing much more work in the shorter term to understand and minimise the current burden on those trading with the EU, to address the immediate delivery and readiness risks in introducing import controls, and to have a border in place operating effectively without further delays or temporary measures.
TRADE WITH CHINA
This week it was reported that Boris Johnson is planning to restart trade talks with China. It is concerning to me that the Government plans to strike a deal with China, given the genocide against the Uyghurs. I fear that this would send a dangerous signal to Beijing that they can get away with whatever they want. I believe that rather than hold new trade talks with China, the UK must ban imports from Xinjiang, and recognise the genocide taking place there. It is critical that we not remain silent.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council (LBHF) has submitted a planning application for their planned stabilisation works. This week I submitted my support and would encourage all my constituents to do the same, so that listed planning consent can be granted and works can begin as quickly as possible.
The works will involve the temporary dismantling of short sections of existing parapets to allow for the provision of temporary pedestrian and cyclist scaffold ramps. They will also include the building of temporary timber hoarding around the saddles and pedestals. Historic England have confirmed they are happy with the plans while Richmond Council, who were consulted regarding how Public Right of Way will be maintained on the Barnes end, have also provided clearances. Per the Design, access and heritage statement, the temporary ramps will be designed so as to maintain public access from both sides of Castelnau down to the towpath, and the towpath will remain open at all times.
NEW TRAIN TIMETABLE FROM SWR
South Western Railway has announced that its pre-Omicron timetable will be reinstated from Monday 21 February. This is welcome news and is something I have been lobbying for since the changes were announced last month, particularly given the government's lifting of its work from home guidance.
It's important to note that two morning peak services, on the Shepperton and Hounslow loops, will not be reintroduced. I shall monitor the situation closely and, if the demand is there, encourage SWR to bring them back.
CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH WEEK
Following the House of Commons debate on education recovery last week, where I spoke about the alarming rise in children with unaddressed mental health problems, there was an opposition motion in the House on Tuesday to mark Children's Mental Health Week. I was not able to speak in that debate, but my colleague Munira Wilson, the MP for Twickenham, spoke movingly about the problems faced by children in our area when they need help. Waiting lists are appallingly high, with children who are very unwell waiting many months, sometimes years, for treatment.
I strongly support the motion, which calls on the Government to guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it and to provide specialist mental health support
in every school. The motion also calls for the Government to establish open access mental health hubs for children and young people in every community.
To mark Children's Mental Health Week, organiser Place2Be has launched a new service to support children and young people with mental health challenges. Their new Shout service will
connect children to free support with just a text. If you know of someone who would benefit from this, please ask them to text Connect to 85258. More information can be found here.
LETTER TO MAYOR OF LONDON ABOUT ULEZ CAMERAS
Last weekend I attended a meeting in Kew on crime prevention around the Green. At the suggestion of one of my constituents there, I wrote to the Mayor of London to ask him to make better use of the ULEZ cameras erected along the South Circular to deter crime. I relayed the suggestion that signage alerting criminals to the presence of the cameras might discourage them. I hope the Mayor will consider this.
VISIT TO RICHMOND FURNITURE SCHEME
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Richmond Furniture Scheme, where I met the CEO, trustees and volunteer coordinator. The Furniture Scheme supplies donated furniture and household goods at minimal costs to people in need. In addition to helping the recipients. the scheme helps the environment by facilitating reuse/recycling of furniture and household goods. I was very interested to hear about the work of their 30 volunteers in supporting local families. You can find out more about the scheme here.
KEW GARDENS ORCHID FESTIVAL
It was a pleasure to visit Kew Gardens on Wednesday to celebrate their annual Orchid Festival. The stunning displays featuring Costa Rican orchids bring to life the incredible biodiversity of Central America. The festival runs until March 6. You can learn more about the Orchid Festival and book tickets here.
COFFEE MORNING NEXT WEEK
Barnes residents are cordially invited to join me at the Wetlands Centre next Thursday for a brief update on my activities as your MP followed by discussion of any topics of interest to attendees. Places are limited, though, and must be booked in advance by clicking here.
LUNAR NEW YEAR FAIR TOMORROW
My constituents might like to attend the Lunar New Year fair organised by our local Hong Kong community tomorrow from 10am-4pm at St John's Church in Hampton Wick. This will be a recreation of the lively fairs that are typically held a few days ahead of the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong.
There will be 15-20 stalls offering food, beverage, handicraft, and other unique products selected to celebrate the culture of Hong Kong.
COUNCIL SOCIAL CARE RATED BEST IN ENGLAND
Richmond Council has been rated the best in England for supporting vulnerable adults aged 18 to 64 to remain independent in their homes, among other achievements highlighted in its Adult Social Care Annual Report 2020-21. Over 2020-2021 the Council supported 1,700 residents to return home after a period of stay in hospital, nearly 1,400 residents to remain independent by providing care and support in their homes and supported over 500 carers to help them to continue caring for their loved ones.
The report also highlights the Adult Social Care team’s priorities for 2021-22. You can see the report here.
CAMPAIGN TO STOP HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
Richmond Council and Citizens Advice Richmond are launching a joint campaign to help stop discrimination against renters who receive benefits. Every year large numbers of residents are unjustly locked out of the private rental market for homes because they receive help with their housing costs.
The campaign to End Benefit Prejudice against renters aims to raise awareness that any policy that automatically outlaws benefit claimants discriminates and is unlawful. ‘No Benefits’ discrimination forces residents to remain in unsuitable and unsafe accommodation and can lead to homelessness.
LGBT+ HISTORY MONTH IN KINGSTON
Throughout February Kingston will join the nation in celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, exploring their history and their experiences. The theme of this year's LGBT+ History Month is 'Politics in Art: The Arc is Long’.
As part of LGBT+ History Month, the Council is asking residents to feed into the understanding of our local LGBT+ heritage. If you have any memories, stories, photographs or reflections you would like to share, please contribute to the ‘100 Histories’ digital map. 100 Histories is a year-long project, celebrating Kingston's heritage; the Council wants to use this month as an opportunity to ensure that our local LGBT+ histories are not forgotten.
InKingston is also celebrating LGBT History Month, with member organisations hosting a number of great events to mark the occasion. You can see a listing of what's on offer here.
RIVER MOORING FEES
A new scheme of river moorings fees is being introduced by Kingston Council to protect the local environment and maintain the area’s unique riverside heritage. The proposed moorings fees, which will come into force on 1 April 2022, are designed to deter boats that overstay, and ensure the riverside remains a safe and pleasant place for everyone.
The council carried out a six week consultation in Autumn 2021 during which almost 400 people shared their views. There was significant support for a more rigorous approach to enforcement along the river. The new scheme will also protect the river, and its wildlife and plants, from pollution, and encourage more people to visit the town by boat.