DEBATE ON GIVING BABIES THE BEST START
On Tuesday I held a debate in Parliament on giving every baby the best start in life, an issue I have been campaigning on throughout my time in Westminster.
Having a visit from a trained healthcare professional to provide advice and reassurance is enormously valuable for new parents. Sadly, over the last 18 months, there has been a marked reduction in this support, often with profound consequences.
It can be extremely difficult for parents to ask for help if they’re struggling with their mental health. Professionals can spot the signs and give parents the help they need, but only if they are present in person. The government must commit to rebuilding the health visiting workforce to provide this.
CRIME IN RICHMOND PARK
Following last month’s bike thefts in Richmond Park, along with similar reports across the area, I wrote the Sophie Linden, the Deputy Mayor of London for Policing and Crime, to ask that the issue of policing resources in my constituency be addressed.
On the issue of police officers being drafted into areas to help with public order operations across the capital (a process called abstraction), I was informed that this practice is undertaken in line with an operational decision the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) must make to “best meet the demands of keeping Londoners safe”. However, the Deputy Mayor did assure me that she continues to challenge the MPS to ensure ward officers are in place and that they are only abstracted in emergencies.
She also suggested that the decision to merge Wandsworth, Richmond, Merton and Kingston units has meant that local ward teams are now benefiting from the additional presence of officers from other pan-London MPS teams such as the Violence Suppression Unit, the Violent Crime Taskforce and the Territorial Support Group.
Ultimately, however, it appears that central government cuts have reduced MPS resources and therefore its ability to tackle crime, though the Deputy Mayor assured me that the GLA continues to lobby government to make good on its promise of 20,000 new police officers.
I was also assured that MPS is working hard to crack down on bike theft, and that MPS has undertaken a number of initiatives to tackle the issue, including encouraging the public to register their bikes on immobilise.com. MPS Designing Out Crime Officers are also providing advice on cycle security and locking standards and have produced advice for use in local and London wide crime prevention campaigns.
I would also remind constituents, as the deputy Mayor reiterated, that residents are able to provide feedback on their concerns relating to crime to Richmond’s Dedicated Ward Officers, something which can be done by visiting wwe.met.police.uk and inputting their postcode.
I recognise that this will remain a concern for many. I am currently speaking with local forces to arrange a number of walkarounds in the borough to get a better understanding of what they need to ensure residents are kept safe. In the meantime, I urge my constituents to report every crime they witness or suffer from to the police, every time, by calling 101 in a non-emergency or 999 in an emergency.
PUSHING FOR BETTER SERVICE FROM THE DVLA
Many of my constituents have come to me with problems with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA.) The DVLA fell badly behind during the early days of lockdown and has never caught up on processing applications in a timely fashion. This is a national problem causing real difficulties for my constituents here in Richmond Park.
I wrote a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps about the backlog, in my role as Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Transport, and asked colleagues across the parties if they would like to co-sign my letter. Over sixty MPs added their names to the letter, which you can see here. I will certainly keep pressing the Department of Transport to get to grips with the situation at DVLA.
In another cross party initiative this week I joined neighbouring constituency MPs Andy Slaughter, David Simmons, John McDonnell and Munira Wilson; local members of the House of Lords Baroness Kramer and Baroness Jones; and HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) to send a message about airport expansion. We cannot be increasing air travel capacity with a third runway at Heathrow when we need to be cutting emissions drastically.
I have also been working to challenge the Environment Bill making its way through Parliament, which doesn't do enough to protect our rivers, including our own stretch of the Thames. While the Environment Bill was in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrats won a number of votes including an amendment to address the harm caused by the discharge of untreated sewage into rivers. The Government has removed this amendment from the Bill twice, while my colleagues and I have continued to vote to retain it. We will keep fighting for cleaner waterways, including calling for a sewage tax on polluting water companies.
VISITS IN THE CONSTITUENCY
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the LiveWell Centre in Kew. The Centre's purpose is to facilitate social prescribing and support family connections. The Centre has just recently opened, and they will be building up their activities over the next year, but they already have a mother and toddlers group, yoga and a Monday Cafe for those mental health issues. They would like to have connections with local sports providers to offer programmes for young children to up to age eight. If you are interested in attending or running an activity there, please visit their website here.
Yesterday I joined local councillor Katrina Lidbetter and Mayor of Kingston Sushila Abraham at Latchmere Recreation Ground to open the new Latch Cafe. The new cafe being run by Filippo Selini who runs Canbury Secret in Canbury Gardens. I’m delighted that Rec users will have this lovely new facility. Thank you to FoLaR (Friends of Latchmere Recreation Ground) and local councillors for all their hard work in making this happen.
I have also held two coffee mornings this week. On Wednesday we were hosted by my old friend Peppe at The Cardinal pub in North Kingston. I enjoyed a lovely morning discussing a wide range of national and local issues with Tudor and Canbury ward residents. Then today I was at The Crown pub in North Richmond, with a lively group of Richmond and Kew residents. We discussed the Manor Road development, crime and antisocial behaviour, the Afghanistan crisis, and bus services in the local area, among other topics.
I would like to thank both Peppe and Dermot at The Crown for providing venues for these events; I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from my constituents in person in their friendly pubs.
I am pleased that we will be able to resume normal Remembrance Sunday services this Sunday after last year's were curtailed by Covid-19. Most events will consist of a parade of Armed Forces veterans, civic leaders and religious officials followed by a service and two-minute silence at 11am. For those of you who would like to attend, the services and memorials in the constituency include:
A service will be held at the War Memorial, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond at 10.40am. The Mayor, Cllr Geoff Acton will take the salute from Golden Court/George Street, Richmond.
Organisations will assemble at Sheen Lane Centre Car Park at 10.30am and will then march to East Sheen War Memorial where a Service will be held at 11.00am.
There will be a Service at St Mary’s Church, Barnes following an act of remembrance in the churchyard at 10.55am.
HAM AND PETERSHAM
There will be Parish Communion at 9.45am at St Andrew’s Church, Ham Common, with an Act of Remembrance at the War Memorial in St Andrew’s Church Yard, commencing at 10.50am.
There will also be a service at St Peter’s Church, Petersham. This will commence at 10.00am, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at 11.00am at the Petersham War Memorial.
RICHMOND CHRISTMAS LIGHT SWITCH ON
The 2021 Richmond town centre Christmas Lights Switch On will take place on December 2nd at Richmond Riverside near Richmond Bridge. Full details can be found here, but highlights include:
Children's Parade with Santa and his elves
Appearances by Peter Rabbit and Star Wars Stormtroopers
Radio Jackie Roadshow
APPLY FOR CYCLE STORAGE NEAR YOUR HOME
If you need a secure space to store your bicycle close to your home you can apply for a space in a bike hangar. Richmond Council has installed new bicycle hangars following requests from residents for more storage facilities. After asking residents where they wanted them, the Council agreed the locations of the new bike hangars.
A single hangar can safely and securely store up to six bikes and is accessed by residents who have signed up to the scheme, paid a membership fee and been given a key. Spaces cost £72 a year, which covers the management and maintenance of the hangar.
Residents interested in hiring an existing parking space for their bicycle can register their interest here.
Richmond Council will open the second round of consultations for new bike hangars in early 2022. Residents can request a bike hangar in a location convenient to them here.
ADDRESSING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS
I was very pleased to hear that Kingston Council has achieved White Ribbon accreditation for their commitment to tackling male violence against women and girls (VAWG). They have committed to a range of actions including appointing male ambassadors as advocates and raising awareness in the local community.
The Council will formally launch Kingston as a White Ribbon Council on 25 November, which is White Ribbon Day, an annual day to raise awareness of family violence. They will be holding a drop-in event outside Guildhall from 2-5pm with the Kingston Community Safety team, Police and the local specialist VAWG support service. You can find out more here.
WINNING SCULPTURE ANNOUNCED
Over 1700 local residents and visitors voted for their favourite sculpture from Kingston’s first ever Sculpture Trail. With 51% of the public vote, the winning artwork on the trail is Party Animal by Alex R T Davies MRSS. This sculpture will be permanently installed in early 2022 for local residents and visitors to enjoy for years to come. You can see it on the Kingston First website here.