I was delighted to see so many happy faces on this year's A level and GCSE candidates faces when they got their results this week. Pupils have missed out on a huge amount of teaching time during the pandemic, while struggling with illness, isolation and anxiety. I am pleased that their hard work and resilience have been rewarded.
I will scrutinise plans for the 2022 exams carefully to make sure that next year's exam candidates, who have also missed a great deal of education, are equally well-served. I congratulate the pupils of Richmond Park and I thank their schools and teachers for the extra work they put in catching up on lost teaching time, and taking on the job of assessing pupils themselves.
VISIT TO BRITE BOX
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting local charity Voices of Hope to meet founders Nick and Ruth Dawson. Voices of Hope is a Kingston charity that helps feed the isolated and vulnerable in borough. One of their initiatives is Brite Box, which offers free meal kits to low income families in Kingston borough. Brite Box meal kits contain all of the ingredients for a delicious and healthy meal - both the food and the recipe - with a focus on getting children involved in cooking with their parents. The recipe cards are designed to be child-friendly, the food is suitable for family meals and the children get a fun cooking-skills book to record what they have learned.
Schools can nominate families to receive the boxes. Brite Box aims to feed vulnerable children while also teaching skills that parents and children can use to cook meals for themselves.
I tried out one of the recipes with my children and can attest that the recipe was easy to follow and the results were delicious. (See below!) The feedback from families who have used the kits is extremely positive and I hope Brite Box will be able to expand their offering.
If you would like to contribute to Brite Box, you can give via their GoFundMe page.
SOUTHWESTERN RAILWAY - NEW TIMETABLE CONSULTATION
Southwestern Railway has published a consultation on proposed timetable changes which would come into effect in December 2022. Looking at the changes to be made, I have some concerns about it.
The proposed changes will result in a significant decline in the number of trains running through my constituency. Prior to the pandemic, there were two trains per hour on the Hounslow Loop in both directions. These services currently do not run, and under the current proposals the Hounslow Loop will only be reinstated between Waterloo and Twickenham via Brentford. This means that Mortlake and North Sheen will only have a half hourly service to and from Waterloo for most of the day, and not the service every fifteen minutes that they had prior to the pandemic. The loss of the Hounslow Loop would also mean a permanent reduction in the frequency of services at Barnes and Richmond.
While Richmond Council and I understand that demand for train services may remain lower, these proposals do not reflect SW Railway’s own analysis showing that leisure journeys will return to pre-pandemic levels. We have asked SW Railway to clarify why they would propose reducing off-peak services, and have instead urged them to reinstate them to pre-pandemic levels.
Of further concern is the impact these changes would have on a number of planned local development projects, such as the Homebase proposal on Manor Road. This site is very close to North Sheen station, which - under these proposals - would be subject to a cut in services. However, the planning application, which has already been submitted, has been designed with current public transport provision levels quoted, and therefore features very few car parking spaces.
Moreover, the proposed changes will reduce the ability of residents in the same area to access Zone 3 ticket prices to Waterloo, as the reduction in train service may force them to use Richmond Station in Zone 4 instead of North Sheen in Zone 3.
I would urge as many of you as possible to read through the proposed changes and submit your thoughts directly to SW Railway. To do so, click here.
RICKSHAWS ON HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE
The partial reopening of Hammersmith Bridge was a most welcome development, but there are still many residents who require access to the bridge and have significant mobility issues. As motor traffic across the bridge is still a long way off, I have written to Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, to ask what can be done to facilitate bicycle rickshaws, or pedicabs, being able to cross the bridge. This would provide people with mobility issues a viable mode of crossing the river.
It is my understanding that there are regulatory and licensing issues preventing the use of rickshaws. I have asked the Deputy Mayor to address whatever legal obstacles lie in the way so as to make them an option for my constituents. To read the letter in full, click here.
TRANSPORT FOR LONDON FINANCIAL NEWS
Transport for London (TfL) has released its latest financial details, detailing a reduction in its funding gap for 21/22 compared to its last budget in March. Total journeys across TfL’s services are now 54 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, demonstrating the increase in customer confidence in using London’s public transport systems. This is something I am keen to see given the importance of getting people back on public transport, as opposed to less environmentally-friendly modes of transport. I was, however, concerned to see that further government support is needed to bridge the £500m shortfall remaining this financial year. I hope the Government will work with TfL to make sure London's public transport is financially viable. To read the report in full, click here.
VIRTUAL Q&A FOR PARENTS ON COVID VACCINATION
Parents and carers of school-aged children and young people are invited to a Zoom Q&A to ask their questions about the impact of COVID-19 on schools this September along with any questions about the vaccine rollout for 16 to 17 year olds. The panel will be talking about the new guidance for schools in the Autumn term and the planned rollout of the vaccine for 16-17 year olds.
NEW LOCAL BEREAVEMENT CHARITY
A new local charity; space2grieve, will be launching on the first of September. Space2grieve is a team of highly trained bereavement specialists offering free, personal, confidential bereavement support for adults, children, young people and families who live in the Borough of Richmond Upon Thames. Space2grieve will offer free expert bereavement support to anyone struggling after a bereavement by any means, at any time.
One-to-one sessions can be in person – at home or in their welcoming space at the ETNA Community Centre, over the phone, via Zoom, or for younger people, in school.
LIVE MUSIC, ART AND THEATRE RETURN WITH RICHMONDLIVE
RichmondLive will see a huge array of free music, dance and theatre performances take place in Richmond upon Thames across four weekends. The festival of music, art and theatre will run on from August 28 until the final day of performances on Sunday 19 September. The events include:
The Richmond Riverside Music Festival on Saturday 28 August and Sunday 29 August from 11am – 6pm, which is a two-day free Blues and Jazz festival with performances from Emma Wilson, The Mustangs, The Milk Men and many more
RichmondLive Music on Sunday 5 September from 2pm – 3:30pm in Marble Hill Park, which will include performances from the Richmond Community Choir, Jazz Perrin Collective and the Richmond Brass Band all preforming a special free Sunday afternoon concert in the grounds of Marble Hill Park.
RichmondLive Dance on 12 September from 2pm – 3:30pm in Marble Hill Park will see performances from local groups including RISE, Combination Dance, Rambert Ballet School, Marble Hill School of Dance and Boundless Dance.
RichmondLive Theatre on Sunday 19 September from 2 - 3:30pm in Marble Hill Park which will conclude the festival proceedings on the final weekend of the festival with performances from the Orange Tree Theatre, Mary Wallace Theatre and OSO Arts Centre.
There is no need to register for these events, simply turn up and enjoy the free performances. Check out the full programme of events here.
WINNERS OF THE LOCKDOWN AND OUT COMPETITION
The story of the COVID-19 pandemic in the borough has been captured through the eyes of local photographers in a competition organised in partnership with Kingston Council’s heritage and arts services, the Rose Theatre and the Friends of Kingston Museum and Heritage Service.
The perspectives of Kingston’s residents have been brought together to document and share their experiences in a new exhibition at the Rose Theatre which will open this September. The images will also provide a permanent addition to Kingston History Centre’s Archive, capturing for future generations, an extraordinary moment in time in the borough’s history.
HELP TO CREATE A PLAN TO SUPPORT KINGSTON'S CARERS
Kingston Council is asking for views about the needs of Kingston's carers, including young carers and young adult carers. To help create a plan for Kingston's future services and support that has the voices of carers at the centre; they want to hear about the lives of carers - how things are, and how they can be improved. Help them build a new care strategy that supports everyone by sharing your experience.