Yesterday, the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames announced that Hammersmith Bridge will reopen to pedestrians and cyclists tomorrow.
The decision follows a series of comprehensive safety investigations into the bridge and the successful introduction of an innovative temperature control system that helps prevent cracking in the 19th century cast iron pedestals. For more information, please see the LBHF website.
This is hugely welcome news. The Bridge’s closure has had appalling consequences for my constituents, particularly school children who’ve been forced to take longer, more dangerous, routes to school, and businesses who’ve seen their revenues shrink in the absence of vital footfall.
However, I of course recognise that there is still work to be done. Once TfL, the Department for Transport (DfT) and LBHF agree on a funding plan for the Bridge’s long-term stabilisation, it will likely have to be closed for periods of time while permanent repairs can be made. This just underlines how important it is we get a ferry service up and running as soon as possible, and that’s why I have written to LBHF urging them to expedite the planning application for the pier.
There are also thousands of residents across my constituency and South West London for whom vehicular transport is essential. I will therefore continue urging the three parties to work together constructively so that a funding plan for the Bridge’s long-term strengthening can be agreed on at the earliest possible opportunity. For that to happen, the DfT must be realistic with what it expects the other parties to contribute.
FACE MASK POLICY IN PUBLIC SPACES AFTER LOCKDOWN EASING
Many residents will be pleased to know that TfL and major supermarkets have announced that they intend to require the wearing of masks after the final stage of lockdown easing on June 19th. Masks must be worn on all TfL services unless exempt. Additionally, the supermarket chains Aldi, Lidl, Asda, Tesco, and Sainsbury's will require all customers to continue wearing face masks in stores. I would urge all constituents to consider wearing a mask in enclosed spaces and maintain social distancing wherever possible. Case rates are continuing to climb and we still have fewer than half of all Londoners have had both jabs.
In the year that we are due to host COP26 it is only right that we pay close attention to our own climate change responsibilities. The Government claims that the UK has cut its carbon emissions by 42% since 1990, but this is a misleading figure as it fails to account for the role played by offshoring manufacturing and outsourcing many emissions to countries that produce the goods we consume, such as China. Once these emissions are factored in, our reduction looks to be more in the 10-15% region. I therefore called on Alok Sharma, the President for COP26 to commit to taking the full scope of our emissions into Government accounting. His response was rather underwhelming and, I fear, indicative of a Government unwilling – or unable – to take the steps necessary to address the environmental challenges facing us. To listen to my statement in full, click here.
DEBATE ON TRANSPORT DECARBONISATION
This week in the House of Commons I took the opportunity to ask Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, about the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero in aviation. What we need to see from his Department is a combination of the utilisation of technological development and flight reduction. In my question to the Secretary, I also attempted to extract from him some kind of commitment to rule out further expansion at Heathrow airport, something which has huge implications for this target, but around which the Government has been disappointingly silent. Frustratingly, he was not forthcoming with any such commitment.Watch part of our exchange here.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE – SCHOOLS FUNDING
This week in the Public Accounts Committee I led a session on school funding. I was keen to use the opportunity to ask the Department for Education officials about the funding issues that local head teachers have been raising with me. I asked the civil servants directly why they had changed the date of the census for Pupil Premium, which has reduced the sums available to many of the constituency’s schools. I was frustrated to hear that it had been done for reasons of bureaucratic efficiency with little consideration given to individual schools’ budgets. I also asked about support for schools that are facing falling rolls – a situation faced by many schools in the constituency, in common with the rest of London. I thought that the civil servants are not treating this issue with the urgency it deserves. If you would like to read the full transcipt, you can read more here.
SAVE OUR BOOKS CAMPAIGN
Many of my constituents have written to me about the Save Our Books Campaign. The Intellectual Property Office ran a consultation with the UK Government on the UK's future copyright exhaustion regime. Currently, the UK's 'Exhaustion Regime' allows UK rightsholders to price appropriately for international markets and stop unauthorised importing of international copies of books sold in the UK.
However, should the IPO consultation lead to a removal of any copyright barrier-regime, then it is estimated that UK publishing could lose £1 billion, a loss of 25% of print revenue. I wrote to Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Business, regarding what steps the Government will take to ensure there will be no changes to the current Exhaustion Regime. You can read my letter here, and learn more about the campaign to Save Our Books here.
WARNING AGAINST SWIMMING IN THE THAMES
With the weather forecasts promising a spell of hot weather, Richmond Council has released a video urging people against jumping and swimming in the River Thames. Every summer a number of people jump off of both Teddington Footbridge and Teddington Lock Bridge. The dangers involved include the risk of cold water shock and the possibility of jumping into discarded shopping trolleys, railings and bicycles, all of which can be indiscernible through the dark waters. To see the video in full, click here.
As many of you will be aware, a TfL E-scooter trial has recently started throughout the city, with Richmond being one of the participating boroughs. Generally speaking, I am in favour of this scheme and have been reassured to hear, through my own correspondence with them, that the Council has committed to continually monitoring the safety and wellbeing of civilians throughout the scheme, and have reserved the right to withdraw from the trial at any point in the event they feel it’s unsafe. I have also spoken with Heidi Alexander, the Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, about the safety precautions they have put in place, and I found her responses to be encouraging.
However, a number of people have written to me raising some very valid concerns about their illegal use, which, as we know, is sadly not uncommon. I have therefore written to Chief Superintendent Elisabeth Chapple, the BCU Commander of the South West of London, to ask for reassurances that this is an issue her team is aware of and that residents across SW London, particularly those with limited mobility and those who are living with disabilities, are being properly protected against.
In response I have been reassured that her team works closely with Roads and Transport Command (RTPC) to monitor this area in Richmond. The RPTC conduct regular operations around London (Op Cubo) where they use ANPR cameras and police intuition to stop motorist and deal with any offences they come across. They work closely with DVLA, TFL and immigration on these operations. They have, I’m told, started engaging with riders of E-scooters and have a plan of action around educating and then enforcing the law around these modes of transport. Richmond SNT are also working alongside them with regards to E scooters.
On the 22nd June, Ch Supt. Chapple’s team conducted a day of action as part of a Met-wide initiative where 5 E- scooters were seized in Richmond alone. This is an operation that, I’m told, will be repeated. Overall, while I recognise peoples’ concerns it does seem that this is something that the Met is aware of and actively working towards addressing. In the event you see illegal and dangerous activity taking place, I would strongly encourage you to report it to the police.
MONTHLY WELLBEING AND ACCESSIBLE WALKS
Walkers of all abilities are encouraged to join a new programme of monthly Wellbeing Walks and Accessible Walks launched by Richmond Council’s Parks Team and the Friendly Parks for All project to encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy the borough’s parks and open spaces.
The Wellbeing Walks are held every month in different locations throughout the borough. They last for 90 minutes, and participants can socialise and learn a little about the ecology and history of Richmond upon Thames’ parks and open spaces.
The Accessible Walks welcome people with limited mobility or walking aids, those in wheelchairs, families with pushchairs, or people who prefer to walk at a slower pace.
A list of future walks and locations can be found on the Friendly Parks for All webpage.
Register your interest to take part by emailing email@example.com or phoning 020 8401 6837.
NEW MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
A new mental wellbeing support service, Transition to Adulthood Workshops, will soon be launched by Richmond Borough Mind. The new service will support people to develop the skills needed to enhance both their own and others’ mental health and wellbeing.
The Transition to Adulthood service in Richmond will be based on building resilience and mental wellbeing at a community level. The service will support 16-19 year olds through group workshops to reduce the risk of developing mental health problems. I will share more information when the service comes online, but in the meantime, you can see Mind's existing programmes for teenagers and young adults in need of assistance with their mental health here.
RICHMOND COUNCIL STANDS IN SUPPORT OF HONG KONG RESIDENTS
Members across the Council were united this week in their support for the residents of Hong Kong and committed to ensuring the Council welcomed those British national (overseas) citizens seeking to live and work in the borough.
At the full Council virtual meeting on 13th July, members discussed and voted unanimously to condemn the eradication of Hong Kong autonomy and welcomed the Government’s decision to extend residence rights to British nationals (overseas) living in Hong Kong.
I strongly support the Council's motion to welcome newly settled residents of Hong Kong to the borough, and to condemn the actions of the Chinese Government in supressing democracy and freedom of expression in the region.
TACKLING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS
The council has made the commitment to engage with boys and men to end male violence against women and girls, as part of the White Ribbon Accreditation.
This will include increasing the knowledge and skills internally for staff to address violence against women through male ambassadors, working with communities to raise awareness and improve safety for women and girls, and engage with schools and youth settings around preventative work.
Cllr Tim Cobbett, Deputy Leader at Kingston Council, said: “At Kingston Council, we believe that all our employees have a right to a safe working environment, free from harassment or abuse. Male violence in all its forms has an impact on the health and safety of employees, their well-being and their productivity. We recently launched a Domestic Abuse policy and through the White Ribbon action plan, will review support to employees. It is not just about violence - we want Kingston to be a safe and respectful working environment for everyone, and tackle inequality in all its forms.
“We are now working to become a White Ribbon Accredited Organisation, by engaging with men and boys, changing cultures, and raising awareness. We encourage all men to wear a White Ribbon, and make the promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.”
The safety of all women and girls has always been a high priority for us and that’s why we are committed to safeguarding and preventing harm. The council works closely with the Police and other partners to ensure local support services are accessible to victim survivors and ensure work is being done at a local level to tackle sexual violence, sexism, as well as harassment and abuse against women.
In addition to committing to becoming a White Ribbon Accredited Organisation, we are also carrying out a year long programme of work to address the safety of women and girls in the borough. For more information on the council’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Engagement plan, please visit our website.
KINGSTON DIGITAL HUB
Kingston Council is setting up a Digital Hub to offer a virtual meeting place for the community to come together and share their interests and skills. They would like to know what kinds of things residents would like to talk to share with each other. Whether you like reading, nature watching, local history or just meeting people in your neighbourhood, they would love to hear from you.
COUNCIL FUNDS SUMMER HOLIDAY FOOD AND ACTIVITIES PROGRAMME FOR FAMILIES
Kingston Council has agreed funding to support vulnerable children and families over the summer break.
Throughout the summer, the council’s Children’s Services provider Achieving for Children will be teaming up with holiday clubs, youth centres, sports groups and more to deliver a programme of holiday activities and food. From Monday 26 July until Friday 27 August, children and young people in receipt of benefits-related Free School Meals will be able to access the FUEL 2021 programme, offering a regular source of free activity groups and nutritious meals.
At the heart of the programme is a school holiday voucher scheme for children who access free school meals and for vulnerable 2, 3 and 4 year olds. Families will receive £15 per week per child in supermarket vouchers.
Young people will also be able to attend up to 16 days worth of activities, and these sessions will be held across the borough. Some clubs are open to all, while others are exclusive to FUEL families.
More information about how to access the FUEL programme is available on the AfC website.