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Richmond Park News: 19th April 2024

The election on May 2nd will be the first Mayoral Election in which you will need a form of photo ID to vote. If you do not have a driving license, passport, or any of the other forms of ID in this list, you can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate, for free until the 24th of April.


If you won't be able to make it to the polls on the 2nd, you can still register for a proxy vote, with the link here.



PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS: THE COST OF COURT TRANSCRIPTS


In Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, I asked Rishi Sunak if he would support my call to make court transcripts free for survivors of sexual assault and victims of other crimes.


I began this campaign after I discovered that one of my constituents, Juliana Terlizzi, a survivor of sexual assault, had been quoted more than £7000 for a transcript of the trial during which her attacker was found guilty. As survivors of rape and sexual assault are often advised not to attend their attackers' trials, these transcripts can be the only way they can get a clear understanding of what happened during their attack.


As Juliana watched the debate from the gallery on Wednesday, I asked the Prime Minister if he would give her a commitment there and then that he would make these transcripts free. Unfortunately, he was unwilling to make this simple promise.


Justice should not have a price tag, and so, on Tuesday, my colleagues in the Lords are putting forward an amendment to the Victims Bill which would make these transcripts free.


You can watch a clip of my question to the Prime Minister here, and listen to some my thoughts on the campaign on BBC Radio London here.



MEETING WITH THAMES WATER'S CEO: TEDDINGTON DRA


On Tuesday, I joined London MPs Munira Wilson, Sir Ed Davey, and Ruth Cadbury in a meeting with Chris Weston, CEO of Thames Water, to discuss the controversial Teddington DRA.


This project involves pumping millions of litres of treated effluent into the river, the temporary destruction of acres of nature reserve, and a rise in bill payers rates to pay for the scheme. Over the last year, I've listened to hundreds of residents' thoughts on the proposal and not one has supported it.


During the meeting we questioned Thames Water's rationale for selecting the scheme and the concerns we had that the "best value" system used to assess the project's viability did not take into account a host of environmental factors.


During the meeting, Mr Weston did commit to greater transparency around the project and reassured us that this proposal was not yet a done deal. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has so far refused to sign the scheme off, and I am cautiously optimistic that he might see that this proposal presents a genuine threat to our community.


You can read more about my campaign against the DRA on my website here, and more about the scheme here.



PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE: ASYLUM SEEKERS AND RWANDA


In my role as a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), I attended an evidence session on Monday regarding the cost of Rwanda partnership and other issues facing asylum seekers in the UK. 


The rationale behind the Government's Rwanda plan is that it will deter refugees and migrants from entering the country illegally. Given the difficulties around measuring the effectiveness of the scheme as a deterrent, I asked Sir Matthew Rycroft CBE, the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, how his department intends to judge if the policy represents value for money.


Unfortunately, Sir Matthew was unable to provide a straight answer, and indicated that, at least at present, the Home Office has no way to judge whether the scheme will be a good use of public funds.


In the second half of the meeting, I also raised concerns I have about the living conditions of asylum seekers in temporary accommodation. I've had a number of reports about the poor quality of food and cramped conditions and I would like to make sure more is done to improve the health and safety of asylum seekers in Richmond Park and across the UK. 


You can watch a clip of the meeting and my question here.





RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE


This week, my team and I have put together a comprehensive list of resources, advice, and guidance for anyone who is, or has previously been, a victim of domestic violence. The list includes national helplines which can offer advice on subjects ranging from financial control to stalking, forced marriage, or rape.


There is also a guide on how to access legal support and how to use the courts to get justice, alongside information on the processes the courts and authorities are obliged to follow when handling a domestic violence case. Finally, you can find guidance which shows how to make a complaint about an organisation if you believe they've mishandled your case.


Domestic violence is far too common across the UK and many survivors do not know how to find the support they need. I hope that these resources provide a useful guide for anyone who might need them. You can access these resources here, and you are always welcome to contact me and my team on office@saraholney.com if you need help.



HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE


It has been very good to see Hammersmith Bridge reopened to cyclists over the past nine weeks, however, it appears as if the bridge's carriageway may have to close again by the end of the month, as work resumes on the stabilisation works.


I know how frustrating this will be to many local residents and so in March, I submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Through these, I was able to learn that the stabilisation works are now set to be completed by November 2024.


When this happens, the bridge will reopen to cyclists until funding can be put in place for the full strengthening works. Regular readers will know I've been campaigning for a new pedicabs service across the bridge for months now, and the outlook is positive.


With the Pedicabs London Bill waiting to receive royal assent, and Hammersmith and Fulham willing to explore e-mobility options once the bridge is stabilised, I am hopeful that by the end of the year, everyone, including older and less mobile residents, will be able to cross the bridge quickly and easily.



VISITING BUSINESSES: HAM PARADE


It was a pleasure to visit a few of the businesses on Ham Parade last week. I was pleased to hear that Mind's Charity shop on the street is doing steady business with the proceeds supporting some incredible initiatives across Richmond Park and it was a particular pleasure to meet some of the team in Parade's End Books.




VOICES OF HOPE: CYCLE OF CHANGE


Local charity Voice of Hope are gearing up for the return of the Cycle of Change fundraising event on the 11th May.   Whether you're taking part in one of their cycling or walking challenges, meeting the London Fire Brigade and Full Cycle the bike mechanics, having your face painted or enjoying some delicious cakes, it's sure to be a great day.


Last years event raised just over £17,000 with match funding and they are aiming to smash this record with a new target of £20,000. The money will be used to improve the health and wellbeing of families through their Brite Box meal kits, support adults recovering from cancer, and expand their reach into even more of our local communities.


If you'd like to take part and help voice of hope reach their target, click here.



RICHMOND NEWS


WHATSAPP YOUR LOCAL MET POLICE TEAM


The local Met police have completely their roll out of WhatsApp channels for all neighbourhoods in the borough. These channels allow the officers to provide regular updates about their work in our communities, share police events, and inform residents about local incidents.


They are an excellent tool for all residents to know more about what is happening in their communities, and I would urge everyone living in the borough to join by scanning the QR codes in the link here.



KINGSTON NEWS


KINGSTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE NETWALKING


On the 3rd of May at 9 am, Kingston Chamber of Commerce will be hosting it's regular Netwalking event. If you run a business in Kingston or just want to expand your local network and get to know other business people in the area, it is a great easy way to meet people.


You don't need to be an experienced walker to take part. The walk will be starting at Kingston Gate Car Park and will go on for around 75 minutes, heading towards the Isabella Plantation. You can book your ticket through the link here and find out more by emailing info@kingstonchamber.co.uk.




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