RE-OPENING TO TRAVEL
Today during Oral Questions for the Department of Transport, I asked Transport Secretary Grant Shapps what conversations he has had with the new Health Secretary about tackling the Delta variant, in order to facilitate travel between the UK and countries on our green light list. I am keen for travel to reopen safely for the sake of tourism industry employees and people who have been kept away from their loved ones. But we need to get our rising case rates back under control if we are to be able to resume holidays and business travel without increasing risks at home or abroad.
In response, the Secretary assured me that he is pressing other countries to do more genetic sequencing of positive PCR tests and share their data internationally as we do. His view is that this transparency is a key step in opening travel safely. While this is a fair point, I would still like to hear how the Government plans to get our case rates down here, so we can give our international partners confidence.
You can read the full text of my question and the Secretary's response here, or see a video clip of my question here.
FIRE SAFETY AND ELECTRICAL ITEMS
In the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, we heard evidence on protecting consumers from unsafe products. I asked Graham Russell, Director of the Office for Product Safety and Standards at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about a concern raised to me by London Fire Brigade when I recently visited RIchmond Fire Station.
The Richmond Borough Commander for London Fire Brigade explained to me last Friday that electrical items that are ordered online can evade the normal product checks, and may have fraudulent CE markings on their packaging. These unregulated electrical goods, especially phone chargers, are one of the biggest risks for fires these days. I asked Mr Russell what more his department can do to protect consumers. You can see his wide-ranging response to this question in this transcript of the meeting.
I also raised in the PAC meeting the difficulty for the public in knowing where to report faulty or non-compliant goods, especially if you don't know where the product was manufactured. The response was that all such issues can be reported through the CItizens Advice hotline. If you have received a faulty device or suspect your device may not meet UK safety standards you can see how to report it to Citizens Advice here.
I urge my constituents to be wary of purchasing electrical goods online and to only buy reputable brands from reputable sellers. Electrical items must have CE markings, but we should all remember that these can be forged. Electrical Safety First has produced a handy pdf guide to buying electrical goods online safely, which explains how to tell a real product from a fake one. You can download the guide here.
Or for a wider view of safety in the home, I urge you to look at London Fire Brigade's advice on keeping you and your family safe in your home here.
STAG BREWERY PLANNING HEARING
Residents in Mortlake and Barnes Common may be aware that Mayor Sadiq Khan has scheduled the hearing to review the planning application for the Stag Brewery development on 27 July. As this falls during the summer holidays, I have written to Mayor Khan asking him to delay this hearing until the end of September to allow greater public participation. You can see my letter here.
Working parents may not be aware that they can use Tax-Free Childcare to help pay for their childcare costs over the summer. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) provides Tax-Free Childcare for children aged up to 11, or up to 17 if the child has a disability. This can be used to help pay for accredited holiday clubs, childminders or sport activities.
Working parents can open an online account at any time and the government will pay £2 for every £8 that gets paid towards a childcare provider via the online account. This is capped at £500 every 3 months, or £1,000 if the child is disabled. Parents and carers can check their eligibility and register for Tax-Free Childcare via GOV.UK.
PLASTIC BAG FREE DAY - TOMORROW!
Tomorrow, 3 July is International Plastic Bag Free Day. I recently co-signed an open letter calling on the Government to ban plastic bags. If you would like to help with this campaign, you can sign Planet Patrol's petition for the Big Bag ban, and spread the word on social media tomorrow.
UPCOMING WALK-IN VACCINATION CLINICS
The next Kingston walk-in will be at Chessington School car park from 9.30-6pm, on Sunday 4 July. They will offer both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. For full details, please visit the website.
Richmond walk-in sessions are below:
HEALTHWATCH RICHMOND ANNUAL REPORT
Healthwatch Richmond has published their 2020-21 Annual Report: "Experience Matters", which describes their work and achievements over the past year and their plans for the future. Some of the highlights of their work this year are:
Addressing the crisis in dental care; helping people access dental care and pressing NHS England for improvements.
Improved access to medication deliveries for vulnerable people across Richmond and beyond.
Maternity care significantly improved as a result of a comprehensive review they undertook
You can find more about their work here.
EAST SHEEN OPEN GARDENS EVENT: FUNDRAISING FOR FiSH
This Sunday, from 1:00-6:00pm the popular Open Gardens event to benefit Barnes FiSH returns to East Sheen. There will be an attractive collection of gardens, including park-side locations, Model Cottages, and the Palewell Park Allotments. Teas and Refreshments will be served at All Saints Church and there will be a Pimm’s tent at End House in Fife Road. Garden enthusiasts taking refreshments at All Saints Church will also be able to tap into garden advice from Auntie Planty, aka Valerie Munro, the renowned horticulturist who will be on hand to dispense useful tips.
Tickets are £10 per person (under 16s are free) and are available online, in person from the FiSH Office at The Barnes Green Centre in Barnes, or from Waitrose in East Sheen on 3rd July between 10am and 2pm. To help everyone visit as many gardens as possible, the FiSH minibuses will provide a free shuttle bus between Waitrose, All Saints Church and Sheen Gate.
Find more information and buy tickets here.
BE RICHMOND PADDLEBOARD RIVER CLEANUP
There are still a few places left for this year's Get on Board paddle board river-clean-up event on September 9th. You can find out more and book your place here If you want to get involved, but prefer to stay on dry land, the event also includes towpath litter picks. Routes are currently being finalised and a sign up page will be available soon. In the meantime, register your interest by emailing the Be Richmond team.
NEW POST OFFICE IN KINGSTON TOWN CENTRE
A new permanent post office will be opening in the Bentall Centre on July 6. The Post Office would like your views on access and services offered at the new location. They are conducting a local public consultation before they finalise their plans, and would like to hear your views. You can see more about this consultation and participate by clicking here.
HELP TO CHANGE YOUR CAREER
Kingston's Career Transition course will start on 5 July, 10am-12pm for 2 weeks. Candidates will be able to get help defining personal and career goals, creating action plans, developing an effective CV and improving your self-confidence. They will also get support to understand the value of their transferable skills, interview preparation and much more. Learn more on the Workmatch website.
There are also several courses available for free throughout July, including on transferable skills, designed to help you discover the full range of attributes you have developed and how to use this information to apply for jobs and be confident at interviews. And there are courses on getting your LinkedIn page right and understanding social media. Browse opportunities and register for more information.
INTERNATIONAL YOUTH ARTS FESTIVAL - JULY 2-11
The International Youth Arts Festivals starts today, with a packed programme of theatre, circus, puppetry and music will take place in outdoor locations across the town centre and at the Rose Theatre. This year's festival highlight, Hotel Paradiso, is a fun-filled circus spectacular! View the full IYAF programme - all tickets are on sale from the Rose Theatre in Kingston.