Residents who have been reading my newsletter for some time will know that one of my highest priorities is supporting small and high street businesses, especially (but not exclusively!) in Richmond Park.
With the budget coming out tomorrow, I am anxious to learn what support there will be for businesses this year. I hope the Chancellor is listening to the owners of shops, services, cafes and pubs about what they need in order to survive. One in seven small firms could go bankrupt unless they receive additional support, potentially leaving 2.5 million people without a job. Some of the policies we need urgently are:
a revenue loss scheme for small businesses that lost money while they were closed
a zero business rates scheme for small businesses in 2021-22
relief on deferred VAT payments for businesses in the retail, hospitality and live events sectors
extension of the CJRS, SEISS and business support schemes until the end of 2021
support for individuals and businesses excluded from existing schemes
a green homes grant to generate new sustainable jobs
I appeared on Bloomberg radio yesterday to talk about the upcoming budget, and was asked about possible tax rises. I took the opportunity to say that the priority this year has to be supporting the individuals and businesses that have suffered the most this year, the people who have lost jobs and the small businesses struggling to survive. You can hear my interview here.
One of the sectors I am especially worried about is the events sector. I co-signed a cross party letter last month calling for more support for wedding businesses. We received a reply from the Government this week promising to do more for this sector, and I look forward to seeing it recover as lockdown is eased.
If you are planning a wedding this year, we have lots of local businesses that will be eager to assist you, including BOA Boutique in Richmond, whose lovely gowns I enjoyed looking at while talking to owner Sheila last year, and Titfertat Hats, also in Richmond, whose owner I spoke to this week about the difficulties her business has faced in the past year.
I am asking my constituents to join me in supporting small and local businesses wherever you can; they are the heart of our community. And of course I will keep fighting for their interests in Westminster.
SMALL BUSINESS SURGERY FOR PERSONAL CARE INDUSTRY
Another sector experiencing incredibly tough times is in the personal care industry. I am eager to meet with and listen to as many people as possible in this sector who have been impacted by Covid-19. To that end, I will be hosting another small business surgery, on March 12th, specifically for Richmond Park residents and businesses in the personal care industry. If you own a hairdresser, a nail salon or any other kind of personal care business, and you’d like to share your experience and find out what you can do to support yourself in the current climate, please email email@example.com.
REDUCING VAT ON ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Yesterday I posed an Urgent Question to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the House chamber. I asked him whether the Government would cut VAT on electric vehicles to 5% to help stimulate demand and contribute a green recovery. I believe this is the kind of strong measure we need to help us make the transition to a lower carbon economy and stimulate growth in industries of the future. You can see my question and the Secretary's response here.
In the first installment of my new Community Spotlight feature, I would like to shine a light on East Sheen Primary School and Swatland Butchers.
Year 6 pupils at East Sheen Primary usually raise money for leavers’ hoodies and yearbooks with cake sales, Christmas and Summer fairs, and school concerts. To raise funds this year, pupils will be doing socially distanced litter-picking to improve the community. If you would like to support the students in this wonderful project, please consider providing sponsorship to help make this happen. The school is looking for sponsorship from friends and families, as well as local businesses. You can see more details, including a donation link, in this poster.
I wish the students the best of luck for their transition to secondary school in September, and look forward to hearing about the wonderful impact this project will have.
Swatland Butchers on Upper Richmond Road West has received great feedback from my constituents for their excellent meats and the prize-winning sausages made on-site. In this difficult year it is wonderful to hear of outstanding and friendly customer service provided by our local businesses. In particular, nominators highlighted the amusing working models on display outside of the butchers, often with seasonal themes, entertaining kids whilst providing 25 years of customer service to Richmond residents.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your nominations for the community spotlight, and I look forward to reading more. If there is an individual, business or organisation you would like to spotlight, please send details to Charlotte.Weir@Parliament.uk.
LITTERING MESSAGE FROM YOUNG RESIDENTS
Litter-picking has been a theme this week, with two young constituents sending me their helpful, persuasive and engaging podcast about the problem of littering. These civic-minded boys are calling for listeners to look for a litter clean-up in their area and help save wildlife by picking up discarded rubbish. You can hear their reasoning, and the link for finding a clean up session near you, here. Have a listen - I guarantee their podcast will inspire you!
HEATHROW NIGHT FLIGHTS CONSULTATION – DEADLINE TOMORROW!
The government's current Heathrow consultation on night flights and aircraft noise closes tomorrow. I encourage as many people as possible to take part. To do so, you can send responses by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the online form here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/6MJQIF/.
TFL INTRODUCES NEW SAFETY MEASURES FOR LORRIES IN LONDON
Transport for London's Direct Vision Standard lorry safety scheme will now be enforced at all times on all roads in London, with free safety permits required for all freight operators. Under the scheme more than 30,000 dangerous heavy goods vehicles have been fitted with safety measures to protect people walking and cycling nearby.
HGVs are five times more likely to be involved in a collision resulting in a fatality, relative to their share of traffic. The new Direct Vision Standard scheme measures the driver’s direct field of vision from their cab and rates it from 0 to 5 stars, depending on how much they can see.
More than 60,000 HGVs rated 1 to 5 stars have received a free safety permit, including the more than 3,000 5-star vehicles . The operators of lorries rated 0 star – currently around half of HGVs operating in London – are now required to fit safety systems including:
cameras covering blind spots linked to a video display in the cab
an audible warning when turning left
motion sensors covering the sides of the lorry at low speeds
a prominent warning on the back of their vehicle
I welcome these measures to make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
RICHMOND SECONDARY SCHOOL OFFER DAY
This year, 2,264 children applied for a place at a Richmond secondary school; this was 122 more than last year. Their parents and carers were notified of the results of their applications yesterday.
60% of pupils have been offered a place at their first choice school, compared to last year’s figure of 61%. In addition, 83% have been offered one of their top three preferences, and 90% have received one of their five preferences. Both of these figures are the same as in 2020.
Currently there are 114 children without an offer of a place, compared with 135 at this time last year. However, as parents respond to their offers over the next few weeks and months, it is anticipated that all children without a school place will be offered one. The council will be working to make this happen as quickly as possible. If you are holding a place you do not intend to take up, please do not delay in notifying the Council, as another family could be waiting anxiously for that place.
Richmond Council is promoting the online Fairtrade festival, which runs until 7 March. The festival has an exciting collection of free online events and activities to entertain, educate and inspire everyone to start thinking about the people behind the food we eat. Highlights include a live quiz night on Friday 5 March. To see the full line-up of activities and events, go to www.fairtrade.org.uk/choose-the-world-you-want
Richmond Council’s Fairtrade Steering Group also offers these tips on how you can help:
Make sure you buy Fairtrade products from your local stores and supermarkets. Simply look for the Fairtrade mark. Some common products include bananas, cocoa, coffee, flowers, sugar, tea, honey, rice, wine and more. Each purchase of a Fairtrade product can make a real difference for farmers and workers around the world.
Try new recipes using Fairtrade products. For a Fairtrade banana cake recipe and a Fairtrade savoury chocolate and baked BBQ chicken, click here!
Donate to support projects to bring Fairtrade to more farmers and workers and to help them trade their way out of poverty.
KINGSTON SECONDARY SCHOOL OFFER DAY
This year, the parents/carers of 1,894 children living in Kingston Borough applied for a secondary school place. 85% of applicants have been offered one of their top three preferences and 92% have received one of their five preferences. Currently there are 158 children without an offer of a secondary school place but the Council has said "We know from experience that sufficient places will become available to be offered to those on the waiting-lists from 26 March onwards."
If you have been offered a place that you don’t intend to accept, please can you turn it down as soon as possible to make it available to a child who has not yet received an offer.
There has been an ongoing issue with secondary school places in the northern part of Kingston Borough for a number of years and I welcome the proposal from the Diocese of Southwark to establish a six-form entry secondary school on the Kingsmeadow site to open in 2024. This proposal will be considered by the Council’s Children’s and Adults’ Care and Education Committee on 18th March and I hope that there will be a positive outcome.
COUNCIL PLANS TO COMBAT IDLING
Kingston Council is encouraging residents and visitors to support Idling Action London’s ‘Engine Off Every Stop’ campaign. Poor air quality has been proven to contribute to asthma, lung disease, heart disease and restricted lung development in the young. It costs the NHS and the economy billions every year. Switching off your engine while waiting is the easiest way to minimise unnecessary pollution.
Kingston Council is also undertaking the following actions to reduce engine idling in the borough:
Waste and recycling crew anti-idling training
Placing ‘No idling’ signs at idling hotspots across the borough
Investigating complaints of idling
Promoting anti-engine idling workshops in schools
Engaging with local businesses and fleet operators