Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Like many of you, I am extremely disappointed that we are having to go back into lockdown. I know how difficult people found it first time round – I heard from constituents about their fears for their jobs and businesses, their families, their mental and physical health, their children. But case numbers are going up everywhere and without swift and decisive action, we will soon see hospitalisations back up to a level that our NHS will not be able to cope with. This represents a risk to all of us. Another lockdown will not be easy for anyone, but it is the only way to get our case numbers down to a level the NHS can cope with while continuing to provide other essential care. We have built additional capacity into the hospital system since March, but it is not unlimited, and we need beds available for cancer patients, heart attacks and other urgent and serious conditions as well. (Reminder: if you have any symptoms of illness but aren't sure what to do, please call 111 for advice or 999 in an emergency.) I am glad to see that schools have been exempted from this new lockdown given the difficulties faced by children and parents in the first lockdown and I hope that all schools will be able to remain open throughout these new restrictions. I was also pleased to see that playgrounds can stay open and support services for new mothers. I was delighted to see Kew Gardens confirm today that they are able to continue opening during the lockdown. I spoke to several government ministers about this over the weekend, as it made no sense to deprive local residents of an essential open space at this difficult time. Further details about opening are here: https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/visit-kew-gardens/coronavirus-guidance
I want to assure all of my constituents that those who are extremely vulnerable will be supported in this lockdown, although the support will look different as they have not been told to shield in the same way as in the spring. NHS London has informed me that they will be writing to people on the shielding list tomorrow, and our local authorities will also be contacting people who are known to them as needing support.
I am also pleased that the Prime Minister is in talks with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on plans for the festive period. We need joined-up thinking on how to approach the holidays, including a common approach to transport, gatherings and students returning home.
We also urgently need improvements to our test and trace system in order to get the most value out of this second lockdown in the shortest amount of time. The Government has made a lot of promises in this area and I will be watching closely and holding them to account on this if the delivery on these promises continues to fall short of expectations.
You can see all of the latest information on COVID-19 and the new lockdown here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus
EXTENSION TO TRANSPORT FOR LONDON FINANCIAL PACKAGE AGREED
I was very pleased to hear this week that the Government has agreed a financial support package with Transport for London that will enable them to continue to keep London moving despite their collapse in passenger revenue due to Covid-19.
I am especially delighted that the Government has backed down on their threat to remove free travel from under-18s. I fought to save this vital benefit for children, who need free travel to get to school and to access so many other important opportunities. I congratulate the many thousands of young activists who waged this successful campaign on behalf of all London children and young people. Happily, the Government's threats to take away free travel for over-60's were also not represented in the agreement.
I was also very relieved that the proposed extension of the Congestion Charge zone to the North and South Circular has been dropped. This would have been catastrophic for my constituents, especially for my Barnes, Mortlake and East Sheen residents who live inside the South Circular. I challenged the Prime Minister about this in the House of Commons, and joined Richmond Council Leader Gareth Roberts in strenuously opposing it. Happily, that battle went our way too.
There was also good news in the TfL financial package for those affected by the Hammersmith Bridge closure. The Government has authorised the funds needed to award a contract for a replacement ferry, so that should be operational fairly soon. I am happy to see progress on this at last after pushing hard for it. Unfortunately the funds the Government is offering for the stabilisation works on the bridge itself are far too small to make a significant start on the project. We need far more than £4 million to get the bridge repaired sufficiently to take foot and cycle traffic again. I will keep up the pressure to allocate the needed funds.
While I am pleased with many aspects of this agreement, I am disappointed that it is only in place for five months. The Government needs to give TfL the same long-term confidence it has offered to national train operating companies, which were offered much longer term deals with fewer conditions imposed.
REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY 2020
This year's Remembrance Sunday will have an extra significance for me this year. I will be thinking about the many Britons who sacrificed themselves in 2020 to protect others, not from a foreign army this time, but from a relentless virus. I ask my constituents to join me on Sunday in remembering them, as well as the brave armed service members who gave their lives for us in wars. I am joining the national call to stand on our doorsteps or at our windows for two minutes of silence at 11:00am in lieu of attending a ceremony this Sunday. Standing where we stood to clap for carers in the spring will remind us of how many additional people are owed our gratitude this year.
If you would like to donate to the Royal British Legion, you are able to do so on their website, and in return receive a printable poppy which you can display in your window.
The two boroughs in my constituency have asked me to publicise their plans for Sunday:
In line with the national advice, there will be no official parades taking place on Remembrance Sunday. Instead, residents and veterans will be encouraged to pay their respects at home by observing the national two minute silence and following special Council videos, pictures and social media coverage. There were to have been a number of wreath laying ceremonies across the Borough, but these are under review because of the new lockdown. I will have further information in Friday's newsletter.
IN KINGSTON: It will not be possible to hold the usual public services, march pasts and parades that normally take place across the borough on Remembrance Sunday. Wreaths can be placed privately by individuals throughout the Remembrance period but they ask that residents and organisations ensure they keep to current COVID-19 guidelines if they wish to do so. This means only visiting the memorial with members of your own household. The Council is planning to livestream a service to watch at home. (I will confirm this is going ahead in Friday's newsletter.) You can watch it via Youtube on November 8 at 11.30am.
HAVE A SAFE BONFIRE NIGHT
With public fireworks displays cancelled this year, you may be tempted to have a celebration at home, with your own bonfire and fireworks. If you plan to do so, I ask you to do so responsibly. Fireworks are explosives and only CE marked products should be purchased. They need to be handled with great care, according to manufacturers instructions, and never by children or those under the influence of alcohol.
London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Paul Jennings says:
“Think about your neighbours, particularly older people or those who are self- isolating, pets and of course those of us in the emergency services. Bonfires should be clear of buildings, sheds, fences, trees and hedges. This time of year is usually one of the busiest for firefighters and Control Officers and we also need to support our NHS colleagues, so please help us, by keeping yourself safe.”
OWL POLICING SURVEY
Online Watch Link (OWL) has launched a local policing survey so that residents can share views on policing in South West London. They want to see what improvements they can make next year to improve engagement with the public and to increase confidence in local policing. They are asking people in the boroughs of Richmond, Kingston, Merton and Wandsworth to share their opinions on local policing, so they understand what matters most to residents and can decide what improvements they can make in the future. They have created a short survey consisting of fourteen questions which takes no longer than three minutes to complete. The closing date for this survey is Monday 30th November. To complete the survey, click here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/SW_Confidence_and_Engagement_Survey/
LOCAL COVID-19 TRACING SERVICE LAUNCHING THIS WEEK
A new Richmond-based case tracing system for people who test positive for Covid-19 is being launched this week by Richmond Council.
The service will step in when NHS Test and Trace teams cannot contact new cases within 24 hours. Specially trained local call handlers from Richmond Council will make further attempts to contact cases, including checking local information to clarify and improve data details.
Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, said: “Importantly, by us having direct contact with residents affected, we can offer support and extra help if they or their families need it; including promoting the new self-isolation funding that is available for lower paid, working residents on benefits."
The local contact tracing service will be operating 6 days a week, with calls to people who have tested positive coming from a local Richmond number. If the call-handlers are unable to contact the individual by telephone, they will receive SMS messages or a home visit as a last resort. For more information, go to: www.richmond.gov.uk/contact_tracing
KINGSTON INFORMATION RESOURCES
With the new lockdown starting on Thursday, Kingston Council has asked me to remind Kingston residents of where to find more information and guidance on local services:
Kingston Stronger Together: Kingston's hub for all support needs: https://www.kingston.gov.uk/info/200287/health_and_wellbeing/1815/kingston_stronger_together_and_faqs
Local information on Covid-19: www.kingston.gov.uk/coronavirus
COVID-19 information in other accessible formats: https://www.kingston.gov.uk/COVID-19-accessible
Kingston COVID-19 dashboard: https://data.kingston.gov.uk/home/coronavirus-dashboard/
Citizens Advice www.citizensadvicekingston.org.uk/corona-virus
Connected Kingston: information on how to stay well at home: www.connectedkingston.uk