Yesterday I spoke in the House Chamber at the second reading of the Finance Bill. I cannot support the Government in choosing to tax hard working families before corporations that have profited from the pandemic.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE ON BBC POLITICS LONDON
On Sunday, I appeared on BBC Politics London, where I had the opportunity to speak about housing policy as well as transportation matters. I was keen to explain the issues surrounding Hammersmith Bridge to a wider London audience, who might be unaware of the impact this is having in my constituency. I also raised the need to do more to improve air quality by reducing car journeys.
Later in the programme we discussed housing in the capital and I had a chance to speak about the need for higher standards of of housing in permitted development schemes. I know from speaking to many constituents that poor quality housing only creates problems down the line, especially health problems for families with young children.
CAMPAIGN TO AXE THE PERIOD PANTS TAX
Today I’ve helped to launch a campaign calling on the Government to remove the 20% VAT on reusable period pants. These are a far more sustainable option than single-use products, many of which have high amounts of plastic. Reusables were, however, left out of January’s tampon tax cut.
The campaign is being spearheaded by some fantastic campaigners: Ella Daish, an environmental activist campaigning to #EndPeriodPlastic, Chella Quint, the UK’s leading expert on menstrual literacy and founder of Period Positive, and Ruby Raut, founder and CEO of period pants brand, WUKA.
Our campaign has kicked off with a petition, which will automatically trigger a debate in the House of Commons when it reaches 100,000 signatures. If you’d like to support our efforts to promote sustainable menstruation options , click here. Or you can see our new campaign video here.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL BANS
I wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday regarding travel from countries on the "red light" travel ban list. I asked him to produce the criteria on which such decisions are based, so that we can scrutinise these decisions and ensure they are made only on legitimate public health bases.
More immediately, I asked him to bring in the ban on travel from India immediately, rather than waiting until April 23. If we are in danger from the new Covid-19 variant circulating in India, it makes no sense to wait several more days before halting arrivals from the country. The Government has been slow to react over and over again in this pandemic, with devastating consequences. I do not want to see us wait to act until it is too late to protect ourselves from the new strain. You can see my letter to Grant Shapps here.
VISIT TO ESSEX HOUSE SURGERY
I visited Essex House Surgery on Friday, where I met with Dr Eley Squire and Dr Patrick Gibson, as well as practice manager Alison MacLeod. Alison showed me their vaccination centre arrangements and told me how pleased they are to have been able to assist local residents. All three were keen to thank the Barnes community, hundreds of whom have volunteered to help with the vaccination surgeries, including some young people whose work has been essential to the programme's success.
The two GPs also told me how they have changed their way of seeing patients during the pandemic. They were lucky enough to move to video appointments early, but also said that a high percentage of patients they see this way are called in to the surgery for an in-person visit aftewards. I agree with them that there is often an advantage in being in the same room, so I was happy to hear they had been able to continue this where they felt it was needed.
On behalf of my Barnes constituents I thank everyone at Essex House for their care and commitment throughout the pandemic and look forward to seeing future innovations in health care from them.
VISIT TO CHRIST'S SCHOOL CITIZENSHIP CLASSES
Yesterday, I was delighted to participate in two classes for students studying for their Citizenship GCSE at Christ’s School in Richmond. We had interesting discussions about their own campaigning on subjects such as mental health, knife crime and racial and gender equality. It was a great pleasure to be able to visit and see young people back in the classroom and preparing hard for their GCSE assessments and I wish them all the very best.
This week, I would like to spotlight the work of Orsolya Trojak, a young Richmond Park resident who has been involved with the Barnes Festival. Orsolya has an exciting new project, Music Around the Park.
Music Around the Park was established in 2018 and operates out of St Michael’s Church in Barnes. Music Around the Park presented classical music concerts to live audiences between the two lockdowns in the autumn of 2020. Monthly concerts are planned for the near future, featuring talented local musicians from September. If you are interested in finding out more, contact email@example.com.
I also want to spotlight The Alligator's Mouth, a local children's bookshop just off the high street in Richmond.
Owners Margaret Wallace-Jones and Tony West, pictured outside the shop in front of the window decorated by author/illustrator Steven Lenton, were delighted to reopen the store on Monday. They say "It's been so lovely getting to welcome customers back into the shop and see their enthusiasm to support us."
Arts and culture are the heartbeat of the Richmond Park and North Kingston community, and I am pleased to see such an effort made to restore the vibrant cultural life we enjoyed pre-pandemic.
If you would like me to shine my Community Spotlight on you or someone you know, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
JOIN MY VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING TOMORROW!
There are still a few spaces left at my coffee morning tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10:00am. If you would like to join us for an update on Westminster activities and informal chat about topical issues, please email my office manager on email@example.com to get the Zoom link.
GREEN HOMES GRANT INFORMATION EVENT ON MAY 5
Richmond Council will host a virtual webinar event on Wednesday, 5 May at 6pm to provide residents with more information on the Green Homes Grant -- up to £10,000 worth of funding to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. This is a separate scheme to the Government Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, which is no longer open. To be eligible for the grant, households must have an income of £30,000 or less and live in a property with an EPC rating of D, E, F or G (the four lowest ratings). Residents can check their EPC rating here.
The event will cover who is eligible for a Green Homes Grant, the process of applying and what the home improvements will look like. The event will be recorded and made available on the Council’s website for those unable to attend. The virtual event will take place on Wednesday, 5 May at 6pm. Register here.
GREENER PLANS FOR GRASS VERGES
Richmond Council is trialling a new approach to managing its highway grass verges, by significantly reducing how often they are cut, to enhance the borough’s biodiversity and reduce its carbon footprint.
The current maintenance regime means all highway grass verges are cut approximately every two to three weeks during the growing season. By leaving grass verges to grow, biodiversity will increase, the borough’s air quality will improve and the Council’s carbon footprint will go down.
The new cutting regime will split the borough’s grass verges into three categories: urban highways, rural highways and conservation highways. Urban highways will be maintained monthly during the growing season, rural highways will be cut around three times per year and conservation highways will be cut once a year. You can check which highways fall into which category on this map.