With tensions in Israel and Gaza rising exponentially and a ground offensive by the Israeli military likely, I know how worried my constituents with family or loved ones in the region must be. If you know of any of my constituents who are trying to get back to the UK but have been unable to leave so far, please write to me and I will do everything I can to bring them home.
This week, the Foreign Office has also issued new guidance to travellers intending to go to, or already in Lebanon. With the increase in artillery barrages and airstrikes in the south of the country, all UK residents have been advised to evacuate the region while commercial flights are still available. Travellers should not visit the country under any circumstances.
TAMWORTH AND MID BEDFORDSHIRE BY-ELECTIONS
Last night, I joined senior MPs and journalists from all sides of the political spectrum for the BBC's by-election coverage. I'd like to first congratulate Sarah Edwards and Alastair Strathern on their victories, I hope that they will both represent their communities admirably and I look forward to many spirited debates with them in the chamber. However, Mid Bedfordshire Liberal Democrat candidate Emma Holland-Lindsey deserves particular praise, she ran a fantastic, positive campaign and I wish her the very best of luck in whatever she chooses to do next.
The by-elections last night showed a sea change in voting patterns, previously unassailable safe seats have become close run contests, and voters in these seats are much more willing to consider alternatives. If last night's results have taught us one thing, it is that next years General Election will be extremely interesting to watch.
You can catch up on the by-election special on BBC iPlayer.
THAMES WATER TEDDINGTON DRA - CONSULTATION
Thames Water has just reopened its consultation on its proposed Teddington DRA project. For the first time, we have been given specific details related to the potential path the pipeline would take and how the pipeline would be laid down. While I am pleased that Thames Water have understood the community's concerns about the damage major construction would do to Ham Lands and suggested fewer works on the reserve itself, this does not detract from the damage it could do to our community.
Several of the preferred construction sites still sit on Ham Lands and would still necessitate the construction of fenced compounds, disturbing this fragile ecosystem. Furthermore, while I believe Thames Water that their tertiary treatment plant will discharge effluent that conforms to Environment Agency regulations, questions remain over whether these regulations are sufficient to ensure the river's safety given that London's wastewater has the potential for high levels of contamination.
Thames Water will be holding a number of events to discuss their proposals, although I was extremely frustrated to see that they will not be holding one in Ham, the very community that will be most impacted by this project. I have already spoken with Thames Water's representatives about this and asked that they rectify the issue immediately.
Visit Thames Water's website to learn more about the project and respond to the consultation.
BBC by-election special coverage
COLLAPSE IN COMMUNITY POLICE NUMBERS
Earlier this year, I commissioned research from the House of Commons Library on the number of police officers deployed to fulltime neighbourhood policing over the past 7 years. While I was not surprised to see the number of officers deployed to these duties had fallen, I was shocked at the scale of these cuts. In 2015, there were more than 6,400 full time officers walking their beats in our communities, deterring crime at the street level and providing assistance in our neighbourhoods. However, last year, after waves of cuts, that number stands at just 2,310, a drop of just over 64%.
Alongside this, nearly 100 police stations have been permanently closed to the public, with dozens more sold off entirely. While I would like to highlight that our local police force works incredibly hard and we have some fantastic officers keeping our community safe, these statistics bear out the simple truth that every year they are being asked to do more with less.
I have said before that we need more than just a police force that reacts to, and investigates, crime. We need officers in our communities preventing it in the first place. For this reason, I put a motion to parliament yesterday calling on the Government to work with the Mayor to bring the police back to our streets. You can read the text of this motion here, and join my campaign to reopen Richmond Police Station here.
AIRCRAFT NOISE AND DISRUPTION AT HEATHROW
Last year, months of disruption at Heathrow kept residents under the flight path awake into the early hours of the night. Because of this, I launched a campaign to ban night flights at the airport and force Heathrow to avoid major disruption in the future.
I was very pleased that last Christmas, at my urging, the airport deployed significant additional resources to prevent delays and, while service did not run perfectly, major disruption was avoided. Unfortunately, the possibility of delays and additional night flights at Heathrow, especially around Christmas, remains and so this week, I took the opportunity to ask the Minister for Aviation what she would be doing to ensure Heathrow meet their targets.
Alongside this letter, I submitted a written question to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, asking if her department has conducted any analysis on the impact new flight path systems might have on Richmond Park and it's delicate ecology.
FULL OF LIFE FAIR
Last week, I visited the Full of Life Fair at Twickenham Stadium. This fair is a fantastic initiative which brings together local services, businesses, and volunteer groups in one location, making it easy for older residents to find the support they need and get involved in activities they may enjoy.
Full of Life is an annual event, but the Council also runs and supports many smaller events across the borough if you were unable to join them last week. You can find out more and sign up for these by clicking the link here.
MEETING WITH LOCAL HEAD TEACHERS
On Wednesday, I was pleased to attend a meeting of Head Teachers from secondary schools across Kingston. We discussed how schools are supporting students during the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, particularly those from Muslim and Jewish communities. It was also noted that schools across the country are reporting high levels of student absence following the pandemic which is largely attributed to an increase in mental health issues. Finally, I know that meeting the rising demand for mental health support continues to be a challenge for schools across the constituency, but I am pleased to hear that Kingston schools are reporting good levels of attendance and that Head Teachers are committed to doing all they can to support students.
NEW MET FOR LONDON EVENT
On the 24th of July, the Metropolitan Police Service held an event to hear from local residents, discuss their concerns, and work out what they need to be doing differently to win back the community's trust. They have been working through the feedback from this event over the past 3 months and will now be hosting a second event focusing on tackling Violence Against Women and Girls and giving young people the best start in life.
If you would like to offer your views and help change the Met for the better, I would urge you to join them at Heatham House, 2 Whitton Road, TW3 2EN, on the 29th of November. I will post further details on how to sign up when they become available.
NHS HEALTH BUS
The NHS Health Bus will be visiting locations across Richmond this December with the staff on hand to offer seasonal vaccinations to eligible residents. Alongside vaccinations, Health professionals will be on hand to answer any health-related questions and offer advice on how to stay well as the months get colder.
The Bus will be visiting Ham on the 1st of November from 8:30 am to 3 pm, and East Sheen on the 9th of November from 10 am to 3 pm. You can find out exactly where it will park, and get more details using the link here.
SILVER SATURDAY AT TUDOR DRIVE LIBRARY
This Saturday, the Tudor Library Friends and Friends of Latchmere Rec are hosting a get together for older residents in the community. There will be a short talk on the history of the Tudor Estate, music and refreshments. To find out more or share some of your memories of the area, email email@example.com.
The event kicks off a year of events towards celebrating the 90th year of the Tudor Estate and should be a wonderful insight into the history of our community.