Richmond Park News: 22 July 22
I am sure most of my constituents are aware of the tragic death of 14 year old Brian Sasu in the Thames in Hampton this week. Our hearts all go out to his loved ones at this time of unimaginable tragedy for them. With Brian's parents courageously speaking out this week to urge great awareness of the dangers of the Thames, I wanted to focus on safety in this newsletter.
Swimming in dangerous parts of the river is a serious problem in Richmond and Kingston boroughs. Teddington Lock and its two footbridges are particularly popular during summer months, with children and young people coming from all over to jump into the river or swim to cool off in hot weather.
River authorities want people to be more aware that the Thames is a dangerous river. It is has a strong current, with houseboats in many areas, lots of debris, and moving river traffic. All of these pose dangers to anyone swimming in the river. There is also a risk of cold water shock, as parts of the Thames remain very cold even in hot weather.
Richmond Council has put deterrents in place at Teddington Lock, including Heras fencing and cactus spikes, to stop people from jumping into the river off the bridge. However, these are being removed and young people and children are still gathering, jumping and swimming in these areas. To address this, a section 35 dispersal order will be in place from midday today until midday on Sunday running from Teddington Lock along Richmond Riverside to Richmond Green and town centre, including Twickenham Riverside. This is to give police the powers to disperse people gathered on the Lock, for their own safety.
The dispersal order will also allow police to take action on the large gatherings of young people that have recently caused issues on Richmond Green and in other popular public spots. With school terms finishing this week more such gatherings are expected, but the police will have greater powers to break them up if they pose problems. People enjoying the nightlife in Richmond this weekend are also reminded that the Safe Space Richmond initiative will also be in place outside Richmond Station this Friday and Saturday night with uniformed officers in place.
The best way to prevent further deaths in the Thames is by educating children and young people. I would urge parents to fully understand the risks and make sure their children know that they are risking their lives and their friends' lives when they jump off one of the bridges. The RNLI has water safety information on their website. Richmond Council Leader Gareth Roberts would also like to remind people that “There are many safe ways to enjoy the river, such as through local water sports providers, rowing clubs or boating companies. All have stringent health and safety in place, including trained guides and coaches."
In response to this week's tragedy, Richmond Council, Teddington Lifeboat Water Safety Team and London Fire Brigade will be hosting a pop-up water safety event from 4-7pm, Monday 25 July at Teddington Lock to talk to young people about the dangers of swimming in the Thames, particularly in this area. The Teddington Lifeboat Station crew will be on hand to talk about cold water shock and how to 'Float to Live'. There will be opportunities to take part in activities including how to use a Throw Bag to rescue someone in difficulty. They will be joined by London Fire Brigade, along with one of their fire engines, the Council’s Community Safety Team and Achieving for Children’s Project X team.
Please bring your children down if you can. The World Health Organisation’s World Drowning Prevention Day is on Monday 25 July; coming to the Lock to learn about water safety would be a fitting way to mark the day and pay respect to Brian Sasu.
PROTECTING STUDENT CHOICE RECEPTION
On Monday, I was delighted to support the ‘Protect Student Choice’ campaign at their reception in Parliament. The campaign is calling for the Government to reverse its plan to withdraw funding for the vast majority of BTECs, which will significantly limit the options available to students after GCSEs.
BTECs are popular among students, and local sixth form colleges have expressed their concern to me that removing BTEC courses will hamper student development and progression into higher education or skilled employment. I am also very concerned that cutting BTECs will have a detrimental impact on social mobility and local economies, as a large number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds complete BTECs as opposed to A Levels.
Over 240 people across Richmond Park signed the Protect Student Choice petition, and moving forwards I will continue to support this campaign and ensure the voices of local students are represented in Parliament. You can read some more about the campaign here.
LETTER TO OFGEM ABOUT FUEL POVERTY
I have written to Ofgem this week to raise the alarm about the number of people set to become ‘fuel poor’ once the upcoming increase to the energy price cap comes into force in the Autumn. Following reports that the cap could reach £3,200, I am deeply concerned about the impact a further rise will have on household finances. You can read a copy of this letter here.
This letter also follows a Public Accounts Committee evidence session earlier this month during which I questioned Ofgem CEO Johnathan Brearley on the estimated rise to the cap, support for businesses who do not benefit from a price cap and also the purpose of the cap for domestic consumers. You can read a transcript of this evidence session here.
I know that the upcoming increase to the price cap will be a cause for concern across the constituency. I want to reassure you that my office will endeavour to communicate any changes, and direct constituents to any additional support that is available to help households who are struggling to pay their bills.
For example the Mayor of London’s Warmer Homes programme offers grants of between £5,000 and £25,000 to make homes warmer, greener and cheaper to run. It’s open to eligible low-income homeowners and private tenants. More information can be found on the Warmer Homes website.
I enjoyed a delightful visit to Kew Riverside Primary School last Friday to talk with headteacher Liz Strong about their upcoming plans. I was pleased to meet teachers and see the happy atmosphere among the children at this small and friendly school.
On Saturday I started the day at the German School in Ham celebrating Swiss National Day, which is on August 1. This is the day Switzerland commemorates the signing of the Letter of Confederation of 1291, which marked the founding of Switzerland. as a country. I enjoyed welcoming Swiss nationals from all over the UK to Richmond and celebrating their history and culture with them.
I then went to the riverside in Kingston to enjoy the Dragon Boat Challenge festival hosted by the Kingston Rotary Club. It was a beautiful day for these exciting and fun races and I was delighted to see so many charities participating and raising money to support their important work. I enjoyed cheering on the Kingston Charitable Foundation's boat and all all the other participants and strolling among the stalls.
ULEZ EXPANSION CONSULTATION
I wanted to send my constituents a reminder regarding the consultation on plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) London-wide. The consultation closes in a week on 29 July 2022. The Mayor's office wants to make sure they hear the views of as many people as possible. All details on the proposals for the ULEZ expansion and how to submit a consultation response can be found here.
JOIN THE ROYAL PARKS PANEL
The Royal Parks Panel is a new platform to hear your views on The Royal Parks and its activities. Whatever you use the parks for – leisure, commuting, entertainment or exercising – they value your opinions and ideas. They would also like to hear the views of people who don’t use the parks often, to help them improve and ensure they are welcoming for all. Participation in the panel will be online, quick and easy, with Members receiving invitations to only around two, short 10-minute surveys annually. There will also be optional opportunities to take part in other research, such as short polls, focus groups and interviews. Join before 31st July 2022, to be entered into a prize draw to win a £250 Love2shop voucher. Here is the link.
POLICE EXPO EVENT
On Sunday 31st July, Met Police Southwest London's Police EXPO will be taking place at AFC Wimbledon between 11am-3pm. There will be lots of advice, activities and exhibits to interest everyone who lives in the area, especially anyone thinking about working for the Met Police. This is a free event and open to everyone. Please see the poster at the bottom of the page for more details.