On Tuesday I spoke in a House of Commons debate on supporting small businesses. With fuel price rises, supply chain shortages, NHS backlogs and the work to decarbonise our economy, we are facing enormous challenges. A thriving economy built on private enterprise will do more to help us to solve all those problems than anything else. So it is imperative that the Chancellor does all he can to support and promote small businesses over the next few months. I spoke about the need to support our vital travel and tourism sector, and called on the Government to extend furlough to all the sectors that are still trying to operate under restrictions, including travel, retail and hospitality. All of these sectors are experiencing supply chain and labour market issues as well. The Government needs to look again at their immigration policies and think about how they can be better designed to support our key high street industries as we emerge from the pandemic. They also need to complete their promised review of business rates. Small businesses provide about three fifths of the employment in the private sector, and it is vital that those jobs are supported. The Government’s recent announcement of a rise in national insurance payments will deter small businesses from creating the new jobs that are so badly needed and limit the expansion of companies seeking to offer new products and services, including those that offer the innovation we need for the green economy. We need to help our entrepreneurs to find solutions to the challenges facing them. Small businesses support communities, provide employment and deliver a stable society, and the Government needs to support them for everyone’s benefit. You can see the full text of my speech here.
LONDON TRAVELWATCH AND LONDON FIRST ALLIANCE
On Tuesday I attended an event to mark the launch of a coalition organisation formed to make the case to Government that Transport for London must receive adequate funding to ensure that public travel service levels are not cut prematurely.
London TravelWatch and London First, who are coordinating the alliance, kickstarted the campaign with a letter to the Treasury. The letter calls on the Chancellor to enable sufficiently inclusive and affordable bus, train and tube services, incentivise efficient and reliable services and help the capital achieve its Net Zero and clean air goals.
To find out more about the coalition and its core objectives, click here.
VISIT TO THE BARNES FOOD BANK
Last Friday, to mark World Food Day, I visited the Barnes Food Bank in Castlenau, which is a satellite of the Vineyard Project’s food bank. The food bank supports anyone in the area suffering from food poverty. Vouchers to pick up food can be obtained from a number of sources in the community. Anyone who is worried about feeding their family should reach out to a GP, school, health visitor, social worker, or indeed my office for assistance. You can see me inspecting their pantry with coordinator Kate Chalker-Wye and volunteers Ana-Maria and Elysia in the pictures below.
ULEZ EXPANSION TO GO LIVE ON MONDAY
I strongly urge all of my constituents to make sure their cars are ULEZ compliant ahead of Transport for London’s (TfL) Ultra-Low Emission Zone expansion on Monday. Check your car by clicking here.
Toxic air in London is a threat to life and can lead to a number of serious health conditions. It contributes to thousands of deaths each year and is linked to heart disease and dementia as well as stunting the development of children’s lungs. The ULEZ expansion is designed to bring cleaner air to London.
The new expanded zone will extend up to (but not include) the North and South Circular roads. Areas in Barnes, Mortlake, East Sheen, North Richmond and Kew will be included in the zone, including Townmead Road Household Re-use and Recycling Centre and Mortlake Crematorium.
This means that, from Monday, people crossing the South Circular anywhere, including to enter the Townmead Road sites, will be charged £12.50 per day by TfL if their vehicle is not compliant.
While I support the ULEZ proposal in principle, I joined Richmond Council in strenuously challenging the way this expansion splits our community, and specifically asking the Mayor of London to leave the Townmead Road facilities out of the zone. The Mayor has been obdurate on this point, however, so unfortunately residents whose cars are not ULEZ compliant will have to pay the £12.50 charge to use these public amenities.
The ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year except Christmas Day. Please take care where you drive from Monday and be sure you are not caught out and fined. Here are some links to check your vehicle or find out more information.
COVID-19 VACCINATION PROGRAMME
Parents will be pleased to hear that they can now book a Covid-19 vaccination for their 12-15 year old children on the government website by clicking here. I know many parents were upset that their children were not vaccinated at school before the half term holidays, and I encourage you to get them vaccinated at a community vaccination centre instead.
There are also walk-in vaccinations available for this age group at the Hawks Road vaccination centre in Kingston (Hawks Road, Kingston upon Thames KT1 3EW) from 3:30pm - 7:30pm tomorrow and Sunday. Please bring proof of your child's age.
Please also encourage anyone in your family 16 and over who hasn't been vaccinated, or who is due for their second dose, or who has received an invitation for their booster dose, to book their vaccinations online here or check for walk-in vaccination opportunities here.
With case rates high and still climbing in Richmond, we really need everyone to do their part to prevent transmission now. The most important thing you can do is to encourage everyone around you to get their vaccinations on time. Choosing to wear your face mask in all indoor public places is also recommended.
ART FESTIVAL FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Richmond-based charity Art & Soul is a wellbeing charity that uses art to improve mental health for residents of Richmond and neighbouring boroughs. They are launching their first festival of art and wellbeing this November 1 in line with National Stress Awareness Week. Join them online or in-person to celebrate the positive effects art and mindfulness can have on your wellbeing.
The festival includes an online exhibition, 'Cycles of Nature' on the 1st November followed by a host of free online events including art, mindfulness, and colour therapy workshops, as well as virtual gallery visits to October Gallery & Turner’s House. You can also join them in-person at events at The Vineyard Community Centre or ETNA Community Centre.
Art and Soul welcomes everyone, especially beginners, to come along and enjoy the wellbeing benefits of art making. More information can be found here.
RICHMOND RECEIVES ANOTHER GREEN FLAG AWARD
Vine Road Recreation Ground in Barnes has been awarded a Green Flag Award for 2021. This latest award takes the borough’s total number of parks with a Green Flag Award to twenty-one, with twenty RIchmond parks retaining their Green Flag status from the previous year’s awards.
The Green Flag highlights excellence in providing parks and open spaces of the highest standard. The scheme assesses parks based on a range of aspects associated with their management including facilities, maintenance, and biodiversity with the aim of ensuring everyone has access to quality green spaces.
I am delighted that my constituents have access to so many wonderful green public spaces.
JOIN KINGSTON'S CLIMATE CONVERSATION
A cleaner, greener Kingston will be a healthier borough, with reduced NHS costs, better housing, better transport, cleaner and quieter streets, and green spaces which are alive with biodiversity. Kingston Council has drafted a plan that sets out how they propose changing the way the council operates so that it can become carbon neutral by 2038, and help reduce carbon emissions across the borough.
The plan focuses on seven topic areas, each of which are key in helping reduce Kingston’s carbon footprint: council buildings, homes, travel, waste, green economy, council sustainability and the natural environment.
It’s really important that those who live, work or study in the borough give their feedback on the draft plan. Please take a few minutes to visit kingstonletstalk.co.uk/climate-conversation, read the draft plan and take the surveys for each of the seven themes. By helping shape the plan, you will be helping shape and protect the future of the borough.
KINGSTON UNIVERSITY BUILDING WINS RIBA PRIZE
Kingston University's Town House has been named the winner of the 2021 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize, crowning it as Britain's best new building. Designed by RIBA Gold Medal-winning Grafton Architects, the landmark building on the University's Penrhyn Road campus received the highest accolade in UK architecture at a prestigious ceremony at Coventry Cathedral.
The building, opened in January 2020, was named winner by a jury of eminent architects and industry experts, made up of Lord Norman Foster, RIBA President Simon Alford, Dame Phyllida Barlow, sustainability expert Mina Hasman and previous RIBA Stirling Prize recipient Annalie Riches.
Announcing Town House as this year's winner, jury chair Lord Foster said:
"Kingston University's Town House is a theatre for life – a warehouse of ideas. It seamlessly brings together student and town communities, creating a progressive new model for higher education, well deserving of international acclaim and attention," he said. "In this highly original work of architecture, quiet reading, loud performance, research and learning, can delightfully co-exist. That is no mean feat. Education must be our future – and this must be the future of education."
Conceived to create an inspirational new learning space, the building comprises a three-floor academic library, archive, dance studios, a theatre, a covered courtyard and cafes on the ground and fifth floors. I congratulate Kingston University on bringing this marvellous building to Kingston.