To mark Earth Day yesterday, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have put forward proposals for a £20bn Community Clean Air fund as part of our £150 billion Green Economic Recovery Plan. With air pollution causing 40,000 early deaths a year, such a fund would enable Councils and communities to put solutions in place that suit local circumstances.
Both Kingston and Richmond are already running schemes to let grass verges grow, plant more trees and install additional cycle storage around the boroughs. These are the kinds of local initiatives we could have more of if the Government brought in a Community Clear Air fund.
If you are looking for ways to help clean up the Earth yourself, here are some ideas:
Check the recycling rules for product packaging before you buy them, so you can support companies that commit to recyclable packaging.
Choose to reuse! Reach for a tea towel instead of kitchen roll, bring your own water bottle or coffee cup, and if you have a baby or are expecting one, learn about washable nappies here. (This week is Reusable Nappy Week too!)
Walk or cycle to your local farmers market to pick up fresh food with fewer food miles, free of single use packaging. There are lovely markets in Kew, Barnes, East Sheen, Richmond, Ham and Kingston to choose from.
Look for biodegradeable products to replace plastics. Try bamboo toothbrushes, compostable bin liners, and natural fibre clothing instead of synthetics.
Consider moving to a green tariff for your home energy use. The UK has vastly increased its production of renewable energy since these were introduced.
Get involved in maintaining your local park - many have a group of dedicated Friends who supplement the council's work. Kingston residents can also join Kingston Council's tree wardens scheme.
CAMPAIGN TO EXPAND YOUTH MOBILITY SCHEME
I am campaigning with fellow Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain on behalf of young people who want to try living or working abroad. The UK has left the EU without any plans in place for youth mobility that would replace the freedom they enjoyed while we were members.
The Youth Mobility Scheme, which already allows young people from the UK, Canada, Australia,New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea to experience life in another country for up to 24 months, has not been extended to include any EU countries. The Government urgently needs to negotiate a reciprocal arrangement with the EU through expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme into EU countries. They also need to increase the number of places available on the scheme to make access to it more equitable.
We have written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to explain why it is so important to expand this scheme in the wake of Brexit and the pandemic. You can see our letter here.
KINGSTON COLLEGE VISIT
This week I helped launch a campaign seeking to abolish the 20% VAT on reusable period pants. This is a great opportunity for the Government to follow through on its green rhetoric and help shape sustainable consumer choices. As part of the campaign, I will be visiting local schools and colleges.
Today I visited Kingston College, where I was pleased to speak with a classroom of students about the merits of abolishing the tax, as well as other kinds of considerations they are making around sustainable choices and habits. I was heartened to see their enthusiasm and the extent to which the students were aware of how their day-to-day decisions make an impact on the environment. We have a fiercely passionate generation of young people eager to protect our planet. It’s time for the Government to honour them by following through on its environmental targets. You can sign our petition here.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE UPDATE
I am still working on securing a meeting with the Department for Transport to highlight to the Secretary of State the plight of my residents and urge him to expedite the funding proposal from Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
Several residents have asked me recently whether the 378 bus can be re-routed through Barnes Village to alleviate some of the commuter pressure. Earlier this year I asked for an update as to the feasibility of this and was informed that TfL is actively engaging with Richmond Council on a plan that would allow buses to make the turn from Rocks Lane to Mill Hill Road. Last week I asked for an update to find out where the situation currently lies. As soon as I’ve heard back on that I will let residents know.
COVID SYMPTOM STUDY
The ZOE COVID Symptom Study app is a not-for-profit initiative launched in March 2020 to support vital Covid-19 research. All you need to do is take a minute each day to self-report your symptoms, even if you feel fine. Your data will be used to track infections and gain vital research about the different symptoms the virus causes.
Scientific analysis of the data is done by King’s College London university and is supported by the Department of Health and Social Care England. The app has over 4 million contributors globally and is the world’s largest ongoing study of Covid-19.
I invite all my constituents to take part. You can read more about the app here.
CONSULTATION ON MERGER OF RUTC
Richmond residents might like to know that there is a public consultation running on the merger of Richmond upon Thames College with Harrow College and Uxbridge College. If you have an interest in Richmond upon Thames College, they welcome your views and comments on the proposal.
The Public Consultation document can be found here: You can contribute to the merger consultation process by emailing views and comments to email@example.com
There will also be a public consultation meeting on 27 April, from 6pm-7pm. To register your interest in attending, or see more about the merger, click here.
This public consultation process will close on Monday 3 May 2021, with results published by Monday 14 June 2021.
VACCINE VIDEO FROM DR PATRICK GIBSON
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Patrick Gibson, the vaccination lead and GP lead for Richmond borough last week at Essex House Surgery. Dr Gibson has just released a video in which he talks about the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots in light of recent media coverage. You can see his advice here.
MOBILE COVID-19 TESTING
This week Kingston's mobile testing teams are out taking rapid Covid testing into the heart of the community. Alongside the vaccine rollout, regular twice-weekly testing for all is at the core of plans to move out of lockdown and reopen society safely.
If you spot the testing bus, come along and have your free rapid Covid tests done, or collect home testing kits to take away!
KEEP KINGSTON SAFE AND OPEN
As the welcome return of our wonderful local businesses continues, Kingston Council asks residents to enjoy newfound freedoms safely. Remember to follow the rules, makes space, cover your face and wash your hands to stop the spread of Covid-19 and Keep Kingston open.
Kingston First reports that things are going well in the town centre so far, and signs are positive for a strong retail recovery. You can see more information about footfall at shops in Kingston here.