As you doubtless know, today has been named a National Day of Reflection, marking exactly one year since the first Covid-19 lockdown began. The pandemic has affected all of us in different ways, and this is a good time to stop and reflect on how individuals, families, communities and countries have been impacted. We are all invited to shine a light at 8pm this evening in remembrance.
I was privileged to participate in the moving Day of Reflection video presented by St Andrew's Church in Ham today. Reverend Alice Pettit from St Andrews asked a number of local community leaders to reflect on this past year and offer their thoughts in the video. The service includes a minute of silence for those lost to Covid-19 and invites all local residents to tie ribbons to the railings of the church in memory of our losses. The voices and stories shared in the video have made it very special indeed.
I invite all of my constituents to watch the video here, as we remember the people and events that have touched us all over the past year.
SUPPORTING THE LIVE EVENTS SECTOR
Live events are an irreplaceable part of the cultural experience of this country, particularly in the summer.
Right now we have enormous pent-up demand and hugely talented people ready to perform for us. But with the cloud of uncertainty still hanging over us, many event producers are unable to plan events and risk more pandemic-related cancellations. We need the Government to step in and underwrite insurance costs for event organisers this summer. I was grateful to my fellow Liberal Democrat MP, Jamie Stone, for holding a Westminster Hall debate on the need for such a government-backed insurance scheme.
This is not just about protecting and providing jobs across a range of disciplines, specialities and industries; it speaks to the importance and global-significance of our live events industry. I’m extremely concerned that young, aspiring musicians, actors, designers and technicians will be leaving school and deciding that, given the lack of Government support, their dreams are too risky to pursue. This will be catastrophic for our cultural sector, which is amongst the best in the world and critical to both our values and our soft power on the global stage.
I urge the Treasury to think about our cultural sector in these terms and act strategically to support it. You can see me doing so in this video.
ASSISTING WOMEN TO GET BACK INTO WORK
Today, during Questions for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, I asked Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets what he planned to do to help the disproportionately high number of women who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. He did not have a very robust answer to this question, but I will keep reminding him that women have born more than their share of the economic brunt of the pandemic and that he has a duty to assist them.
SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE PERSONAL CARE SECTOR
I wrote to the Department for Health last week, urging them to work closely with the personal care sector to explore ways in which social distancing requirements can be relaxed. Without such exceptions, we will see already struggling small businesses slip further towards insolvency.
These are local hair salon owners, beauticians and many more who will simply not be able to serve the number of customers they need to serve in order to remain financially viable. These small business owners have already spent enormous sums of money on PPE, protective screens, hand sanitiser and other measures in order to keep their staff and customers safe and their operations in line with government policy. They are business owners who have spent much of the past year closed, or only partially open. You can see my letter calling for more consideration for them here.
RESTRICTING AVIATION AND SHIPPING EMISSIONS
Earlier this month I wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng about including shipping and aviation emissions in our carbon budget and net zero legislation. The Government has avoided including them in the past, but we must be more ambitious now.
We must incentivise these carbon-intensive industries to curb the use id carbon-based energies and look for sustainable alternatives. We need regulation that encourages British business to be at the forefront of emergent technologies. You can see more of my arguments in favour of this policy change in this letter to Grant Shapps.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE – POTENTIAL TEMPORARY STRUCTURE
Today it was announced that the six-week study into the Foster + Partners/COWI proposal for a temporary bridge found that the structure would be feasible. The findings will be presented at next week’s Taskforce meeting, after which I expect we will receive more information on whether this is something that will be taken forward. Although this is very much early stages, it is nonetheless encouraging news given that, if ultimately chosen, the temporary bridge could restore access to pedestrians by summer 2022, with vehicles not long after. For more information, click here.
You will see that the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has proposed a potential £3 toll to use the temporary structure. This, I am well aware, would be a bitter pill for many residents to swallow following such delay and disruption, yet I am nevertheless grateful that those responsible for re-opening the bridge are exploring creative and innovative options in the face of Government inaction.
Following the Transport for London Commissioner’s recent comments that the ferry might not arrive until the end of summer, I am setting up a meeting with Gareth Powell, TfL's Managing Director for Surface Transport. It is my intention to use this meeting to ensure the ferry is subject to no further delays, find out if more can be done to improve the bus connections between Barnes and Putney, and see what else can be done to mitigate against the current disruption.
For those of you who were not able to attend, Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, held a virtual meeting on Hammersmith Bridge this week where he took questions from constituents. The recording of the meeting is now on YouTube and available to watch here.
MY "FUTURE OF LONDON TRANSPORT" PANEL DISCUSSION - TOMORROW NIGHT!
There are still spaces available for my panel discussion with Caroline Pidgeon and Peter Morris about what transport might look like here in the capital in the post-Covid world. This promises to be a fascinating discussion and I hope you will be able to join us at 7:00 tomorrow night.
If you would like to attend the event, please register at www.saraholney.com/events and look for an email with the Zoom link tomorrow afternoon.
EXTENSION OF FUNDING DEAL FOR TRANSPORT FOR LONDON
Transport for London has agreed with the government that their funding arrangement will be extended until 18 May on the same terms that currently apply. An effective transport network is absolutely critical to London's safe and successful recovery from the pandemic. TfL’s Financial Sustainability Plan, which was presented to the government in January, sets out a strategy that would – with long term stable and certain funding – decarbonise London transport by 2030, helping achieve national environmental targets and supporting jobs and communities.
In this week’s community spotlight, I would like to highlight upcoming opportunities being offered by Creative Youth, a charity based in Kingston that helps children realise their potential through the arts. They offer job placements, a film festival where emerging film makers can share their work for the first time, and a free monthly webinar aimed at providing insight into the arts industry for local young people who might be thinking of a career in the arts.
I would also like to spotlight the staff at Coombe Hill Infants School. A parent, whose daughter is in reception, has written to me describing the outstanding support staff have provided during this difficult year. She reports that the staff at Coombe Hill Infants School have consistently put the children first, praising the safety measures in place and the quality of support for at-home learning. It is wonderful to hear this appreciation for the hard work teachers have put in over the past year, and the staff at Coombe Hill Infants School certainly deserve our thanks and praise.
Lastly, I would like to highlight The Park Brewery in Kingston, whose owners have been working hard to keep their business going during the pandemic. They have tweeted to say that they have been heartbroken to have to tip thousands of pints of beer they can't sell down the drain with pubs closed. Small breweries urgently need more support from the Government, but in the meantime local residents can support them by buying their locally brewed products online. They will even deliver for free within a five mile radius. You can see their range for sale here.
NEXT VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING
There are still a few spaces available for my next virtual coffee morning, which will be tomorrow morning, Wednesday the 24th, at 10:00. If you would like to join this informative, informal gathering, please sign up at www.saraholney.com/events and look for an email with a link before the meeting.
PLANTING TREES IN MEMORY
To mark one year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Council will be planting one tree in each ward later on in the year. The ‘COVID Remembrance’ trees will be placed in key locations, as a long-term sign that those lost will never be forgotten.
DEER PARK SCHOOL MOVES TO ITS PERMANENT SITE
I was pleased to hear that Deer Park School will move into their permanent premises next month, after over five years in temporary facilities. Deer Park School opened in September 2015 on a temporary site at Richmond Adult Community College, where it has remained while the new building was constructed. The two-form primary school will occupy the first and second floor of a new development in East Twickenham.
RICHMOND BUSINESS HUB -- A GATEWAY FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES
The new Richmond Business Hub is now live with an extensive array of resources and tools to help support local businesses. It will support local businesses of all sizes and sectors by providing tailored information to help local businesses reach their full potential.
Many local businesses have suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the vaccination rollout continuing across the borough, many businesses are preparing to re-open next month while others continue to operate remotely. The Richmond Business Hub can offer businesses support, information and guidance on all aspects of starting or re-starting their businesses and maximising their potential.
TEMPORARY TOILETS FOR RICHMOND GREEN AND RICHMOND RIVERSIDE
Whilst COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, the Council will install temporary toilet facilities in three high footfall areas in the borough, Richmond Green, Richmond Riverside and Twickenham Green. It is hoped that restrictions are going to be relaxed over the months ahead, but it will be some time before things return to normal. Therefore, proposals have been agreed for plans to install temporary toilets. to help prevent anti-social behaviour as a result of the good weather and closure of pubs, bars, and restaurants.
To combat public urination last summer, the Council opened all public toilets within its control, increased the payment to businesses who joined the Community Toilet Scheme, and worked with local businesses to remind them to ensure that the sale of alcohol was carried out responsibly. In addition, COVID Marshals worked alongside the Police to inform and educate revellers on appropriate and safe behaviour.
Despite these efforts, residents on Twickenham Green, Richmond Riverside and Richmond Green found that their property was still a target for those looking to relieve themselves. It is hoped that the temporary facilities will encourage visitors to be responsible.
LOCAL RESIDENTS AGED 18-50: PLEASE SHARE YOUR VACCINE VIEWS
The NHS is South West London will soon be offering the Covid-19 vaccination to people under 50. You can help them understand the needs and concerns of local people. By completing this short survey you can share your insight, and play a part in the success of the vaccination program across South West London.
The survey closes tonight, so please complete it right away if you want your voice to be heard.
KINGSTON BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE
Kingston Council, in partnership with Kingston Chamber of Commerce, invites all businesses in and around the borough to join their virtual roundtables, focusing on future opportunities from the transition to a green economy. We want to help local businesses grow back from the pandemic stronger and greener.
Find out more and book your place at: https://green-kingston.eventbrite.co.uk
KINGSTON COUNCIL ASKS RESIDENTS FOR THEIR FAVOURITE PLACES
Over the next year, Kingston Heritage Service will be searching for the top ‘100 Histories’ that best represent the heritage of the borough. Residents and people connected to Kingston are invited to submit their histories on a new interactive digital map.
Residents write their history submissions themselves and pin them to the map digitally, along with any artefacts that they want to upload, such as photos, press clippings or videos.
Next year, the top stories will be shared and used to create activities and events produced by the Heritage service. Any submissions not already featured in the collections at Kingston Museum and Kingston History Centre will be reviewed for future inclusion.
Businesses and organisations in Kingston are also invited to get involved.
For more information, visit kingstonheritage.org.uk/ourborough.