This week I questioned Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions about the Government's plans to place additional financial burdens on my constituents. I asked the Prime Minister if he really does plan to extend the Congestion Charge into Richmond Park and demand that London councils raise council tax to cover Transport for London's Covid-related financial crisis, when many of my constituents are already suffering great inconvenience and expense from the closure of Hammersmith Bridge.
The Prime Minister gave a most disappointing answer, ignoring my question entirely. He offered an inaccurate criticism of Mayor Sadiq Khan and then claimed that the Conservative candidate in next year's mayoral election would get the bridge fixed. I certainly hope the Government does not intend to drag its feet on fixing the bridge until next summer in order to bolster the campaign of their candidate. You can see my question for the PM and his response here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsPogp-7YzY
Following the PMQ exchange I also wrote this letter to Conservative London Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey this week.
VISIT TO RICHMOND AND HILLCROFT ADULT COMMUNITY COLLEGE (RHACC)
Today I visited RHACC in Richmond and met some of the staff and learners. Their dedication to their ideals of “doing the right thing” and creating a “sense of place and community” has meant that learning and support continued throughout the lockdown. I look forward to seeing how they grow and thrive in the future. If you would like to find out more about the courses they offer and the steps that they have taken to keep their staff and students safe, please visit: https://www.rhacc.ac.uk
FREE MEALS FOR LOCAL LOW-INCOME CHILDREN OVER OCTOBER HALF TERM
Following the announcement that the Government will not be offering a school meal voucher scheme over October half-term, both Richmond Council and Kingston Council have announced that they are going to offer a half term food support package for vulnerable children, meaning that children from the lowest income families don’t go hungry over the school break. Guidance will be launched soon by both councils to let eligible families know how they can collect their vouchers.
I was unavoidably away from the Commons on Public Accounts Committee business on Wednesday, so I wasn’t able to vote on Labour’s free school meals motion to support providing food vouchers during school holidays for the next six months. I was, however, 'paired' with a Conservative Public Accounts Committee member on the vote so that our absences cancelled each other out.
I am delighted to hear that our local councils have stepped in to assist these families.
NEW EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMME FOR KINGSTON AND RICHMOND RESIDENTS
A new programme aimed at helping south London residents who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 launched earlier this month. The South London Work & Health Programme: Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) will provide participants with tailored support to quickly get back into employment. Residents of Croydon, Merton, Sutton, Richmond and Kingston who are in receipt of benefit and have been unemployed for at least 13 weeks will be able to work with a specialist Employment Adviser to develop a personal Action Plan and access training on key employment skills. As part of the JETS scheme financial support will also be available for a variety of job searching activities, such as travel costs, interview clothing, health assessments and training. They will also work closely with employers across south London to ensure participants have access to a wide variety of job vacancies across relevant sectors.
For more information speak to your Jobcentre Work Coach. You can find your nearest Jobcentre Plus here: https://find-your-nearest-jobcentre.dwp.gov.uk/search.php
IMMIGRATION BILL UPDATE
I reported earlier this week that the Conservatives in the Commons had refused to accept amendments passed by the Lords, including a requirement to provide physical proof of their immigration status to EU citizens. Sadly the Government has now blocked this in the Lords.
They have also blocked an attempt, led by Richmond’s Baroness Sally Hamwee, to allow UK citizens living in the EU to return here with their European family members without meeting financial conditions out of reach of many people. Britons abroad are now faced with difficult – sometimes impossible – choices. Our country should not be creating such dilemmas and causing so much anxiety both to its own citizens and our EU friends.
The Government has now been defeated by peers, who told them they must put proper arrangements in place for unaccompanied child refugees to join family in the UK. The Lords’ continued pressure has also led to the Government agreeing to review the impact of the immigration system on the social care sector.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED MEDICAL CARE
Building on the advice in my last newsletter, I would like to reiterate that GP surgeries, local clinics and hospitals are ready and able to treat all patients, whether they are sick with Covid-19 or something else. However, If you have symptoms of Covid-19 you should not go directly to a surgery or a hospital. You should call 111 (if is is not an emergency) or 999 (if someone is having trouble breathing or you feel it is another type of emergency.) The 111 and 999 operators will advise you where to go, or send an ambulance if needed.
If you have non-Covid-related symptoms that are not urgent you should call your GP or 111 for advice or an appointment. Please do not go to your GP surgery without an appointment.
If your symptoms are urgent, especially if you are experiencing difficulty breathing or any signs of heart attack or stroke, please call 999 immediately.
The NHS's advice on when to call 999 can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/urgent-and-emergency-care/when-to-call-999/
Their advice on heart attack, including symptoms, can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/
And their advice on stroke, including symptoms, can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/
I would strongly encourage you to read these pages and familiarise yourself with the symptoms to watch for in yourself and your loved ones, so you have the confidence to act quickly in an emergency. Every second counts in the case of a heart attack or stroke.
NEW BLOOD DONATION CENTRE
A new blood donation centre has been set up in nearby Twickenham, conveniently located right by Twickenham Station. They are especially calling for men to give blood, and are also asking for people who have had Covid-19 to donate plasma to help treat others. Appointments are available seven days a week by clicking here: https://www.blood.co.uk/
ROYAL MAIL DELIVERERS TO COLLECT PARCELS FROM YOUR HOME
There was some interesting news for those living in areas with closed or closing post offices this week. Royal Mail has announced that postal workers will start collecting parcels and mail from people's homes this week. The new Parcel Collect service will be available every day except Sunday for a charge of 72p per parcel, plus postage. Pre-paid return packages from online retailers can be collected for 60p per item. Your local postal deliverer will collect your parcels from your front door, or a designated safe space, as part of their daily round.
To use the service you will have to print your postage labels and book your collection online at www.royalmail.com/bookcollection or by using their app.
COUNCIL TO HOST PUBLIC MEETING WITH HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE TASKFORCE
Richmond Council will host a virtual public meeting with the Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce, the first since the group’s formation last month. Leader of Richmond Council, Councillor Gareth Roberts, will be joined on Wednesday 28 October by Project Director Dana Skelley, plus representatives from the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London, and the Port of London Authority. The event will be chaired by the Transport Minister, Baroness Vere (Chair of the Taskforce).
The event will take place from 6.30-7.30pm on Wednesday 28 October 2020 and is open to anyone. Those wishing to attend must register by 5pm on the day of the event. Residents will have the chance to pre-submit questions, which will be used to determine the topics for discussion. Book your space here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hammersmith-bridge-taskforce-public-meeting-tickets-126044234699
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE INFORMATION SHEET ON MY WEBSITE
I have put a sheet of questions and answers about Hammersmith Bridge on my website this week, and will be updating it as the situation progresses. Please have a look here if you are looking for the latest information.
NEW JOBS, TRAINING AND APPRENTICESHIP SERVICE FOR RICHMOND
If you are looking for work training or a career change, I suggest you contact Richmond's new jobs, training and apprenticeship service – Work Match. Hear from Cllr Roberts and others who have used the service to find out more.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH PANEL: 'WHAT I DIDN'T LEARN IN SCHOOL'
As part of their ongoing celebration of Black History Month, Kingston Council invites you to join a panel of young creatives as they discuss the Black British History that isn’t taught in schools, from The Empire Windrush to historical figures like Mary Seacole. Read more here.
KINGSTON'S CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS RECEIVE GRANT FUNDING
Congratulations to the Rose Theatre, Creative Youth, Balletboyz and Canbury Press for securing grants from the Government’s £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund. The investment is a vote of confidence in their work and a much-needed boost to Kingston’s cultural sector.
The Rose Theatre plans to re-open on 28 October with a diverse programme of socially-distanced productions. Visit Whats’ On for more information and to book tickets.
Acknowledging the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on young people, Creative Youth will launch a free webinar series, So You Wanna Work in the Arts, to discuss key industry issues affecting young people. Register here, if you would like to take part.