I am pleased to report that national Covid-19 restrictions in England will end on December 2. From next Wednesday, people will be able to leave their home for any purpose, and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the Rule of Six. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen. More guidance for reopening businesses will be published later this week, but pubs and restaurants will be happy to hear that the 10pm closing time will now be modified to require last orders at 10pm with closing at 11pm.
However, as the Prime Minister noted in his address last night, without sensible precautions we risk the pandemic escalating again. This is why the Government has decided to return to a regional tiered approach. Whilst current measures have reduced the R number, they were not enough to reduce it below 1. The Government has recognised the scientific consensus that the tiers need to be made tougher.
From December 2, people In Tier 1 will now be asked work from home wherever possible, but spectator sports and business events may resume with restrictions. In Tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal. And In Tier 3, indoor entertainment and hotels will also have to close, along with pubs, restaurants and cafes, except for delivery and takeaways.
Later this week the Government will announce which areas will fall into which tier. This will be based on the latest figures on transmission rates and total cases. As the London case rate is currently 193 per 100,000 people, I expect us to fall into Tier 2 or 3. Whatever tier we are placed in, I urge my constituents to follow both the letter and the spirit of the rules, so we can get that case rate down quickly.
This morning I was briefed by the Strategic Coordinating Group of the Greater London Authority (GLA), which coordinates the Covid-19 response in London. The picture here in London is relatively stable, with new cases having levelled off thanks to the lockdown, but we are still not seeing a real drop in the numbers. We were reassured that the NHS has sufficient capacity to care for those who are hospitalised, but it's important that we continue to work to get transmission rates down.
During the SCG briefing Public Health London also asked me to convey to constituents the reason behind the decision to give out the forthcoming vaccine in reverse age order. The reasoning for this is simple: age is the number one risk factor for death from Covid-19, far outstripping ethnicity, occupation or underlying illness in predicting who will become seriously ill if infected.
I also learned that local contact tracing is working well, with the councils' tracing officers often succeeding where the national tracing team has failed to reach people. This is something we are doing particularly well in Kingston and Richmond, and I would like to thank both councils for their quick and effective work in this area.
PRESSURING GOVERNMENT FOR INCREASED FUNDING FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Today I wrote to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about tomorrow's Comprehensive Spending Review.
Local councils have been at the forefront of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading
emergency action to deal with the public health crisis and supporting residents and local
businesses struggling due to economic shutdown. Both Richmond and Kingston councils have gone
above and beyond to deliver for residents during this unprecedented crisis. We are fortunate to have had such exemplary local leadership during this difficult year.
This has come at huge financial cost, however, with boroughs facing a £1.1 billion funding
gap as a result of increased spending and lost income in 2020-21. There is a real risk that this
major financial outlay will dangerously undermine the financial stability of London councils
in the future. I am calling for immediate compensation to cover the funding gap caused by the pandemic, as well as certainty around funding for 2021-22.
I believe we need a new approach to the long-term funding of local government, including new sources of revenue and greater fiscal devolution, so our local councils can continue to provide a vital lifeline to communities, residents and businesses. You can see my letter to Rishi Sunak here:
VISITS TO SMALL BUSINESSES IN EAST SHEEN
Last Friday I went out to meet some of the independent retailers in East Sheen, to find out how they are managing. I spoke with some of the original founders of the East Sheen Business and Retail Association, who have recently put up Christmas decorations in East Sheen. They asked me for help with difficult landlords and unfair competition from large retailers, and praised Richmond Council's business grants and rate relief schemes.
After visiting Sheen Uncovered (below, left) I stopped into Valentina's deli (below, centre) a small chain that started in East Sheen in 1991. I was glad to hear they are managing to get by on their takeout and delivery business. I also visited La Ciclista (below, right) a local cycling cafe that attracts the many cycling enthusiasts who travel through Richmond with its cycle parking/repair area.
I also stopped at a local market to speak to the traders there, one of whom told me his cheese business had come through the pandemic but may not survive our final exit from the EU at the end of next month. I will keep reminding government that their posturing and lack of progress on a Brexit deal has enormous personal consequences for my constituents.
POST-COVID BLOOD DONORS WANTED
The NHS is asking people who have had Covid-19 and are healthy again to please think about giving blood for plasma. They also particularly need blood from black donors at the moment, and they always need blood from O negative donors. The nearest donation site for most of my constituents will be in Twickenham, where there is a dedicated centre operating seven days a week, situated right next to Twickenham Station. If you are able to donate, please go to blood.co.uk to book an appointment.
LATEST TALK RICHMOND PODCAST: LIVING WITH LONG COVID
You can click here or search for Talk Richmond on your podcast app to listen to local councillor Jim Millard speak to a resident about their experience of Long Covidm and hear advice on how to cope with the disease from the Head of Physiotherapy at Kingston Hospital, Caroline Hopper.
Long Covid is defined by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as unexplained signs and symptoms that continue for more than 12 weeks after Covid-19 infection.
Tracey Pretty from Whitton fell ill with Covid-19 in March. Eight months later she continues to suffer from symptoms including difficulties breathing, exhaustion, loss of taste and smell, cramps, headaches and loss of appetite, as well as struggling with her mental health. While a lot remains unclear about Long Covid, Caroline offers Tracey advice on how to help cope with her symptoms.
BRaG ONLINE CHARITY CHRISTMAS STORE
BRaG, one of North Kingston's most active residents associations, has opened an online charity Christmas store. The wonderful Sewing Angels have donated an array of Christmas themed face-coverings, Christmas fabric gift bags, cards, decorations and gifts galore to them to help raise funds for BRaG charities. The Angels have given their time and many materials for free, with residents donating materials as well, so 100% of the purchase price will be donated to charity. You can see their shop here: Bragstreet.selz.com
KINGSTON COUNCIL ADOPTS A LETTINGS ENFORCEMENT POLICY
A new package of legislation to improve tenants rights and raise standards in the lettings sector across the borough has been approved by the council's Culture, Housing, Environment & Planning Committee.
The government recently introduced legislation to help tackle landlords and agents who do not treat tenants fairly. The new legislation provides local authorities with enforcement measures such as Banning Orders, and the ability to serve fines of up to £30,000. Serious offences can be listed on the National Database of Rogue Landlords to help protect tenants. In response, Kingston Council has approved the adoption of a new Lettings Enforcement Policy, setting out how the Council will use these powers.
Councillor Emily Davey, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Public Health, says:
"In the most part Kingston's private landlords and letting agents do a good job. However there are a small number of landlords and agents who do not treat tenants fairly or with the respect that they deserve. This new legislation gives us the power to tackle that small minority of landlords and letting agents who are letting tenants and the sector down.”
KINGSTON POST OFFICE TO REOPEN TOMORROW
For those residents who have been worried by the closure of Kingston Post Office, I received an update from the Post Office Area Manager yesterday. They say the Kingston branch is due to reopen tomorrow. The Post Office would like to apologise again to customers for the inconvenience caused by the temporary closure of the branch due to Covid-19 illness.
I know how important local post offices are to the communities they serve and I will continue to keep residents updated on postal news.