This week I am joining the cross party calls for a full Covid-19 inquiry. We need to learn all the lessons we can from the Covid-19 pandemic, and we can't wait until some far-off day when the Government has nothing else to do. We must determine where we failed and where we succeeded, and put measures in place now to prepare for future pandemics.
We also need to examine whether the sourcing of equipment and supplies was done appropriately. We know that the Prime Minister looked after his friends during the initial procurement frenzy, but we need to enquire whether he looked after the British people and the public purse as well.
AIR PASSENGER DUTY REFORM
In the House of Commons today, during Questions for the Treasury, I asked Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Kemi Badenoch how their proposed decrease in Air Passenger Duty (APD) helps the Government achieve its net-zero emissions goals. She did not appear to be familiar with the Aviation Tax Reform Consultation her Department is running, only referencing the small rise in APD in the current Finance Bill in her reply.
The Aviation Tax Reform Consultation proposes that APD be reduced on domestic flights, which will certainly make it harder for rail travel to compete with far-more-polluting air travel. I am disappointed that the Government did not take the opportunity to explain why they are undermining their climate change and air quality goals in this way. I encourage my constituents to examine and contribute to the consultation by clicking here. You can see my question today here.
NORTH KINGSTON NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
I receive a lot of correspondence from constituents about planning matters, both large scale developments and small. I believe that communities should have the right to make decisions about their local environment. Neighbourhood planning enables local residents to have a say in how planning decisions are made. A Neighbourhood Plan for North Kingston, produced by the North Kingston Forum community group, is currently in its draft consultation phase.
After the draft consultation, the Forum will submit a revised draft to the Council, who will determine if it accords with Kingston's Local Plan. The Plan also has to follow applicable environmental constraints, so those aspects will need to be examined. Further down the line a referendum on adopting the plan will be
held within the plan's area. When the process is complete, the Neighbourhood Plan will have to be taken into account in planning decisions.
If you wish to comment on the draft North Kingston Neighbourhood Plan, please do so by Monday June 14th 2021. You can see the consultation document here.
For further information, you can visit the North Kingston Forum website.
LIVE EVENTS THIS SUMMER
British festivals are synonymous with British summers. They are an iconic cultural experience, yet the live events sector has been absolutely devasted by the pandemic.
Without a Government-backed insurance scheme – the kind for which there is already precedent - few event organisers will be able to take the risk of scheduling a festival.
I used yesterday’s Public Accounts Committee meeting to ask the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport what was being done to address this. You can watch one exchange here.
This week, I would like to spotlight the work of Rebecca, who runs Better Buzz, a free weekday workout programme set up to improve the mental health of Richmond Park residents during lockdown. Many of us have struggled to maintain our physical and mental healththis year, and Rebecca’s fun weekly activities are an antidote to the difficulties we have faced. Better Buzz is also set to become a charity, so I wish Rebecca all the best for the future. If you would like to learn more about Better Buzz, you can do so here.
I would also like to spotlight Just Imagine Dance School. Parents of children who attend classes have praised the efforts of Jessica and her team of dance instructors for doing a wonderful job of keeping classes afloat during lockdown. Online classes were provided, as well as at-home tutorial videos so practise could be maintained. Staff worked hard to keep the facility safe, and opened whenever guidance allowed. I am very pleased to read of the energy and passion staff have poured into making sure students did not miss out, despite the challenges of the past year.
If you would like me to shine my Community Spotlight on you or someone you know, please email email@example.com
NEW FREE YOUTH CLUB SPACE!
Richmond Rugby Club has set up a new free space for young people at the Richmond Rugby Club Ground, Richmond TW9 2SF. This is an initiative to provide a safe spot for our kids to get active playing multi-sports, hang out and play with other kids, or do their homework after school.
I continue to be impressed with the exemplary public spirit of Richmond Rugby Club, which has been an amazing source of energy, ideas and practical assistance to the community throughout the past year. Full details can on the new youth space be found here.
BECOMING A CARE WORKER
Care providers in Richmond upon Thames are looking for new care workers to join them in delivering their essential work. Richmond upon Thames’ care work is spread across five providers: Haven Care, Absolute Care Services, Holistic Care, Alpenbest Care and Medacs Healthcare. The care providers all offer competitive pay, flexible working hours, and career prospects. If becoming a care worker is of interest, please go to the care providers websites and search for careers.
MONITORING AIR QUALITY AROUND SCHOOLS
Kingston Council has written to tell me about the innovative sensor technology they are using to monitor air quality around School Streets. Kingston is one of the first London Boroughs to join the ‘Breathe London’ trial, giving it access to the Breathe London network of air quality sensors and pollution data.
Kingston has been trialling a number of School Street schemes in the borough, which aim to improve the safety of school children travelling to school and localised air quality. The council will utilise cutting-edge internet-enabled technology to provide data on different transport modes and movement patterns, as well as air quality. The monitoring will help determine whether a School Street scheme is the right option for the school and importantly help compare air quality between schools across the borough.
Access to more accurate live data will give the Council a clearer picture of overall air quality and congestion levels, helping to identify pollution hotspots to tackle. I am delighted to hear that the council is taking this step to improve Kingston's air quality.
CALL FOR DESIGN IDEAS FOR KINGSTON RIVERSIDE
Kingston Council is calling for local design ideas to revitalise the riverside as part of plans to breathe new life into the town centre. In collaboration with Kingston First and Kingston University, the council will be investing £200,000 in transforming the river frontage around John Lewis and Kingston Bridge.
Nazeya Hussain, Executive Director of Place at Kingston Council, says: “This is an exciting opportunity for anybody interested in urban design. You may be an established architectural practice or you might be a start-up design studio or a student with great ideas about how our riverside space can be more animated, fun and interesting. We are keen to hear from locally based practices and individuals, as well as underrepresented groups."
Final date for competition entries is 12:00 on 21 May 2021. Information about submissions, as well as more details about the project, can be found on the Kingston First website.