You will doubtless have heard that as of next week England will resume using a tier system for Covid-19 control measures. London has been placed in Tier 2 based our our current infection rate, which has finally started to fall, but remains high at present.
I am particularly pleased about this news for the pubs and restaurants in Richmond Park, which will be able to open again, albeit with some restrictions in place. The 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants has now been amended to last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm.
Shops will also be able to open on December 2. I would like to ask all of my constituents to please try to support local businesses. Small independent shops have been hit especially hard by the lockdowns and our high streets will not survive the pandemic if we don't actively try to give them business.
I did a Facebook Live interview with Small Business Saturday today, where we talked about the importance of keeping this sector vibrant. You can see the discussion here. Every town in this constituency has wonderful businesses who need your custom. Please visit them if you can!
I am also happy that theatres will be able to open again after December 2. We are lucky to have a vibrant performing arts scene in Richmond and Kingston, and I encourage those who can to support them. OSO Arts Centre in Barnes and the Rose Theatre in Kingston both have Christmas events on.
While making your plans for the Christmas season, I would ask you to remember that under the Tier 2 rules you can't socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble. You can, however, meet up to five other people outside. If you travel to a Tier 1 area you must continue to observe Tier 2 rules while you are there.
From 23-27 December the rules will be temporarily relaxed across the UK to allow three households to mix indoors, creating a Christmas bubble. Please note that you can only be in one bubble during that period. The only exceptions to this rule are children under 18 whose parents do not live together, who can be in two bubbles. Students coming home from university count as part of their home household.
I wish we could all celebrate Christmas the way we normally would, but sadly we are still battling a pandemic, improvements to testing and treatment notwithstanding. Until we have vaccinated most of the population the NHS is still in danger of being overwhelmed by an out-of-control outbreak. I urge everyone to continue with their hygiene and social distancing habits, abide by the rules, and help to keep the NHD running and your community and family safe this winter.
You can find all the rules, including new guidance on worship, sport, and public and private events here.
And you can see the Christmas bubble rules here.
WELCOMING THE CLIMATE CHANGE ASSEMBLY REPORT
Yesterday I spoke in the parliamentary debate presenting the final report from Climate Change Assembly UK: The Path to Net Zero. This report, prepared by members of the public, sets out the actions we need to take to get to net zero and properly address the climate emergency.
As I said in the chamber, we need stronger and more coordinated action across many departments if we are to make meaningful progress. Accordingly, I am calling on Governement to appoint a Secretary of State for Climate Change, who can influence policy across all departments.
Reduction of car journeys, electric car charging infrastructure, and increased funding for greener homes initiatives are three of the report's recommendations that I particularly wanted to voice my support for during the debate yesterday. These issues are of great importance to my constituents and to me, and I will continue pressing for them.
You can read the full text of my remarks on the report here.
MANOR ROAD DEVELOPMENT - NEW PETITION
As you may know, I wrote to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in September, asking him to call in the Homebase, Manor Road planning application because I was concerned Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, would grant it permission, which he duly did on 1st October.
The Secretary of State responded to my letter by issuing a holding direction on the application, which means Mayor Khan's permission for it is suspended until the Secretary of State decides on whether to uphold Richmond Council’s original decision to refuse.
It has been more than two months since Mr Jenrick issued the holding direction, so the Councillors for North Richmond Ward, where the Homebase, Manor Road site is located, have launched a petition urging the minister to decide on the matter. I support this initiative, because it is very important for Mr Jenrick to be reminded of the widespread opposition to the developer’s plans.
If you are concerned about this development you may want to support Councillors Richard Warren, Nancy Baldwin and Richard Pyne by signing their petition and sharing it with any other residents you know who have objected to the scheme: https://www.trlibdems.org.uk/manorroadpetition
NEW HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE PLAN
Hammersmith and Fulham Council has just revealed a radical new solution to the on-going closure of Hammersmith Bridge, which would negate the need for a second temporary bridge structure. The plan would be to build a temporary double-decker crossing within the existing structure of Hammersmith Bridge. A new raised truss structure would be built above the existing road deck, featuring a lower level for pedestrians and cyclists and an upper level for cars and buses. This would allow existing approach routes for traffic to be used.
The proposed structure will also provide support for the bridge as well as a safe platform for restoration work to be carried out. There would be no load added to the existing bridge deck, which would be removed in stages for repair and restoration off-site. This would allow works to be done at greater speed and at a reduced cost. When completed, the temporary raised deck would be removed.
The concept plan designed by Foster + Partners and further developed with specialist bridge engineers COWI, was presented to Department of Transport officials this week.
I welcome this innovative plan, which could be the solution to getting traffic moving over the river as quickly as possible. I will push the Government to review it immediately and come to a quick decision.
RAPID TESTING ROLLOUT
Kingston Hospital and Epsom and St Helier were the first NHS Trusts in South West London to begin rolling out lateral flow testing kits for their front-line staff in patient facing roles. These rapid tests for COVID-19 take five minutes and have just a 30-minute wait for results. Testing is voluntary, but staff are asked to test themselves twice a week.
The next stage of the roll out will make the tests available to people who work in primary care – specifically staff in GP practices, pharmacies, dentists and community services.
Coombe Girls School will be running a trial of asymptomatic testing as a way to combat the high rates of infection in schools. A number of anxious parents have written to me worried about school transmission and I welcome this as a way to combat the issue while keeping schools open. The intention is that this will be rolled out to more schools soon too.
The NHS will be extending the flu vaccination programme to all 50 to 64 year olds from 1 December 2020. Getting your flu vaccination is a great way of helping to keep pressure off the NHS this winter. For the children's nasal spray vaccine, speak to your GP surgery. For the adult injection, speak to your GP surgery or local pharmacy.
Southwest London NHS is keen to ensure that they get as much of this year's flu vaccination completed before the Covid-19 vaccine arrives, so they can move straight into providing the new vaccine. So the sooner you can get your flu jab the better. If you have questions and concerns, this very helpful leaflet may be able to answer them:
FREE COMMUNITY BUILDING TRAINING PROGRAM
Protection Approaches, a charity working to end identity-based violence, is offering training for members of voluntary and community groups in London. This is a chance for community members to take part at no cost - the sessions will be funded by the Mayor of London.
Protection approaches believes the responsibility to prevent identity-based violence is a shared one that stretches from local communities to global leadership. The training is aimed at anyone passionate about creating positive change in their community. It will help learners to build their skills and knowledge of what really works to increase cohesion. More information can be found on their webpage here.
CONSULTATION ON HOUSING STRATEGY
A four-week consultation into the Council’s draft Housing and Homelessness Strategy began on 9th November and will close of 7th December. The strategy aims to ensure that current and future housing needs of the borough are met and sets out how the Council plans to do this. You can read the draft Strategy and have your say here, or alternatively you can email email@example.com for a paper copy of the Strategy and questionnaire.
WIN A HAMPER FOR CHARITY
Richmond residents have the chance to win a Christmas hamper full of goodies from local retailers, as part of the Mayor of the Borough’s Christmas fundraising efforts. Five hampers are up for grabs, with raffle tickets costing just £3. Hampers are worth around £50 and will be filled items from a range of businesses from across the borough, including beer, wine, sweet treats and gifts.
All proceeds from the raffle will go to the Mayor’s chosen charities, A Dose of Nature and Habitats & Heritage, both of which work to preserve and enhance the natural environment in the borough and connect people with nature and the green spaces around them.
Ticket sales close on Tuesday 15 December and winners will be announced on Friday 18 December.
COUNCIL SERVICES REOPENING
From Thursday 3 December five Kingston borough libraries will reopen - Surbiton, Kingston, New Malden, Hook Centre and Tudor Drive - and will go back to offering the pre-lockdown service. The services include book browsing for 25 minutes at a time and PC access, with 45 minute bookable sessions with cleaning time in between. They will continue to deliver books to those who are housebound with Covid-19 measures in place. Old Malden and Tolworth libraries will reopen in early 2021.
The music service will continue to teach all individual music centre lessons online until the end of term. Individual lessons in schools will continue face-to-face, if schools are happy to do so. The music service Youth Ensembles will return to in-person rehearsals if venues allow and staff will return to the Hook Centre to offer instrument hire and undertake repairs.
Kingston History Centre and Kingston Museum will look to reopen in early 2021 - depending on restrictions. Kingston Adult Education will continue with online tuition, with some courses being offered in premises where possible.
UN CAMPAIGN TO STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The UN's 16 days of activism against gender-based violence runs from 25 November - 10 December. There will be a virtual community event in collaboration with the Police and Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Wandsworth councils on 3 December. The event will provide information on the range of support available around domestic, sexual abuse and other harmful practices. You can watch the event on YouTube on 3 December from 11am - 3pm.
ESPORTS GAMING CHAMPIONSHIPS - REPRESENT KINGSTON!
The first ever LDN UTD Inter-Borough Esports Championships in FIFA ‘21 and NBA 2K will be hosted throughout December and feature young people throughout London representing their home boroughs. It is free to take part in the competition, and you can register interest via this website: https://www.ldnutd.gg/home