The war between Israel and Hamas continues to intensify, and I am extremely concerned by the current situation in Gaza. I have heard directly from constituents, both Jewish and Muslim, who feel threatened and unsafe as a result of the public reaction in this country to the continuing conflict. I have been in touch with the local police and both councils and have urged them to respond swiftly to any instances of hate speech that might occur in our community.
This week, I joined my party in signing a motion calling on the UK Government to lead calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to pause hostilities and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza and provide an opportunity to realise the release of the hostages. The full text of this motion can be found here.
As I detailed in last week's newsletter, the Foreign Office is advising against all travel to Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, or the surrounding borders. If you know of any of my constituents in the region struggling to leave, please let me know or ask them to contact me and I will do everything I can to ensure they can return home.
COURT TRANSCRIPT COSTS
This week, I launched a campaign alongside my constituent Juliana Terlizzi to enable victims to obtain free transcripts of court proceedings.
Juliana, a victim of rape, came to me for assistance earlier this year after being quoted £7,500 for a transcript of the 10-day trial in which her former boyfriend was convicted. This cost seemed inexplicably high to me and I was shocked to discover that many other victims have been charged thousands of pounds by private companies to produce transcripts.
Transcripts are important to victims as many of them do not attend trial, and therefore they have no means of finding out exactly what was said during proceedings. Victims often report that they are actively discouraged from attending trial and told they will distract the jury. Some also face the prospect of having to sit next to their abuser’s family and friends if they attend.
The Scottish Government has committed to introducing a pilot scheme to waive costs of transcripts for victims of sexual violence. I am calling on the UK Government to take the opportunity presented by the Victims’ Bill, which is currently being passed through Parliament, to ensure all victims in the UK have the right to access transcripts free of charge. I have tabled an amendment to this effect and will continue to campaign on this moving forwards.
SAVE HAM LANDS: MEETING PHILIP DUFFY, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY
Earlier this week, I met with Philip Duffy, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, to discuss Thames Water's controversial plans for it's Teddington DRA project to be built on Ham Lands. I am particularly grateful to Mr Duffy for making the time to meet with me about this vital issue, given that he and his team were working around the clock to respond to the devastation Storm Babet has caused in Scotland.
During the meeting, Mr Duffy laid out the rationale for the plan, but understood the serious concerns we have regarding it's potential impact on water quality, the safety of river users, and Ham Lands' biodiversity. While he made no commitments to support or reject the plan, I am pleased to say that he agreed to visit Ham Lands with myself and my colleague Munira Wilson MP for Twickenham, to get a personal understanding of the area and hear more about our concerns.
Thames Water have reopened their consultation on this scheme and I would urge any and all interested residents to respond before the deadline of 11th December.
MANOR CIRCUS UPDATE
The works on Manor Circus are progressing well and TfL have informed me that over the past few weeks they have completed the first phase of their renovations, upgrading pavements and street lighting, waterproofing the northern section of the bridge, and improving safety at the North Road junction. The next phase of the works will now begin and due to the accelerated timeline put in place after requests for extended working hours were granted, the work causing major disruption in the area is on track to be completed by the end of November, rather than December as originally suggested.
As the works on North Road have been completed, it will now be reopened to traffic northbound from the A316. I know that these works have caused a great amount of frustration amongst residents, but I hope that TfL's progress provides some reassurance that the works will be completed on time.
If you would like to learn more about the works, visit TfL's website here.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE: SUPPORTING RESIDENTS ACROSS
Despite the project being delayed time and time again, it now looks likely that the main carriageway of the bridge will reopen to cyclists by early 2024. When the bridge first closed to motor traffic, some residents will remember that a rickshaw service was temporarily put in place to help ferry older and less mobile residents across. Several weeks ago, I wrote to TfL to ask that they meet with me to discuss putting a similar scheme in place when the carriageway reopens, but this time supported by TfL.
I am pleased to say that Will Norman, the Mayor's Commissioner for Walking and Cycling has agreed to meet with me to discuss these proposals. If you, or someone you know, used the original community provided rickshaw service, please do get in touch to tell me about your experience and if you feel any specific points should be raised with the Commissioner.
CONSULTATION ON WIMBLEDON AND PUTNEY COMMON LEVY
The Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators are concluding a consultation on potentially increasing the levy some local residents pay to keep these commons in good condition. This will only impact a very small number of people living here in Richmond Park as levy payers all live within either three quarters of a mile of Wimbledon Common's boundary by the most direct road route, or within the old parish of Putney.
The levy has not been increased since 1990 and the organisation that maintain these parks has had a huge number of additional demands placed on their finances. Usage of both commons has risen by 30% since the levy was last reviewed and this has had an associated increase in litter and wear and tear on the area. The levy increase would be dependent on the Council Tax band of your property, with a band D home paying £3 extra a month.
Impacted residents will have received a card detailing how they can respond to the consultation, if you fall into this group, you have until the 29th October to submit your response. If you would like to find our more, visit the link here.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH KINGSTON MAKERS MARKET
Tomorrow, between 10 am and 4 pm, the Ancient Market Place will play host to Black Owned Businesses selling art pieces, ceramics, jewellery and other unique gifts and crafts. The event is a way to platform black owned businesses from across the borough and south London and I would encourage anyone in the community who is interested to go along and do some early christmas shopping while supporting local creators and businesspeople.
MINDFUL ART SESSIONS FOR LOCAL YOUNG PEOPLE
Every Tuesday between 4pm and 5 pm, Mind run an art session for people between 12 and 25 at the Fuse Box Kingston. It's a fantastic way to get creative in a fun and supportive space, with different activities like Lino Printing, drawing and painting on offer. After the session, there is an optional hour slot between 5 pm and 6 pm where attendees can chat with trained youth workers about any mental health difficulties they may have or support they might need.
To find out more, email Mind's team or give them a call on 0208 948 7652.
CAN YOU HELP CREATE A PERFECT CHRISTMAS FOR RICHMOND CARE LEAVERS?
Local charity Cocoon, Care After Care is calling for help from the local community to create the best Christmas ever for around fifty care-leavers. Each year since 2017, young care leavers age 18-25 from Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow boroughs have come together to enjoy a Christmas packed with fabulous food, amazing gifts and great fun. Having left the care system, whether foster homes, children’s homes or other supported housing, they now live in flats, bedsits, halls of residence or in semi-independent living (hostels).
As December nears, the organisers who are all volunteers, are asking businesses and residents to help create something magical for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone.
Cocoon needs everything from volunteers to help out on the day, to donations for essentials, presents from local traders, and of course, ingredients for the all important Christmas dinner. If you are able to help in any way, get in touch with Cocoon to offer your support.