RAILWAY TICKET OFFICE CLOSURES
Earlier this month, railway operators unveiled plans to close nearly all ticket offices in England after being directed to cut costs by the Transport Secretary. South Western Railway (SWR) has confirmed that they intend to close all ticket offices on their network. Tickets will be available to purchase from self-service ticket machines. In Richmond Park, this will affect Richmond, Barnes, North Sheen and Mortlake, as well as stations in Kingston used by many constituents.
SWR is proposing to transition station staff to new multi-skilled roles. Although I support plans to upskill the workforce, and the principle of making staff members more visible, I am concerned that the loss of ticket offices will lead to a significant reduction in the quality of service provided to passengers. I am particularly concerned that these plans will disproportionately impact elderly and disabled passengers who rely on the service at a ticket office to travel safely and confidently. SWR has committed to producing an Equality Impact Assessment for each station. However as yet nothing has been published.
Across the country, the closure of ticket offices will be accompanied by a significant reduction in staffing hours. After reviewing the proposed new staffing hours at local stations, I am pleased to see that staffing hours will actually be increased at Richmond, Barnes, New Malden and Kingston stations. The total number of staffing hours at North Sheen will remain largely the same, although I do have concerns about the proposed staffing timetable changes. Mortlake Station fares the worst in my constituency. I am very concerned that staffing hours there will be slashed to just four hours in the morning from Monday-Thursday, with Friday and Saturday left completely unstaffed. This will leave passengers returning from work or school in the afternoon and evening with no assistance.
You can view all of the proposed changes in this document published by SWR.
I will be submitting a response to the public consultation, which has now been extended until 1 September 2023, to put my concerns on the record. I would encourage all constituents who are concerned about these proposals to do the same. Please visit the London Travel Watch website for full information on this consultation, as well as details below of where to submit your response:
Freepost: RTEH-XAGE-BYKZ, London TravelWatch, PO Box 5594, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 9PZ
‘IP CHAMPION’ AWARD
I am honoured to have been awarded the ‘IP Champion’ award by the Alliance for Intellectual Property for my work in supporting the creative industries. The Alliance for IP this year celebrates its 25th anniversary; it has played a crucial role in helping to develop the UK’s world-leading regulatory framework for IP. Thanks to the gold standard of IP rights set in the UK, the creative industries are one of our main growth industries and the UK is a world-leading exporter of creative content.
Over the course of this year I have been campaigning to ensure that IP rights of creatives are not undercut by Artificial Intelligence (AI) developers using creative content to train their platforms without obtaining a licence nor seeking permission. The Intellectual Property Office has been conducting roundtables with AI developers and rightsholders in order to develop a Code of Practice which would provide guidance to support AI firms to access copyrighted work as an input to their models, whilst ensuring there are protections on generated output to support rightsholders. Unfortunately, progress has been slow due to fundamental differences between organisations, and the Code of Practice has been delayed.
I will continue to engage with developments in this area and call on the government to ensure policy balances the needs of the creative and digital economies.
MY SUMMER BRIEFING EVENTS - NEXT WEEK!
Residents still have time to register to join me for one of my Summer Briefings next week. I will be holding these events around the constituency to engage with residents on local and national issues.
At each Briefing I will give a short update on my work in Parliament and share some of my priorities for the next year. I will also tell you about my work in the constituency on some of the local issues that residents write to me the most about. I hope to spend most of the briefing, though, answering your questions and hearing your views about both national and local issues.
I am doing five Summer Briefings next week, at the locations below. Attendance is free and open to all constituents, but attendees must register in advance on my website.
SUPPORTING THE ENDOMETRIOSIS FOUNDATION
Earlier this month, I met with Carla Cressy, founder of The Endometriosis Foundation and a constituent of Richmond Park. The Endometriosis Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness of endometriosis and providing trusted information, education, and support. Carla and I discussed the need to raise awareness of endometriosis amongst young women and girls through engaging with local schools and universities, as well as the need to tackle the lengthy delays women face in achieving a diagnosis. At present, it takes between seven and nine years, on average, for a woman to be diagnosed with endometriosis, despite the condition being as common as diabetes and asthma.
Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of female infertility. Nevertheless women with severe endometriosis are not eligible for fertility preservation treatment on the NHS, such as egg-freezing. This treatment is currently only made available to those with a cancer diagnosis, or those undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
I have therefore written to Maria Caulfield, the Minister for Women’s Health, to urge the Government to allow access to fertility preservation treatment for women whose fertility is at risk due to severe endometriosis. I will continue to support The Endometriosis Foundation and others by raising the issues faced by women with endometriosis to Ministers at the top level of government.
FUNDING FOR LOCAL SCHOOLS
School budgets have been put under immense pressure in recent years, beginning well before the pandemic. I have spoken with many headteachers across the constituency who have told me about the impossible decisions they are being forced to make, cutting subjects, extra-curricular activities, classroom resources and staff.
In the last week of term, chairs of governing bodies at 19 primary and secondary schools in Richmond and Kingston boroughs jointly wrote to Gillian Keegan, Education Secretary, detailing the crippling recruitment and funding challenges they are facing. After this letter was raised in Parliament by my colleague Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham and Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, I am pleased that the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb, agreed to meet with the governing bodies to discuss their concerns.
I hope that these discussions will emphasise to the government just how difficult conditions are for teachers and students at present and will continue to support local schools and work to relieve this crisis.
This week, an investigation of Home Office statistics by the Liberal Democrats showed that in 2022/2023, a total of 47,050 burglaries in London were closed without a suspect being identified, accounting for 82% of all cases. Meanwhile, just 6% of burglary cases open by the Metropolitan Police resulted in a suspect being charged or summonsed.
Richmond Park is one of the safest constituencies in London, and we have a brilliant local team of officers to help keep us safe. However, it is crucial that the Mayor and the Government work together to ensure that the Met Police have the resources they need to tackle local crime. I spoke to BBC Radio London yesterday to discuss this point.
I will continue to support our local police in the work they do while pressing for more resources for the local area, including reinstating Richmond Police Station. Please sign my petition on Richmond Police Station if you have not already done so.
DISABLED TRAVEL FORUM
Have you or someone close to you experienced barriers to travel when negotiating public or private transport or in the street? If so you are invited to join local disability charity Ruils' user-led Richmond Mobility Forum to share your experiences with public transport, vehicle and pedestrian travel in the borough. Forum topics will include:
Richmond Borough Community Engagement Team on the Night Time Strategy
SW Railways on the proposed ticket office closures across their lines
This event will be on Thursday July 27th, from 2:00 - 3:30 pm over Zoom. It is free to attendees but please register to take part in the travel forum.
KOOTH COUNSELLING AVAILABLE TO YOUNG PEOPLE
With school out for the summer, some young people might be feeling isolated, or worried about next year. Kooth is an online counselling and emotional wellbeing service for children and young people. Kooth offers articles, discussion boards, chats and other help for young people who want help but feel they can't speak to anyone face to face - or don't know or trust anyone to help them.
It's safe, free, and anonymous (users don't have to give their names or personal details if they don't want to.) Someone is available for online support 24/7. If you know a young person who may need support please encourage them to find out more about Kooth.
KINGSTON ANTIQUES MARKET
Kingston's Antiques Market will take place in the heart of Kingston upon Thames this Sunday 30 July, from 10.30am - 4:00pm in the Ancient Market Place, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 1JS
This quaint guest market will be a treasure trove of eclectic finds, curios, and artefacts. For even more antiques extend your visit to scout out Kingston's second hand and thrift stores, located in Old London Road and elsewhere throughout the town.
GREEN FLAG AWARD FOR CANBURY GARDENS
Our beautiful Canbury Gardens in north Kingston has been awarded the coveted Green Flag Award and officially recognised as one of the country’s best parks.
The Green Flag Award scheme is managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. It recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of green spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.
The Canbury Gardens award noted the space’s public facilities, the range of play equipment, the high standards of maintenance and the Gardens' use as a community hub.
The work of the Friends of Queen’s Promenade group has also been recognised with a Green Flag Community Award for their dedication to caring for and improving the riverside. A full list of Green Flag Award-winning parks and green spaces is available on the Keep Britain Tidy website.
Canbury Gardens, Kingston