SUPPORTING BABIES AND FAMILIES
As part of my cross-party work on improving early years provision, I had the pleasure of appearing on Andrea Leadsom's First 1001 Critical Days podcast this week. Catherine McKinnell and I spoke with Andrea about why those first 1001 days are so important in a baby's life, and our shared work to ensure that every baby gets the best possible start in life. You can listen to our discussion here.
SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate small business success and encourage shopping locally. I ask my constituents to consider Christmas shopping with local independent businesses this year, to offer them your support as they struggle with rising costs, new Covid restrictions and supply problems.
Ahead of Small Business Saturday, the Liberal Democrats have called for taxes to be cut on small businesses. This would benefit many small businesses and entrepreneurs in Richmond Park from cafes and restaurants to high street shops. Our proposed tax cut would save small businesses an average of £5,000 a year by aiding them with staff costs. It would be achieved by quadrupling the Employment Allowance to £16,000 for a period of two years.
Local small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, offering us social spaces, necessary amenities and leisure activities. They work hard to give back to the communities that support them, too. For example the Richmond Business Improvement District sponsored last night's delightful Christmas Lights Switch On in Richmond town centre, even sending Stormtroopers and Peter Rabbit to entertain the children. Please do what you can to support them too.
With the one year anniversary of the very first vaccination coming up next Wednesday, this is a good time to encourage all of my constituents to stay on top of their vaccinations. It is critically important that we do everything we can to help stop the spread of the new Omicron variant while we learn more about how infectious it is, if it could cause more severe disease and what effect it might have on our vaccines.
Cases in London are still highest among secondary school pupils, so please do get your children vaccinated as soon as possible, using the links below to book an appointment or to see the walk-in centres where you can turn up without an appointment.
NHS London has trebled the number of pharmacies offering vaccinations, and are currently doubling their vaccination capacity across London to manage the demand for boosters and second doses as well as initial doses for 12-15 year olds and first doses for people who were reluctant to come forward at the beginning of the programme. I have written to public health authorities to ask them to increase their capacity for vaccination home visits for my housebound constituents, as I know many have struggled to get appointments for this.
Face masks are now mandatory in shops and on public transport. Isolation and travel rules have also been tightened. Everyone is encouraged to be mindful of Hands, Face, Space again. Please take a lateral flow test before socialising, and meet outdoors if you can or and open a window to let in fresh air if you meet indoors. The booster jab is to be made available to all adults over the age of 18, and children aged 12-15 will be offered a second dose of the vaccine twelve weeks after their first.
The NHS will shortly be announcing full details of the extended vaccine rollout, but please be advised that they are still working out their plans for giving booster doses to 18-39 year olds and shortening the interval between the second dose and the booster dose to three months. Please be patient while they put these structures in place.
If it's time for you to be vaccinated, you can book your jab here.
You can see the list of local walk-in vaccination clinics, (where no appointment is needed) here.
If you have to self-isolate and need help, Kingston residents can contact Kingston Stronger Together here.
Richmond residents who need assistance can contact the Community Hub by phone on 020 8871 6555 or email email@example.com.
VISITS TO RICHMOND PARK ACADEMY AND PARK HILL SCHOOL
Last Friday I was pleased to visit Richmond Park Academy (RPA) to speak with Headteacher Nabila Jiwa and meet pupils from across the year groups. Nabila impressed upon me the need for schools to have clarity now on what the arrangements will be for exams in 2022. She explained that if the schools need to write, mark and moderate their own exams, as they did last year, they need to be able to start planning these tasks now. I will take this to the Department of Education and press them to improve their forward planning, and not to leave decisions to the last minute this year.
I enjoyed an engaging question and answer session with RPA pupils, who told me about their experience of school during the pandemic and how their lives have changed. It was fantastic to hear how positive the pupils are about their school and how much they enjoyed being back at school after the lockdown ended.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Park Hill Prep School in Kingston. It was lovely to join the pupils for their assembly, where they asked me to talk about democracy and my role in it as an MP. I especially enjoyed handing out play leader badges and certificates of achievement to the children.
I know that teachers and pupils across the constituency will be busy working on Christmas activities in the coming weeks. I hope that this year's events will be especially meaningful to them after everything they missed out on last year.
HOMEBASE/MANOR ROAD: NEW CONSULTATION
The developer, Avanton, has submitted a revised application for the Homebase/Manor Road site to the Greater London Authority (GLA), which will be decided upon by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. I am liaising with the council, including North Richmond councillors, about our responses to this application. In our view, the proposals are too large and unsustainable for the site and surrounding district. I shall share my more detailed objections with you later in the process. The Greater London Authority’s (GLA) deadline for objections is 16th December 2021. Copies of the developer’s supporting documents are available on the GLA website here. Objections and other comments can be submitted in writing or online and should be received by 16 December 2021. Submit them online here, or write to them at Manor Road, The Planning Team, Greater London Authority, City Hall, Kamal Chunchie Way, London E16 1ZE.
RIchmond constituents might also like to know that my office submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) with regards to the Homebase, Manor Road planning application.
I have requested copies of all correspondence between DLUHC’s Secretary of State, ministers and officials and Sir Michael Fallon, the non-executive chairman of Avanton, and any other of the company’s representatives, between 18th March 2018, which is when the developer bought the site, and the present day. This period will encompass the previous Secretary of State Robert Jenrick’s tenure at the ministry, when it was called the Department of Local Government, Housing and Communities, as well as Michael Gove. I will keep you updated on this.
CHRISTMAS CARD COMPETITION
For my Christmas card design this year I asked ArtsRichmond to assist me in finding a local artist to feature. I was very keen to use this opportunity to showcase the amazing local talent in Richmond Park. ArtsRichmond was kind enough to help me organise a Christmas card competition and I received dozens of lovely pieces of artwork. You can see the winner of the competition "Winter Walk" by Emma Chambers, below; I loved the gentle, evocative, way she captured a golden moment in Richmond Park.
I have posted the winning images and a selection of other submissions, on my website, where you can also find information about and contact details for the artists. Please click here to see them.
HELICOPTERS OVER HAM
Ham residents might be interested in a letter I have received from Robert Courts, the Minister for Aviation at the Department of Transport (DoT), about helicopters flying over the town. This was raised to me at my Ham coffee morning and I wrote to the DoT about it afterwards. The letter is quite detailed, and contains information that may well be of interest to all my Ham constituents. You can see the letter here.
RICHMOND DEMENTIA CARE SERVICES
If you are or are caring for a local resident who is affected by dementia, Richmond Council has a lot of advice and assistance for you. You can view their very helpful booklet with all the services offered here.
NEW AIR QUALITY SENSORS
Richmond will be one of the first London Boroughs to install new Breathe London air quality sensors in priority locations across Richmond upon Thames, to give access to important data that will help provide a previously unseen detailed picture of local air pollution. The 45 Breathe London sensors are being installed in locations such as town centres, school streets and proposed new traffic scheme areas. For example, they are being installed around the Royal Parks, near East Sheen Primary School.
As part of the InnOvaTe Project, some of the sensors are paired with Vivacity traffic monitors, so that – for the first time ever – the council will be able to see real time data for air quality alongside traffic data. The sensors measure not only nitrogen dioxide levels, but small particulate matter (PM2.5) as well. This will allow a deeper understanding of different transport modes, movement patterns and their impact on air quality, and it is hoped will aid future schemes aimed at improving air quality.
No personal data is collected, and the technology cannot be used for road traffic enforcement purposes.
SAFER NEIGHBOURHOOD BOARD NEWSLETTER
Richmond residents who are concerned about crime and anti-social behaviour will be keen to have a look at the latest newsletter from the Safer Neighbourhood Board. The newsletter contains a letter from Richmond's new Met Police Neighbourhoods Inspector Jon McLaughlin, information about the tragic stabbing near RIchmond Upon Thames College, advice about what to do if someone tries to break into your house, and the latest on local scams. Click here to see the newsletter.
WINTER FOOD AND ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN
Children across the borough eligible for free school meals can access a programme of free, fun activities and nutritious meals over the Christmas break. Achieving for Children is teaming up with holiday clubs, youth centres, sports groups and more to deliver the programme. Find out more and book here.
CHRISTMAS IN KINGSTON
The Kingston Christmas Market is in full swing, welcoming visitors all day everyday with live music, delicious festive food and drinks. Each Saturday in December (4, 11 & 18) Kingston is putting on free art and craft workshops for kids, and festive performers will be roaming around town treating passers-by to acrobatics, dancing and street theatre. Don't forget to check out the Naughty Elf Trail; there are ten toys or decorations in posters in the shop windows of Kingston businesses to be found - and a £100 Bentalls voucher to be won!
NEW CONSULTATION ON LATEST DESIGNS FOR KINGFISHER LEISURE CENTRE
Kingston Council has now launched their third phase of engagement on plans for a new community leisure centre in Kingston town centre. The plans look very exciting and I encourage all of my Kingston constituents to look at them and respond. Visit our website to view the latest designs and have your say.