It was revealed this week that the Government has been drawing up contingency plans to seize control of Thames Water and place the failing company into special measures. With over £14 billion in debt, and £1.4 billion in bonds maturing over the next year, Thames Water is in very poor financial health.
Despite holding billions in debt, the company's infrastructure is in a worse condition than almost all of its competitors. Thames Water loses almost 25% of their water through leaking pipes against a 12% target set by Ofwat, and have so little excess capacity in their sewage systems that they have needed to dump billions of litres of raw sewage into waterways over the last two years.
I know that many of my constituents will be wondering what this news means for the proposed construction on Ham Lands. While the project's development is centrally funded, I have noted with interest that the proposed completion date has been moved back from 2031 to 2033.
This week, I had the chance to speak with the new Chief Executive of Ofwat and raise the community's concerns about this project. While he was not able to provide a full response, I have asked if he would be willing to visit the site to understand the scale of the damage Thames Water will do to this priceless natural landscape. I will report back to constituents whether he agrees to this.
NEW PARLIAMENTARY BOUNDARIES
The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) published the Final Recommendations of their Boundary Review this week. I was relieved that the BCE reversed their previous proposal to include Kingston town centre in the Richmond Park constituency, and instead decided to leave it in its natural place in Kingston & Surbiton constituency.
I will be sorry to lose Coombe Vale ward to Kingston and Surbiton at the end of this Parliament (although I hear good things about the MP there!) The new boundaries will take effect as soon as the next General Election is called.
INQUIRY INTO AVAILABILITY OF DONORS FOR BLOOD, ORGANS AND STEM CELLS
In my capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion, I led an evidence session yesterday, as part of our inquiry ‘Where are our nation’s donors?’ We are seeking to understand the issues affecting the provision of organ, blood and stem cell donations, with particular focus on inequitable access to transplantation and transfusion treatments for patients from Black, Asian, mixed heritage and minority ethnic communities. I became involved in this issue through local charity Team Margot, who provide secretariat services to the APPG.
During yesterday’s evidence session we heard from a number of witnesses from across the healthcare sector regarding the scale of the problem and the strategies that have been implemented thus far to increase donor participation. I am grateful to the witnesses who provided oral evidence yesterday on behalf of organisations such as NHS Blood and Transplant, Anthony Nolan and the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, as well as the 45 other individuals and organisations who have submitted written evidence. The evidence received has been illuminating and I look forward to sharing more details with constituents once the report is published later this year. The report will include our recommendations on steps to increase organ, blood and stem cell registrations and donations.
You can read some more about the APPG and our inquiry on the APPG website.
MEETING WITH MET POLICE COMMISSIONER
This week, I met with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to discuss his plan to tackle crime in London and turn the Met around after revelations over recent years of its numerous failings.
I know that crime is a key concern for many of my constituents throughout Richmond Park, and I took the opportunity to raise the need for a stronger police presence in southwest London, as well as to get his insight into what the force is doing to tackle new forms of crime in London. While it is clear that the police have a long way to go before they earn Londoners' trust back, I do believe that Commissioner Rowley is willing to accept the force's past failures and dedicate himself to fixing them.
ANIMAL WELFARE: SEALS
Britain is home to more than a third of the global grey seal population, and yet seals have very few legal protections ensuring their welfare. Since the disturbing death of Freddie the Seal near Hammersmith Bridge, I have been pleased to see DEFRA working to increase public awareness of how to act near seal populations. However, I am sorry to say that the intentional disturbance of seals remains legal. When humans scare these gentle creatures, they often attempt to hide in the sea, falling from rocks in their panic, sometimes breaking their jaws and flippers, making it impossible for them to feed or swim.
I held a debate this week calling on the Government to make the intentional disturbance of seals an offense. While the minister's response during the debate lacked substance, following the debate the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs committee recommended extending protections enshrined in the Wildlife and Countryside act to seals across the UK. While there is still much to do, it seems that we are one step closer to ensuring these beautiful animals are safe for years to come.
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to join a group of English language students learning about parliament and our democracy, and answer any questions they might have. During the session, we discussed the future of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, how one enters politics, and the work of Government as a whole.
I was particularly touched when one student described how the major barrier they face when learning English was the lack of opportunities to make English friends. We are lucky in Richmond Park to have so many great community groups. If you run a community organisation that could help English learners meet new people, please do let me know at email@example.com.
VISITS TO LOCAL BUSINESSES
I visited Winch Designs in Old Mortlake Fire Station last week. They are proud to be employee-owned and invited me to visit to celebrate Employee Ownership Day to raise awareness of the benefits and impact of employee ownership.
Founders Andrew and Jane Winch built the business on the principle that our people should be at the heart of everything they do. In 2021 this principle was cemented by handing over ownership of the business to the employee owners. Everyone has a voice in the direction of the business and benefits from its success. While I was there I also talked to them about trade frictions at the border, inflation and other challenges in the current business climate.
I also went to visit Tony's Chocolonely in Richmond last week, to see how they are doing in their mission to end slavery and child labour in chocolate making through their innovative cocoa production model.
I joined them for lunch, which is provided to staff and eaten all together. It was great to see such a passionate group of people working on in incredible cause right here in the heart of our community, while modeling innovative business practices here as well.
RICHMOND PARK MINIBUS
Royal Parks has asked me to share this updated timetable for the Richmond Park Minibus and their new leaflet. I highly recommend the minibus to any resident who wants to access parts of the park they can't get to by vehicle any other way. I enjoyed my own recent trip and can assure residents the drivers are ready and waiting to welcome people onto the bus, especially those with mobility challenges.
SUMMER HEALTH AND WELLBEING FAIR
Richmond residents are invited to the free Summer Health and Wellbeing Fair on Saturday July 15 from 12:00 to 3:30pm at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College, Parkshot Richmond, TW9 2RE.
The event is an opportunity to meet with local health and wellbeing services, who will share advice and offer support, particularly during the current Cost of Living crisis. Residents will be able to access information and practical health advice from a range of stallholders covering topics on mental health support, mindfulness, healthy eating, childhood immunisations and more.
The day will also include activities such a raffle prize draw and free painting for children. The fair is free to attend but places need to be reserved in advance using the link above.
RICHMOND ALMSHOUSES OPEN DAY
Richmond Charities will be holding an Almshouse Open Day on Saturday 8 July from 12:00pm - 4:00pm at Hickey’s Almshouses on Sheen Road, Richmond TW9 1XB.
Older residents of Richmond borough and their families are invited to find out more about The Richmond Charities and their beautiful almshouses at the event. The day will include tours of the almshouses and chapel, information about the history of their almshouse estates, discussion about their new almshouse developments, and details about criteria to qualify and how to apply for almshouse accommodation.
There is no need to book and buses 33, 337 and 493 stop right outside.
GARDENERS NEEDED FOR LATCHMERE REC
The Friends of Latchmere Recreation Ground have asked me to share their call for local people who can spare an hour a month to help in the Rec. The raised beds in the sensory garden need more care and they are looking for a few more people to help out once a month. It involves weeding and general garden care, and experience gardening is not required. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
TEA AND TREATS
The next Tea and Treats will be on Friday 7th July at Swinnerton Hall, 62, Gibbon Road, Kingston, KT2 6AB from 11am - 2pm.
Tea and Treats offers a warm, welcoming, and inclusive space where people come together and meet others from the area. Whether you live on your own and feel like a change of scenery, want a place to visit for a free cup of tea, want to take a dependent friend or relative out, are new to the area, or just want to enjoy a free lunch of nutritious soup followed by delicious homemade cake, you are sure to find a warm welcome and interesting companions there. No need to book, just turn up!