As we take another step out of lockdown this week and start looking forward to the reopening of pubs and restaurants on April 12, I am calling on the Government to help the hospitality sector to rebuild. Failure to give restaurants, pubs and bars enough support has seen too many small businesses close for good, with thousands more on the brink. The Government must give them both financial support and clear guidance on issues such as social distancing requirements, legal issues around vaccinations, etc.
I am joining my Liberal Democrat colleagues this week in calling for a national pub bailout programme. The pub is a cornerstone of British culture, and pubs employ millions of people. We cannot leave them to sink under the financial losses of the past year.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE REPLACEMENT FERRY ANNOUNCEMENT
Transport for London announced today that the contract for the Hammersmith Bridge replacement ferry has been awarded to Uber Boats by Thames Clippers. The service will take pedestrians and cyclists between piers located near Queen Caroline Street in Hammersmith and the Hammersmith Bridge approach in Barnes. The ferry will have a minimum capacity of 800 passengers an hour at peak times, with services running daily from 06:00 to 22:00.
Fares are expected to mirror buses at £1.55, subject to necessary approvals. This would include a Hopper option and the acceptance of TfL concessions, including Freedom Passes and free travel for children. The service is expected to be running by the end of the summer.
I welcome the news that a contractor has been appointed for the replacement ferry, and am very happy that some relief is in sight at last. However, I am keen to ensure that the Government does not use this to avoid making the necessary financial commitment to the full bridge repairs.
The passenger-carrying capacity of the ferry will be significantly lower than the Bridge and for thousands of my constituents the inconvenience will continue. We need access restored for pedestrians and cyclists at an absolute minimum, but for that to happen the Government must be prepared to underwrite the cost of the permanent repairs.
Over a month has passed since the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham submitted its funding proposal, yet we have heard nothing from the Government. I will continue to push the Secretary of State for Transport to stop dragging his feet and take the steps necessary for permanent repairs to commence.
ROYAL PARKS PARKING CHARGES
As many of you will have heard, Royal Parks recently announced that it intends to proceed with proposals to introduce parking charges in Richmond and Bushy Parks. The fees for both parks will be will be £1.40 per hour Monday to Friday, and £2.00 per hour at the weekend, to a maximum of six hours on any day.
I fully recognise the concerns some local residents have about this announcement and will be speaking with Royal Parks to seek urgent clarification on what kind of impact it will have. Many people will be rightly anxious that there will be a significant increase in parking outside their homes, which is practically and environmentally troublesome.
While I welcome Royal Parks’ assertion that the revenue raised will go into improving infrastructure and projects that will help visitors access the park without a car, I note that the vast majority of survey respondents objected to the idea. It is imperative, therefore, that the impact this will have on my constituents is addressed and mitigated in a transparent and satisfactory way.
HAM GATE TOILETS LETTER TO ROYAL PARKS TRUSTEES
Users of Richmond Park will also know that I have been calling for the toilets at Ham Gate to be reopened, in conjunction with all three Ham and Petersham ward councillors. Having been unsuccessful both in persuading park management to change their plans, and in appealing directly to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, we have now written to the Royal Parks trustees, asking them to step in and reopen the toilets. The closure disproportionately affects women, families with young children, the elderly, the disabled and those with health conditions. Furthermore, people in need of the loo take to the bushes and woods opposite the toilets to relieve themselves, which is unsanitary and unpleasant for all.
At a time when we are rightly encouraging people to embrace the outdoors to exercise and preserve their mental health, we must not put in place measures that hinder their ability to do so. You can see our joint letter to the Trustees here.
SCHOOL VISITS LAST WEEK
Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting two schools in the constituency: St Richard's Church of England Primary School in Ham and the German School in Petersham.
At the German School, I enjoyed seeing an exhibition by students celebrating and documenting 50 years of the German School in London. In addition to meeting with Head Christian Nitschke and history teacher Mrs Staschen-Dielman, I was very pleased to meet the Educational and Cultural Representative from the German Embassy, Mr Teepe. The school is feeling the effects of both Brexit and Covid-19, and teachers spoke to me about their concerns regarding the mental health of children and young people in these difficult times. This is a subject I am working hard on already, and I appreciated their insights.
At St Richard's C of E Primary School in Ham I met with headteacher Carmen Palmer, and had the great pleasure of being her surprise guest at their virtual Easter Bonnet Parade. Ms Palmer spoke to me about the funding problems facing all state schools at the moment: loss of income and increased expenses during the pandemic, plus the particular problems they are having getting SEND funding because referral processes have been slowed down by Covid-19. We have a great deal of catching up to do post-Covid, including on SEND provision.
My visits to both schools demonstrated the kindness, ingenuity and dedication of our teachers and other school staff. I would like to salute the efforts they have made throughout the pandemic as well as the resilience of their pupils and families.
From left: viewing the German School exhibit - Mr Nitschke, Mrs Staschen-Dielman, myself and Cllr Penny Frost, Chair of the Education and Children's Services Committee for Richmond Council; St Richard's C of E Primary School classroom; and the Easter celebration at St Richard's
JOIN ME FOR A PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION ON APRIL 13 On April 13 at 7:00pm I will be joined by Daisy Cooper MP, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Education, and Ian Dodds, Director of Children's Services for Richmond and Kingston boroughs, for a panel discussion on the future of education after Covid-19.
I plan to talk to Daisy and Ian about the ways the landscape of education will be permanently changed by the pandemic. What positives will come out of this experience, and what lessons do we need to learn from it? How will schools cope with future challenges, and what can we do to support our children in their education going forward? The panel will also answer questions from attendees. You can sign up for this exciting event here.
This week, I would like to spotlight the OSO Arts centre in Barnes. The OSO hosts plays, fairs, exhibitions and classes that have been at the centre of Barnes’ cultural life for over two decades. Like so many arts centres, the OSO has struggled financially throughout the pandemic. An army of local volunteers have worked tirelessly to keep essential services up and running, despite the tremendous challenges faced by the arts this past year. I extend my gratitude to the staff at OSO Arts Centre for their work.
Atlas Butcher at 112 Kew Road has been recommended by my Kew constituents as a stand-out local business, providing excellent customer service and a quality array of organic meats with fresh fruit and vegetables. Atlas is one of the many wonderful locally owned businesses that has provided exceptional service throughout the pandemic.
If you know of any individuals, businesses, or organisations that you would like to spotlight, please email them to Charlotte.Weir@Parliament.uk.
CONSULTATION ON AUTUMN 2021 EXAMS
With the Easter school holidays upon us, parents of older pupils will be thinking about their GCSE, AS and A Level exams and grades. When the government set out its policy on how grades for these qualifications should be issued, it also confirmed that it wanted students to have the opportunity to take exams in autumn 2021 if they wish, to try and improve on the teacher assessed grades they will be awarded this summer. The Department for Education is seeking views on how this autumn exam series should run.
The Department is proposing that:
any student who receives a teacher assessed grade in summer 2021, or who would have taken exams if they had not been cancelled, should be able to enter the autumn exams
grades should be determined by a student’s performance in the exams alone, with the exception of art and design qualifications
art and design should be assessed through students completing an exam board’s set task only
students will be able to use, and get certificates for, the better of the summer or the autumn grade
The consultation on these plans is open to anyone who may wish to respond until 9 April. For more details about the proposals for the autumn exams, and to take part in the consultation, click here.
You might also find this poster about how grades will be assessed and awarded this summer useful.
MESSAGE FROM RICHMOND'S DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH
With the relaxation of some of the COVID-19 restrictions this week Richmond Council’s Director of Public Health Shannon Katiyo encourages people to stay local, follow the rule of six and have a regular asymptomatic test to avoid the spread of the virus.
Residents who are going out and about for work or volunteering / caring responsibilities, are reminded that home test kits are available to be collected from the Sheen Lane Centre and the testing site at St Mary’s University Broom Road sports campus in Teddington. You can also do an in-person test at Sheen Lane Centre. The Council will be announcing further locations where people can collect tests in the next few weeks. The Clarendon Hall testing centre in Twickenham will be closing tomorrow.
FUNDRAISING FOR LOCAL CHARITIES: THE MAYOR'S QUIZ NIGHT
On Saturday 10 April at 7.00pm, residents are invited to a quiz night part hosted by Mayor of Richmond Geoff Acton, featuring multiple themed rounds to test your general knowledge. All proceeds will go directly to the Mayor’s charities: Dose of Nature and Habitats & Heritage. Both charities aim to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the borough and connect people with the outdoors. Tickets are £10 and are on sale now here.
RESPONSIBLE GREEN WASTE DISPOSAL
The Council has written to me to say that some people have recently been disposing of their green garden waste in parks and open spaces. Fly tipping of this sort is both illegal and potentially damaging to wildlife as it interferes with the natural processes of the site it is dumped in.
Residents are reminded that there are a number of ways to dispose of green waste including subscribing to the Council’s Green Waste collection scheme, booking a slot to bring Green Waste for free to Townmead Road Household Waste and Recycling Centre, or home composting. For more information about Green Waste, go to www.richmond.gov.uk/garden_recycling
FUNDS AVAILABLE FOR YOUNG CLIMATE ACTIVISTS
The Richmond and Kingston Youth Council’s Richmond Climate Change Youth Fund is available to those aged 11-19 who want to develop new and exciting projects to help tackle climate change. Projects should focus on one or more of these areas:
· Energy efficiency and water saving
· Air quality (travel)
· Waste and recycling
· Re-using / repurposing / fast fashion
You can apply between 1 April and 31 May 2021and may be be awarded up to £1,500. Applicants must live or go to school in Richmond upon Thames and have an adult sponsor who will be supporting the project – for example a teacher, parent or youth worker. For more information, click here.
HEAR FROM KINGSTON'S DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH
The Royal Borough of Kingston's Director of Public Health Iona Lidington has shared a new video in which she talks to Kingston residents about how Kingston is doing on Covid-19 and what we can do to ensure that the relaxation of lockdown doesn't result in another surge in cases. You can see her thoughts here.
If you would like to hear Iona talk about the virus and the vaccine live, and have an opportunity to ask her your own questions, you can attend the Council's Facebook Live event next Thursday, 8 April, at 6pm to ask Iona and leading Kingston GPs your questions about coronavirus and the vaccine.
You don't need to have a Facebook account to watch the event. Just go to www.facebook.com/RBKingstonCouncil
RAPID COVID-19 TESTING FOR PEOPLE WHO VOLUNTEER OR WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME
Kingston residents who leave home to work or volunteer, and are showing no symptoms of COVID-19, can get regular, rapid coronavirus tests using this link: Book an appointment.
All families, as well as any support or childcare bubbles, of primary and secondary school pupils and staff are also eligible for regular, rapid testing. Find out more. One in three people who have coronavirus don’t have any symptoms, but are still infectious and can pass the virus on to others without realising it. Regular testing can help ensure people can continue to work, volunteer and send their children to school without putting others at risk.
Testing sites for people without symptoms of COVID-19 include Kingston University, Penryhn Road Campus and The Kingston Academy.