Following the dismaying news of the demise of Arcadia this week I participated in an Urgent Question in the chamber about support for the retail sector and replacing jobs on the high street. I believe the Government can do more to work with local authorities to offer incentives to small businesses to fill the space formerly occupied by department stores like Debenhams, working with small businesses on business rate relief etc. You can see my question and the response from Undersecretary of State (Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets) Paul Scully above.
I also believe we can all take steps to support small and local businesses and keep our high streets vibrant by shopping local this Christmas. Kingston Council wrote to me this week to give me the welcome news that shops in the town centre are reporting strong sales in the first couple of days of reopening. They have asked me to tell you that many shops have extended opening hours and are much less busy after 5pm so people can spread out their visits to shop more safely. Teams from across Kingston Council are working to help make the whole experience of shopping and eating locally as safe as possible.
Richmond Council has also been in touch to ask me to encourage everyone to support their local business community. To that end, the Richmond Card has teamed up with Visit Richmond to continue the #RichmondShopsLocal campaign. Go to the Visit Richmond pages, for shopping highlights in all of the town centres, and view the Richmond Card offers list to see special Christmas offers from local independent shops across the Borough.
I learned today from London's Strategic Coordinating Group today that case rates across London have plateaued and are not declining as in recent weeks. London's 7-day case rate is currently 155.8 per 100,000. Richmond's rate is at 90, but Kingston's is quite worrying at 180. The situation is unstable and we all need to do everything we can to get that transmission rate down if we are to avoid going into Tier 3.
I was very happy to hear from the Health Secretary that quick turnaround Covid-19 tests have started rolling out to care homes now, so up to two people will be soon be able to safely visit their loved ones each week. I know how much distress it caused to my constituents to have their visits restricted and how much it will mean to you to be able to see your family members again. I hope that helps make Christmas a little brighter for all.
The news about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine being approved is a wonderful ray of hope this week. I understand that the first people to be vaccinated will have their jabs next week. This is truly the light at the end of the tunnel we have all been hoping to see, though it may be several months before the full programme is complete.
In the meantime, people who fall into one of these categories are eligible for a flu jab. This helps the NHS, so please should contact your GP or pharmacy about getting one:
Adults over 50
Those who have an underlying health condition
Children aged 2-3 years old
All primary school children and those in year 7
Household contacts of those on the NHS shielded patient list for Covid-19
Those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
Frontline health and social care workers
Lastly, I've been noticing a lot of discarded face masks littering the streets in the area. Can I please ask residents to be careful when taking off mask to ensure they make it into a bin, or into your pocket or bag? Disposable face masks can't be recycled and are hazardous to health. They should be put into a general waste bin at home if you can't find a public litter bin with space in it while you are out.
ROYAL PARKS RICHMOND PARK TRAFFIC TRIALS CONSULTATION
The Royal Parks consultation on their traffic trials continues until January 10. I strongly encourage everyone who uses the park in any way, or will be otherwise affected by changes to the rules of use in the park, to participate in the consultation. You can find it here.
PRESSURE ON THE POST OFFICE
A number of residents have written to me this week with concerns about long lines outside post offices. Post offices have been under enormous pressure throughout Covid-19 due to staff absence from illness or exposure to the virus, plus a considerable rise in people posting gifts and online small trading. With the Christmas rush upon us, my correspondents are concerned about elderly and frail customers waiting outside in the cold.
Can I please ask my constituents, in the spirit of Christmas, to look out for someone who may be vulnerable waiting in a queue with them, and offer to give way to them? We all need to pull together during these difficult times and it's so easy to be absorbed in our own concerns and not notice someone else's distress.
Alternatively, you may also find it convenient to have your parcel collected from home using the Royal Mail's new service. You can see more details about that here.
VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING NEXT WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 9
There are still spaces left at next week's Virtual Coffee Morning. This will be the last coffee morning of 2020, so if you fancy an informal chat about local and national issues with your MP and some of your fellow constituents, please sign up here.
PRAISE FOR RICHMOND'S PARKS
I was pleased to hear this week that Richmond upon Thames ranked 4th in the Good Parks for London annual report, an increase from 8th place last year. The borough scored highly for public satisfaction (97%) for the delivery of its park services through its partnerships.
If you want to celebrate Richmond's parks yourself, why not take part in a local photography competition to showcase and celebrate the borough’s local habitats and heritage? To find out more click here.
Share some winter sparkle and win a prize! RICHMOND SPARKLE
I was delighted to learn this week about the community led campaign in Richmond going by the name of #RichmondSparkle. Residents are encouraged to light up their homes and businesses, share them on social media and be in with a chance of winning a prize. I look forward to seeing the streets of Richmond looking bright and cheerful! Watch here.
Mayor’s (virtual) Christmas charity quiz!
Clever constituents may want to Join the Mayor, Cllr Margaret Thompson, for an evening of trivia and festive fun on Thursday 10 December at 7.30pm for a virtual edition of Kingston's Great Christmas Quiz. The event is in aid of the Mayor's Charitable Trust, fundraising for two local charities - Kingston Centre for Independent Living, and the youth charity Oxygen.
FOOD AND GIFT DONATIONS FOR NEEDY FAMILIES AT CHRISTMAS
If you are in a position to donate this Christmas, Kingston Stronger Together has seen a huge rise in demand for food donations over the past month. The most needed items are listed here, but long-life Christmas treats are also warmly welcomed and will provide some festive magic for our residents in need.
Kingston's wonderful Street Champs are volunteering their homes as safe, secure and local drop off points across the borough. You can drop off food to over 100 locations in Kingston. Supplies are then collected and delivered to food banks.
You can also drop off Christmas gift donations to Street Champs, who are collecting these on behalf of Growbaby. Growbaby provides a wonderful Christmas toy and present service for children and care leavers across the borough and would appreciate donations of suitable gifts for older teenagers.