On behalf of everyone in Richmond Park I would like to thank all of the council staff and volunteers who ran a successful polling day across both Kingston and Richmond boroughs yesterday in the uniquely challenging conditions raised by the pandemic.
I am very pleased that the elections were able to go ahead this year and that people were able to vote in person in Covid-safe conditions. I look forward to hearing the results of the London elections tomorrow.
GOVERNMENT MUST ADDRESS THE CLADDING SCANDAL
I was pleased to appear on LBC Radio's Cross Question programme on Wednesday. A cross-party panel of politicians discussed topics put forward by listeners, including the listener who brought up the cladding scandal. We still have hundreds of thousands of people still living in buildings with unsafe cladding four years after the Grenfell fire. Many of those people are leaseholders trapped in their flats by the uncertainty over liability for the renovations needed to make them safe.
The Government urgently needs to step in and come up with a viable plan for funding the necessary remedial work. The companies that sold unsafe products need to bear their responsibility, but they won't do so unless forced, and home owners should not have to take them to court.
The Government urgently needs to create a well funded scheme to pay for replacement of dangerous cladding and insulation, and roll it out across the country. Then they need to recoup as much of the cost as possible from the responsible private sector parties, be they manufacturers or developers.
My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I tried to get the recently passed Fire Safety Bill amended to force the Government to do more about this scandalous situation. Sadly, the Bill passed without our amendments, but we will keep pressuring the Government on this issue.
You can see a video of my remarks here.
STANDING UP FOR THE EXCLUDED
Jamie Stone, my Liberal Democrat colleague and Chair of the Gaps in Support All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has launched an inquiry into holes in the goverment's Covid-19 financial assistance programme. The Government must acknowledge the injustice suffered by those who have been left destitute through no fault of their own. This includes workers who, on March 19, 2020, were:
self-employed but had low profits, or profits above £50,000
on parental leave
on short-term PAYE freelance contracts
directors of small limited companies
Any one of us could have changed our job -- or started our own business, or had a baby -- just at the wrong moment, never thinking that a global pandemic was about to shut down the economy, and that these decisions would render us ineligible for the assistance that everyone else was receiving. The Government must take action to help these innocent victims of the pandemic now.
JOIN ME FOR A VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING ON MAY 19
My next Virtual Coffee Morning will be on Wednesday, May 19, at 10:00. You are very welcome to join myself and some of your fellow Richmond Park residents for an update on what I am doing as your MP followed by informal conversation about topics of interest to attendees. You can sign up for any of my fortnightly coffee mornings here.
I would like to once again urge all of my constituents to test themselves for Covid-19 twice a week using free, rapid Lateral Flow Tests. By testing yourself you will be helping to find cases of coronavirus that might otherwise be missed. Remember, one in three people with coronavirus have no symptoms at all, but may still be contagious.
You can take a supervised test or pick up test kits to take home at a testing centre, or order test kits to be delivered to you. Many local pharmacies are also delivering the free kits.
If you live in Kingston borough you can see all the ways to conveniently access testing here.
If you live in Richmond you can see all the testing sites and pickup points here.
Or you can order them for home delivery here.
PARENT CHAMPIONS NETWORK: LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS
The Richmond and Kingston Parent Champions Network is a new volunteer-led project with parents supporting other parents through times of crisis with their adolescent children. The non-professional support network will help guide parents whose children may be at risk of or who have experienced violence, arrest, school exclusion, challenging behaviours, exploitation, or other issues.
Parent Champions will be matched to parents based on their own experiences of similar situations. They will be able to offer unbiased and friendly guidance and support.
If you would like to volunteer to be a Parent Champion or would like to find out more about the network, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07597 528 750. For further information, click here.
SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY - NEW TIMETABLE
From 16 May, South Western Railway will be increasing the number of services it is running, in response to the further easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Their new timetable will see 244 extra trains every weekday, an increase of 19% on current levels, with more than 18,000 extra seats into Waterloo in the morning peak. On weekends, our customers will experience 92% of services on Saturdays and 99% on Sundays, compared to before the pandemic. The increase in services will help support the reopening of the economy as more people start travelling again. You can see their new timetables here.
NEW ACTIVITIES FOR TEENAGERS AT HAM YOUTH CENTRE
Ham Youth Centre's exciting new weekly programme is packed with a wide range of free activities for teenagers. Ham Youth Centre offers a fully equipped gaming lounge with Play Stations, gaming chairs and gaming PCs as well as a new art studio run by professional artists and fashion designers.
Weekly activities include:
Music studio and training in guitar, drums and music production
Handmade Club: textiles, painting, fashion design and printing on fabric.
Girls table tennis
TAG Youth Club:For young people with disabilities
Good4Girls: club focusing on emotional wellbeing, trying new things and having fun
You can find more information on this poster.
VE DAY MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR OF KINGSTON
Tomorrow we commemorate Victory in Europe Day, the day when guns finally fell silent in Europe at the close of the Second World War. This is a time to reflect and to remember the sacrifice made by everyone who lost their life defending the freedoms we enjoy.
Councillor Margaret Thompson, Mayor of Kingston, says: "VE Day is a time to celebrate the ending of hostilities in Europe. It is also a day to reflect, remember and thank those who made a huge sacrifice to secure peace for future generations. Kingston has a proud military history and I would like to share my thanks with all armed forces personnel." I add my own thanks for their service and sacrifice to hers.
KINGSTON YOUNG MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD
Kingston Music Service is launching a new competition for young performers, composers and song-writers who live in or attend a school in the borough. It is open to young people in school years 7-13. Entrants can submit pieces in any genre: classical, pop, jazz, hip-hop, rap etc. The deadline for entries is Friday 11 June. The online event featuring the finalists will stream live on Sunday 4 July. Find out more.