Although I was pleased to hear that the Prime Minister has finally agreed to resign, I was most disappointed with the terms of his departure; he offered no apology to the British people for his dishonesty, his poor leadership and his cavalier disregard for the laws he himself instituted.
Instead of bringing stability to the country following the bitter divisions of Brexit, Boris Johnson brought chaos, incompetence and deepening political polarisation. I can only hope that the person the Conservative Party chooses as our next Prime Minister will be a person of greater integrity and ability.
Despite the ongoing theatrics at Ministerial level, I want to reassure my constituents that I continue to represent your concerns in Parliament and that my work is unaffected. Please do get in touch if you have any personal issues I may be able to assist with, or policy concerns that you would like to discuss.
KINSHIP CARE BILL
I am delighted to co-sponsor my colleague Munira Wilson’s Kinship Care Bill, which she presented to Parliament on Tuesday. This Bill would provide practical and financial support to grandparents, other family members and family friends who step up to care for children when their parents are unable to do so. Kinship carers currently do not receive the financial support that foster carers do. I know that many grandparents have been unable to afford to keep much-loved grandchildren with them. Taking such children into the care system instead is a tragedy for all.
You can read some more detail about the Bill here, and also read a transcript of Munira’s speech in Parliament here. If you are a kinship carer in need of any support, the charity Kinship offer a range of dedicated resources and services that could be of use – for more information please visit their website.
I really hope to see some positive action from the Government in response to this important bill.
MOTION ON ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING
This week, I tabled an Early Day Motion with campaign group FairCharge, calling on the Government to end the discrepancy between the 5 per cent VAT which is paid by those who use private off-street electric vehicle chargers, and the 20 per cent paid by those who use public ones.
Previously, I revealed through a Parliamentary Question that those who do not have access to private off-street charging will often pay over three times more than those who do. Users of private chargers may pay as little as 7.5p/kWh, whereas users of public charging points may face charges of up to 89p/kWh, depending on supplier and time of use.
This problem is particularly felt in London, where a quarter of car owning households across the capital do not have access to off-street parking, including many households in Richmond Park. I urge the Government to meet with us and address this inequality. Should you wish to read the motion, which has received cross-party support, you can do so here.
EDUCATION EVENT: 'MORE THAN A SCORE'
On Tuesday, I attend the ‘More than a Score’ event in Parliament. The event, co-sponsored by my colleague Munira Wilson, the MP for Twickenham, was a fantastic success, highlighting the stress put on pupils and teachers by constant examination at a young age. The Liberal Democrats have therefore committed to ending ‘teaching to the test’, by scrapping existing mandatory SATs and replacing them with a formal, moderated teacher assessment at the end of each phase and some lighter testing.
It is crucial we ensure England’s education system delivers high academic standards while also helping children grow into happy, healthy and confident adults. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I firmly believe that an education system which focuses only on a narrow range of academic subjects and measures pupils’ abilities in a handful of high-pressure exams, does not give young people the skills they need to get on in life, or inspire confidence and a love of learning.
I look forward to working with Munira to continue this campaign, which you can read more about here.
CHILDCARE FOR DISADVANTAGED 3 YEAR OLDS
During my recent visit to Windham Nursery, I was surprised to learn that disadvantaged children who receive extra educational support from the government when aged two have this support removed from them by the time they turn three if their parents do not work enough hours. The current eligibility criteria means that a family on £198,000 a year can qualify for extra hours for their three year olds, while children from families living on less than £16,000 a year may not. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Education to request the policy be reviewed and to ensure that those children who most need support get the start in life that they deserve. You can learn more about eligibility for early years childcare here.
There have been worrying rumours circulating in the media this week that night flight restrictions may be relaxed over the summer to ease the chaos at airports. As staff shortages are the primary cause of the current delays at Heathrow, this misguided policy would inevitably have very little gain while inflicting a heavy toll on our community.
In coordination with my parliamentary colleagues as well as local campaign groups, I have demanded clarification from the Department for Transport on these rumours and requested that the policy be publicly rejected. More information on the possible relaxation of rules is available, to those with a Times subscription, here.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of opening the Mortlake Fair, held in conjunction with St Mary Magdalene's primary school. It was a wonderful community event and I very much enjoyed seeing all the children out having fun with their families and neighbours.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit Kingston's National Citizen Service (NCS) group, learning about the projects the young participants were working on. Last week they had been taking part in outdoor activities, workshops on public speaking and debates, an enterprise challenge, and sessions focused around empathy, purpose, integrity and having a can-do attitude. This week they have explored their community, completing social action projects.
NCS is a fantastic programme for 16-17 year olds, giving them invaluable opportunities for fun, learning and growth. The programme is supported by government funding, so the whole two weeks, including four nights away from home, costs no more than £50, with bursaries available for the fee for those who need it. You can learn more about NCS here.
Last night I was delighted to attend the graduation ceremony for Anstee Bridge school at Kingston's Guildhall. Mayor Sushila Abrams was also there, along with beloved children's author Dame Jacqueline Wilson, one of the school's patrons. It was a most inspiring event, highlighting the achievements pupils have made despite facing a variety of challenges.
BARNES BUS CHANGES
Earlier this week, I wrote to Sadiq Khan to protest the cuts that are planned for the 378, 209, and 533 bus routes. Since Hammersmith Bridge’s closure, these routes have been a lifeline for the local community, ensuring that Barnes does not become isolated from the rest of London. These cuts will place even greater pressure on the already buckling road network, while inconveniencing my constituents. I urge all affected residents to make your views known to TfL before the end of the consultation period. Have your say by clicking the link here.
COVID 19 VACCINATIONS
Even if you haven't had your first jab yet it's never too late to start. Vaccination is the very best protection against severe illness or hospitalisation from COVID-19. With infection rates very high right now, unvaccinated people are at high risk of illness.
All those eligible for the top-up 'spring' booster who have yet to have it are encouraged to get it as soon as possible. The booster dose will not only give you protection this summer amid rising infection levels, but also allow you to get any vaccine available this autumn at the right time to maximise your protection over winter. A top up booster vaccine (first available in March of this year) is available for anyone who:
was aged over 75 as at 30 June
is aged 12 or over and living with a weakened immune system
lives in a care home for older people.
Children aged 5 or older are eligible for a 1st and 2nd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Children can get vaccinated alongside family members at many sites across southwest London.
As the demand for vaccination is lower now, some local vaccination sites will be closing. I strongly recommend booking your slot in advance here instead of walking in.
TIM HIPPERSON'S KILLER CONVICTED
Following a trial at the Old Bailey last Friday, drug dealer Oliver Muldowney was found guilty of the murder of Tim Hipperson in Peldon Passage in Richmond last May. Muldowney's associate Jonathan David Nash was also found guilty of two counts of being concerned with the supply of heroin and crack cocaine. I hope that the successful prosecution of this appalling crime is of some comfort to Tim Hipperson's friends and family.
SCHOOLS TO MARKET 2022
On Wednesday 13th July from 11.00am – 1.00pm at Whole Foods in Richmond, children from Grey Court School, Sheen Mount Primary School, Trafalgar Infants School, and St Richard’s RC Primary School will be selling delicious chutneys and sauces they have prepared at school from produce grown in the school garden or harvested from a local farm. I bought chutney from the children in this programme last year and can attest it was most delicious!
The children have put four months of hard work into this project; they have grown, harvested, cooked, packaged and designed their products. They will be practising their marketing skills to raise money to reinvest into their food education projects. Please stop by and see their wares on the 13th, and if you would like to learn more about the Schools to Market programme, click here.
STREET LIGHTING SURVEY
As part of Richmond Council’s work to tackle violence against women and girls, residents are encouraged to request additional street lighting on the borough’s public roads and footpaths where they feel unsafe.
Whilst better street lighting alone will not necessarily make Richmond upon Thames safer for women and girls, councillors have received feedback about certain streets in the borough where inadequate lighting makes people feel unsafe. To get a better picture of where these streets are, the Council is reminding residents that they can request additional lighting on public highways and footpaths by completing the online form. The request will then be subject to an assessment. Please note that the Council can only add lighting to public highways and not to private land.
Whilst this form is limited to street lighting, the Met Police also have a StreetSafe website where you can record areas where you feel unsafe due to other factors such as abandoned buildings, vandalism, or where perhaps you have been followed or verbally abused. The police will then use this information to work with the Council on additional changes such as installing CCTV or introducing night-time patrols.
SUMMER LIBRARY COMPETITIONS
The short story competition is open to anyone with a Kingston Library card including those with temporary online memberships. There are some amazing prizes available including cash prizes and four tickets to the Rose Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol! All shortlisted entries will appear in a short story collection published by Kingston University Press and will be available to buy from Kingston Libraries in 2023. The short story competition closes on 31 October. Find out how to enter.
The Summer Reading Challenge for children is also back, and this year's theme is Gadgeteers. From tomorrow, Kingston Libraries will be challenging all children aged 4 - 11 to come in and borrow six library books to take home during the summer. They'll get a mini prize for each book they read plus a medal for all those who complete the challenge by 10 September.
ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING POINTS
As part of its ambition for a 'cleaner and greener' Kingston, the council is working to provide more electric vehicle (EV) charging points. Following an initial introduction of EV charging points last year, Kingston is now looking to deliver a further 150 charging points throughout 2022. As part of the project, they would like to understand local views on the suggested locations for the charging points, as well as suggestions on future locations, and likely usage habits. Visit the Let's Talk portal for the full list of locations and have your say by 29 July.