With petrol shortages still affecting my constituents, I wrote to the Prime Minister this week about the Government’s short- and long-term plans to address the current shortage of HGV drivers. While I was pleased to see the Government create short-term visas for foreign HGV drivers to help alleviate the problem, I was concerned to learn earlier this week that just 27 fuel tanker drivers from the EU had applied to work in Britain under this inadequate emergency scheme.
In my letter I ask if the Government will extend these temporary visas from 3 months long to 6-12 months long to make them more attractive to foreign HGV drivers. The letter also touches on the need for long-term solutions to fortify the skills pipeline to the UK logistics sector and the need to tackle the backlog at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency which is preventing HGV licenses from being processed.
I also wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to try to get more information about how the DVLA plans to handle their backlog. Both of my letters were co-signed by all of my fellow Liberal Democrat MPs. You can see my letter to the the Prime Minister here and my letter to the Transport Secretary here.
With Parliament in recess I have had the opportunity to spend more time on events and visits in the constituency.
Last Friday I visited Hickeys Almshouses for their Macmillan Big Coffee Morning. The almshouses are owned and operated by the Richmond Charities and have been housing and supporting elderly people in Richmond for over 400 years. Today there are 140 properties spread over ten estates in Richmond and Twickenham. It was fantastic to meet and speak with residents and I look forward to returning to their head office in a few weeks to find out more about the work they’re doing in the community.
I also visited the American University in Richmond. It was interesting to hear that they are relocating to Chiswick Park, while retaining the word ‘Richmond’ in their name. They reported that 80% of their students come from outside the UK, which has meant they have endured a particularly tough 18 months due to the pandemic and Brexit.
I was also pleased to visit the book launch for ‘HOPE’, written and illustrated by Anstee Bridge students, an organisation which provides an alternative learning programme for young people aged 14-16 who are facing emotional challenges that cause them to struggle with and disengage from education.
I then had the pleasure of attending an event to celebrate Brite Box. This is a project which helps families across Richmond, Kingston and Southwark to address the growing issue of food hunger. Each family is in the project for a year and receives a weekly Brite Box containing ingredients and a printed recipe guide, with photos illustrating step by step how to cook a healthy meal together as a family. Brite Box currently supports 430 local families.
RICHMOND MAYOR'S CIVIC SERVICE
Last Sunday I was pleased to join the Mayor of Richmond upon Thames, Councillor Geoff Acton, as he recognised the work of local front-line service workers for their service throughout the pandemic at a special ceremony at York House last Sunday. The service recognised the people who helped others during the pandemic and honoured those lost during the pandemic. I was proud to represent my constituents at this lovely ceremony. (Photo below.)
COFFEE MORNINGS IN THE CONSTITUENCY
I have hosted the first three of my neighbourhood coffee mornings this week, and have really enjoyed the opportunity to speak to constituents face to face again. It has been extremely useful to hear the variety of concerns brought up for discussion by attendees, and I am grateful to those who came for sharing their thoughts with me and with each other.
I would like to thank the New Inn in Ham, the Kew Gardens Hotel in Kew, and The Mitre in Richmond for kindly providing space for my coffee mornings this week. All three are charming and welcoming local spaces. I especially thank Tilly and Tara at the New Inn, Patricia at the Kew Gardens Hotel and Chris French, owner of The Mitre for their hospitality. If these are your locals, please do pop in to see them!
There are still some spaces available for my Mortlake and Sheen coffee morning next Tuesday, October 12 at 11:00 in East Sheen. If you are a local resident, you are invited to sign up here. I will be organising more coffee mornings in other neighbourhoods soon.
SPEED LIMIT FOR CYCLISTS IN RICHMOND PARK There has recently been some debate around whether or not, like motorists, cyclists must stick to the 20mph speed limit in Richmond Park. Following a Freedom of Information request, a cycling campaigner is claiming that the 20mph speed limit does not apply to them. I am concerned that if this claim is true, it could lead to considerable anxiety amongst pedestrians – particularly those with mobility issues and those accompanied by small children – who may feel that not regulating cycle speeds will endanger them. With that in mind, I have written to Royal Parks in the hope of securing some clarity on the matter. You can see my letter here.
INCIDENTS IN RICHMOND PARK: APPEAL FOR WITNESSES
There have sadly been two separate instances of cyclists being attacked in Richmond Park this week. On Wednesday a cyclist was approached by two males on e-scooters before being pushed off and having his bike stolen. Royal Parks Police are appealing for witnesses to step forward. If you have any dash cam or headcam footage, please e-mail RichmondPark@met.police.uk and quote CAD ref 0709961/21.
In addition, yesterday, a group of four males approached a cyclist before knocking him over. Royal Parks Police are again appealing for witnesses to step forward. If you have any footage, please call 101 and quote CAD ref 5103/070ct. Officers have been asked to patrol the locations.
COVID-19 VACCINE BOOSTERS
Booster vaccine doses are being made available for those most at risk from Covid-19 who have already had two doses of a vaccine. People who need the booster will be contacted by the NHS when there has been at least a six month gap from their second vaccination. Please wait to be contacted by your GP and/or the NHS itself with instructions for booking your booster. NHS Southwest London has written to me to assure me they have sufficient supply of the vaccine across South West London and capacity for thousands of appointments at more than 40 vaccination sites.
Their flu vaccination programme is also up and running and helps protect from serious complications from getting flu. They are encouraging people that are eligible for a Covid-19 booster to also ask about their flu vaccination. If offered both vaccines, it is safe to have them at the same time.
Additional information about eligibility and availability can be found on their website here.
HATE CRIME AWARENESS WEEK
To mark National Hate Crime Awareness Week (9-16 October 2021), Richmond Council is calling for everybody to play their part in reporting hate crime. Hate crime are crimes that are targeted at a person because of prejudice towards them.
You can report a hate crime or incident in the following ways:
· Call 999 if it is an emergency and a crime is in progress.
· Call 101 in a non-emergency to report, whether you’re a victim or making a report for someone else.
· Report it online via the Met Police website
· If you want to report crime completely anonymously to the police, use https://crimestoppers-uk.org
· Stop Hate UK offers a 24-hour telephone number for people wanting to report hate crime. They also offer support and advice to those affected by hate crime and discrimination. Call 0800 138 1625 or go to www.stophateuk.org/report-hate-crime
· For a confidential 24-hour helpline for young people under 18, call 0808 801 0576 or text 07717 989 025 or visit www.callhateout.org
In the wake of so many violent attacks against women recently, men who would like to know how they can help are invited to attend an online "Stand by Her" training workshop for men only on October 15 from 1pm – 4pm. The workshop is designed by women to help men address misogynistic behaviour effectively and increase their understanding of the factors that underpin sexual harassment, abuse, and violence towards women. Register here.
WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY
This World Mental Health Day, 10 October, Richmond Council is shining a light on support services available to children and young people who might need help with their mental health, which include:
· Kooth is a free, safe and anonymous place for young people to find online support and counselling.
· Off The Record, Twickenham, offers free drop-in counselling for young people aged 11–24 living, working or studying in the borough of Richmond
· Beat Eating Disorders has helplines open 365 days a year and a one-to-one web chat service.
If you are a parent or carer who is concerned about your child’s mental health, you can see the summary of services available in the borough for children and young people. And you can access the Young Minds parent helpline and webchat and NHS every mind matters webpage for support and information .
Additionally, Richmond Borough Mind is hosting a free workshop on tips and techniques for managing mental wellbeing on Monday 11 October at midday. Register to attend.
If you would like to support local charities that provide for young people’s mental health, you can donate to the Richmond Voluntary Fund. The charities for 2021/22 are Off the Record, Richmond Borough Mind, Dose of Nature and Marble Hill Playcentres. If you can, please donate.
YOUR RICHMOND CARD AND THE RINGGO PARKING APP
Residents of Richmond borough might like to know that they can get their free 30 minutes of parking or discounted parking even if they pay using the RingGo app on their phone by linking it to their Richmond Card. More information about the connecting your Richmond Card to your RIngGo app, and a link to apply for a Richmond card if you don't have one can be found here.
RIVER MOORINGS CONSULTATION
Kingston Council is considering introducing managed moorings, and licensing of commercial activities such as boat hire. They would like to hear your views and ideas on the management of mooring along the riverside and how this can be improved to ensure safe access for all. Have your say at kingstonletstalk.co.uk/river-moorings . This consultation is closing on Monday 11 October.
QUEENS ROAD AND CRESCENT ROAD CONSULTATION
if you live in or near to Queen's Road or Crescent Road, you can now have your say on the width restrictions on Crescent Road and Queen's Road and the 20mph limit on Queen's Road. Kingston Council wants to know whether you would like to make these measures permanent. The deadline for feedback is 24 October and you can have your say by completing this short survey.
KINGSTON PEACE COUNCIL CONCERT
On Saturday 16 October Musicians for Peace and Disarmament will be hosting a Piano recital by Julian Jacobson with Mariko Brown. The concert will be at St Mary’s Church, Barnes SW13 9HL at 7.30pm. The concert will feature music by Fauré, Debussy, Poulenc, Kapustin, Ravel and Gershwin. Tickets can be booked online at www.mpdconcerts.org for £15 or you can make a contactless payment at the door.
Opening the Sea Scouts' new hut, the Mayor's Civic Service and Rudi's pizza at The Mitre pub in Richmond