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Richmond Park News: 9 June 2023

SUPPORTING IRANIAN CITIZENS

Last Friday, I met with members of Richmond Park's thriving Iranian community at Diba Persian Restaurant in Richmond, to discuss the current situation in Iran and the Government’s response.

This week, after my constituents were kind enough to share their knowledge and personal experiences, I took the opportunity to speak in Parliament to raise their concerns and urge the Government to take appropriate action in response to the atrocities the Iranian regime has committed.

I strongly urged the Government to proscribe the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation. I also asked the Minister for an update as to why the Government has not done so already, as other countries have. I spoke of the physical threats many Iranians here in London have received, and raised the issue of US sanctions on Iran impacting the bank accounts of innocent Iranians in Richmond Park and across Britain, which the Minister agreed to look into.

My special thanks go to all the Iranians who came to speak with me, and especially to Shideh, who helped organise the meeting, to Hamed and his team at Diba for hosting the meeting, and to 11&Co in East Sheen who kindly sent over delicious cakes for us.


You may watch a clip of my contribution here. Should you wish to read a transcript of the debate, you may do so here.



LONDON SCHOOL CLOSURES

On Wednesday afternoon, I participated in a debate on a serious issue facing some of the schools in my constituency - falling roll numbers.


The falling birth rate in London, along with changes in local demographics, has led to a decline in pupil numbers in some areas. As funding is allocated on a per pupil basis, this has led to tightening budgets for many schools and potential closures.

I spoke about the impact that declining pupil numbers has had on Richmond Park, referencing affected schools and parents. I am concerned about these local schools struggling to provide basic services and supplies with reduced funding. Cutting costs makes it particularly difficult to provide sufficient support for students with special needs.

I urged the Government to listen to the needs of local authorities and take action to ensure all schools have the funding they need to provide high quality education for every child.

You may watch a clip of my contribution here, and read a transcript of the debate here.

BIKE THEFT

This week, research I commissioned found that last year in London, 93% of bike thefts went unsolved by police - a total of 15,899 thefts. This is in contrast with the mere 136 thefts, or 1.1%, that resulted in a charge or summons.

So many of my constituents use bikes to commute, for exercise or to enjoy family days out. Yet, Home Office Ministers seem content to let tens of thousands of thefts go uninvestigated every year.

Since 2015, Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) numbers have also plummeted, with over 4,000 PCSOs being taken off the streets, including many in London.

It is absolutely paramount that we see a reopening of Richmond Police station and a proper return to community policing, where our fantastic local officers are given the resources they need to effectively tackle crime. Should you wish to see the research written up in the media, you can do so on the BBC here, and the Evening Standard here.


LOCAL RADIO FUNDING CUTS

On Wednesday, I attended the National Union of Journalists meeting in Parliament to campaign against proposed cuts to BBC Local Radio, particularly those faced by BBC London.

As I have written to my constituents about previously, these cuts would decimate our local service, cutting most local programming after 6pm on weekdays and on weekend afternoons and evenings.

At the event, I spoke against the cuts, and emphasised the impact they would have on communities for which radio is highly important. I will continue to work with my colleagues from across parties to reverse these proposals, and to maintain the excellent content of BBC Radio London we all enjoy.


PET THEFT AND IMPORTATION BILL

This week, I was proud to be able to offer my support to my fellow Lib Dem MP Tim Farron’s Pets (Theft and Importation) Bill, which is designed to crack down on puppy smuggling, dog theft, and the illegal importation of dogs, cats and ferrets.

This bill is identical to the legislation that the Government recently abandoned. I hope that despite the Conservatives' reluctance to crack down on crimes against animals, it will receive cross party support from every MP committed to animal welfare. This bill is far too important to be put aside.


Under current law, stealing a pet is no different from stealing a television or other property. This has to change. We say dogs are our best friends, but whether this bill passes or fails will show just what kind of friend we are to them.



CRIME: MOTHERS AGAINST MUGGING

This week, it was great to see two of my most public-spirited constituents Felicity and Barbara interviewed on their work leading Mothers Against Mugging, a grassroots campaign set up to help keep kids safe and parents informed.


While all the advice they offer our local young people is excellent, perhaps the most innovative part of their campaign has been the creation of a specialised card holder printed with key phone numbers, advice, and information in case they are attacked and robbed.


Most children tend to store their Oyster in their phone case, meaning that if they are mugged, they have no way to get home as well, as no way to contact their parents. This card holder solves this problem by keeping their Oyster card safe, and it means a child knows right away who to ask for help.


I am proud to support the Mothers Against Muggings campaign and this week have written to the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime to ask if she would consider meeting with the group, We will ask her to support making the new card holders available in every school in the capital. You can read more about Mothers Against Muggings' work here, see their interview here, and my letter to the Deputy Mayor here.


HEATHROW: NOISE ACTION PLAN


This week, Heathrow launched the consultation for their Noise Action Plan 2024-2028. This plan lays out the guidelines and targets Heathrow will follow when attempting to limit the impact of noise on residents living in West London.


While I was pleased to see that following my campaign last summer, Heathrow will be committing to a number of new restrictions on night flights, including a voluntary ban between midnight and 4:30 am, I do not believe it goes anywhere near far enough.


I would like to see Heathrow committing to a total ban on night time flying, to ensure that residents can get a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. They should also be setting bold targets to reduce the impact of noise on residents through increasing take-off inclines and harsher penalties for avoidable delays.


Some of the plan’s phrasing is also concerning. Where previously, Heathrow would cover the costs of insulation of many properties under the flight paths, now their focus will be placed on certain “priority homes”. I will be investigating this further, but I suspect this might mean some of my residents will no longer be eligible.


If you would like to learn more about the plan and respond to the consultation, you can do so with the link here.


HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE: WANDSWORTH BRIDGE

Residents in the northeast of the constituency will likely already be aware that from July 24th Wandsworth Bridge will be closed for a period of ten weeks. I fear that, combined with the continued closure of Hammersmith Bridge, this will mean huge congestion leading towards both Chiswick and Putney Bridge. I would urge residents wherever possible to avoid driving across these routes.


My office has contacted Wandsworth Council to request further information on the closure, including a technical breakdown of the repairs and detailed timeline for the works. I will also be speaking with my colleagues on both the local and regional level to see what kind of contingencies can be put in place in case of a long, drawn-out repair time. For more information on the closure of Wandsworth Bridge, visit Wandsworth Council’s website here.



LOCAL VISITS


I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Kingston's Repair Cafe last week at Kingston Library. The Repair Cafe is a community initiative, promoting repair and skill-sharing as sustainable alternatives to throwing things away. Residents can bring broken items to fix on the spot with the help of experienced volunteer repairers. All repairs and refreshments are free, though donations towards costs are welcome. Repair Café Kingston takes place on the first Saturday of each month, and the next one will be on 1 July. You can find out more here or just come along to one of the Saturday morning sessions.


Last Friday I was delighted to be visited the founders of the Pearl Project last week. This is a groundbreaking project from Voices of Hope which delivers storytelling through writing, photography and film for women who have been through abuse of various kinds. They champion survivors of abuse within our community, bringing into focus the challenges they face during and after abuse by connecting them to their individual faces and experiences. These inspiring stories of survival, restoration and triumph will undoubtedly be a voice of hope and inspiration to other women in our community.


The Pearl Project is also delivering programmes to boys at Richard Challoner School and Coombe Boys, to enlist boys as allies and help them learn about healthy relationships. We also spoke about the Victim's Bill making its way through Parliament now and about my work on behalf of women who have been a victim of economic abuse by partners. We are not doing enough to help them right the wrongs done to them.


You can see more about what Voices of Hope is doing for women here.



Last Saturday, I started the day at the Kingston Fun Bike Ride, a family friendly cycle through Kingston designed to give less experienced riders the confidence to try getting around on two wheels. I enjoyed cycling along with constituents from Fairfield Park to Latchmere Rec and talking about active travel. (Though less mobile constituents can also use the new minibus to get around the Park!)


I then followed my own advice by pedalling across Richmond Park to enjoy the East Sheen Open Gardens event in especially beautiful weather. I saw some amazing gardens and enjoyed speaking with fellow garden enthusiasts. All proceeds from the event will go to fund the excellent work that FiSH does to help vulnerable adults in the local community.


On the subject of making Sheen beautiful, I also want to remind my Sheen constituents about the 'spring clean' of East Sheen organised by local conservation charity Habitats and Heritage this Sunday 11 June. Clean Sheen 2023 will bring volunteers together to spend a morning clearing litter in their local area to make East Sheen's environment cleaner for the community and local wildlife. You can sign up for this excellent event here.




TEDDINGTON LOCK FOOTBRIDGE WORKS

Work will start on Monday 26th June 2023 on repairs to the footbridges over the River Thames at Teddington Lock. The repairs include steel repairs, replacement of the southern approach ramp and application of new protective paint. Lightweight scaffold access systems will provide contractor access over and under the bridges. You can sign up here for updates if you think this will affect you.


BARNES CHILDREN'S LITERATURE FESTIVAL


The UK's largest dedicated children's literature festival will return on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 June with more than 100 readings, workshops, performances and free activities for families over the weekend. From babies to young adults, there are events for everyone, including talks with your favourite children's authors and illustrators. i have thoroughly enjoyed visiting the festival myself and can highly recommend it to my constituents. For more information click here.



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