HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE PETITION AND REOPENING TO CYCLISTS
I am extremely pleased to report that on Tuesday, 13th of February, Hammersmith Bridge will reopen to cyclists for the next 10 weeks. Alongside making it easier to travel over to Hammersmith, we'll hopefully see a dramatic reduction in the number of delivery riders using the footpaths illegally.
Unfortunately, the reason for the temporary reopening is not a positive one. Residents may remember that at the end of 2023, a party boat crashed into the bridge, damaging the service gangway. This damage, alongside the need to remake several new components for the stabilisation works, has delayed work yet again.
Another delay to the project is unacceptable and so I've launched a petition calling on the Government to repair the bridge, make good on their commitment, and release the funds for the full works. The longer this project goes on, the easier it is for Government to abandon it, we need to keep the pressure up and show them this cannot continue.
In related news, I have recently learnt that LBHF, the Department for Transport, and TfL meet on a bi-weekly basis to discuss updates and progress on the bridge. The fact that these meetings are taking place behind closed doors and with no public scrutiny is extremely concerning. The public has a right to know the progress of a project which has already cost millions in taxpayer funds and impacts the lives of tens of thousands of Londoners across our community and West London.
I put a parliamentary question to the Minister late last week asking for the details of this meeting, but yet again, his department refused to give a straight answer. In response, my team has filed 6 Freedom of Information requests to all involved agencies demanding the information be released. I will share the results of these FOI's when they are returned to me, but the fact these are necessary is appalling.
On Monday, I spoke in Parliament on the Government’s proposed Finance Bill, which would put many of the measures announced in the Autumn Statement into action.
In my remarks I reiterated that the Liberal Democrats are not supportive of this Bill, which is a deception from the Government after years of cruel tax hikes on hard-working families. This legislation maintains the Government’s unfair tax rises on working families through the freezing of income tax thresholds, fails to invest properly in our public services like the NHS and takes none of the vital steps needed to grow the U.K. economy.
Although I support some measures in the Bill such as full-expensing, the wider context in which the Bill has arisen is important, and I will continue to hold the Government to account on their failure to properly address economic growth and tackle the cost of living
APPG ON ETHNICITY TRANSPLANTATION AND TRANSFUSION
On Wednesday, I chaired the annual general meeting (AGM) of the APPG on Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion. This All-Party group was formed in December 2022, to highlight how the lack of donor participation affects patients with ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Over the past year the APPG has held various events and meetings to raise awareness of this issue. This includes an inaugural meeting in March 2023 which was attended by over one hundred external stakeholders. A Steering Committee of external experts was also formed to advise the Group. This committee is chaired by Dr Mark Bale – a former senior civil servant at the Department of Health.
The AGM followed the publication at the end of 2023 of the group’s report “Where are our nation’s donors?”. The evidence from the report showed that there are totally unacceptable inequalities for mixed heritage and ethnic minority patients in respect of transplant and transfusion treatment.
I am very proud of all the wonderful work we have done over the past year and I am looking forward to seeing what is coming up in the next few months .
VISIT TO HARRODIAN SCHOOL
It was fantastic to speak to the students at Harrodian school on Friday to discuss everything from working as a women in politics to environmental policy and the General Election. I was also very pleased to have a discussion about my "postbag" and the issues that matter most to my constituents. Supporting residents with casework is a huge, but often overlooked, part of an MPs role and seeing young people show such an interest in the day to day life of an MP was wonderful to see.
I'd like to particularly thank Ms Charlotte Arnold and Mr James Hooke for setting this visit up and showing me around the school.
Earlier today, I visited the Vineyard Community Centre in Richmond and its connected foodbank in Castelnau to get a bit more of an insight into their work and learn about how the cost of living crisis has impacted their service and local residents.
The Vineyard is an amazing institution which has worked with thousands of residents across Richmond to get them into housing and jobs and to find the support they need. Since October, they have expanded their service enormously, including launching a crisis drop-in service every week day which provides everything from food and showers to debt advice and mental health support.
Services like the Vineyard do incredible work in our community, but they are reliant on donations to keep running. Just £15 will buy breakfast for 30 people in need.
If you are considering donating to charity and would like to support a local service working in our community, I would thoroughly recommend supporting the Vineyard. To donate click here, or to learn more about their service, click here.
NOURISH AND GROW MICROBAKERY
I was lucky enough to come across Nourish and Grow at the Vineyard earlier today and had the opportunity to try some of their lovely bread. Nourish and Grow are a brilliant microbakery operating in Mortlake and Barnes who make real bread by hand and the reinvest the profits into the community.
It's a brilliant model, delivering high quality food for residents, bringing people together at their grow site, and providing for the community. Learn more about them with the link here.
RIVER THAMES SCHEME
The River Thames Scheme is a huge series of works taking place along large parts of the Thames to improve flood resilience and help regenerate areas of the non-tidal Thames. While the vast majority of the work will take place away from the constituency, one major piece of construction will be taking place in Richmond Park.
A new weir complex will be constructed on the site of Teddington Lock, with this involving the creation of five additional gates and a channel through Teddington Lock Island around 70 metres downstream of the footbridge. The River Thames Scheme says that this new weir complex is designed to improve the capacity of the river at the site and contribute to a reduction of future flood levels across southwest London and the affected areas of the Home Counties.
A consultation on the scheme is running until March 4th, if you would like to learn more and offer your thoughts, you can do so through the link here.
RICHMOND PARK DEER CULL
The gates of Richmond Park will be closing at 8pm for a further 6 weeks during the deer cull. During this time, the pedestrian gates will be locked each day from 8pm and reopened for 7.30am the following morning.
Vehicle gates will open and close at the usual times. If you would like any further information visit the Royal Parks website at the link here.
COUNCIL FUNDING FOR LOCAL BUISNESSES TO TAKE ON APPRENTICES
Eligible businesses based in the Royal Borough of Kingston can now access funding to pay for the training and assessment of their apprentices. Kingston Council has pledged to help reduce the cost of an apprenticeship for small businesses through its levy transfer scheme.
Apprenticeships provide hands-on skills training from entry to master's level, allowing employees of any age to earn and learn on the job, essential for business and workforce development. If you are an employer considering taking on an apprentice, you can find out more by clicking here.
KINGSTON CYCLING CLUB
If you'd like to feel more confident using a bike for local journeys, last year Kingston Cycling Club added regular free family-friendly bike rides to their ride calendar with each 'park and ride' event starting at a different park to showcase cycle-friendly routes across different parts of the borough.
The routes are designed with all ages and abilities in mind, and kids are welcome but not essential! The next ride starts from Surbiton's Victoria Rec on Sunday 28 April so register for your free place here. If you want to see how much fun they are, you can watch these montages of our January and June events.