February 2023 Update
I am pleased to bring you my February 2023 Update. As ever, if you would like to sign up to my mailing list, you can do so on this page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although Parliament took a week's break for the February recess, it has still been an incredibly busy month.
Following weeks of negotiations, the Prime Minister has reached an agreement with the European Union on a post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland. The 'Windsor Framework' will remedy issues impacting Northern Ireland since the UK's departure from the bloc, delivering free-flowing trade within the whole of the United Kingdom and at the same time safeguarding Northern Ireland's place in our Union. I am encouraged by this development and look forward to the framework being brought to the House of Commons in due course.
On Friday, the Prime Minster led a minute’s silence to mark the one year anniversary of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, showing the UK’s solidarity with their struggle for freedom and our commitment to continued support.
Locally it has been business as usual and I am pleased to share with you the work I have carried out across Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, as well as in Westminster, over the past month. As ever, if you would like to keep up to date, I encourage you to visit my website here, or my Facebook page here.
Weekly surgeries have continued into February and I am grateful to the residents who have taken the time to meet with me, and am glad to have been able to offer my support to help with their individual circumstances.
Thank you to the excellent teams at Village Express in Northwood, Bucket List Coffee in Eastcote and Vito's Cafe in Ruislip for hosting me this month.
If you are a local business who would be interested in hosting one of my surgeries, please do get in contact with my office. Residents who would like to make an appointment to speak with me should also get in contact with my office via the usual channels.
Outside Vito's Cafe, a long-standing member of Ruislip High Street and a regular venue for surgeries
Tennis Investment in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner
We are fortunate to have access to a number of public tennis courts across Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, and so it was useful to catch up with Issy Michelson from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) about park tennis improvement projects that are due to take place locally.
This comes as a result of a £30 million joint investment from the LTA and UK Government to refurbish public tennis courts across Britain. I am pleased that a number of local sites in both Hillingdon and Harrow will benefit from this funding, including Pinner Village Gardens and Northwood Recreation Ground.
The investment will see public tennis courts in poor or unplayable condition brought back to life for the benefit of local communities, helping to support a new generation of players to get into the sport. I know this will be particularly welcome news as we head into the warmer months and, of course, as we draw closer to Wimbledon season.
Visiting the public tennis courts at Pinner Village Gardens, which are to be refurbished under LTA plans
Celebrating 40 Years of Nationwide in Pinner
It was a pleasure to meet with Judy and her team at Nationwide’s Pinner branch as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations. The visit was a great opportunity to hear about the services provided by the branch, particularly the support that was given to members during the pandemic, as well as to those who are currently struggling with the rising cost of living.
I was also interested to learn about Money Lessons, Nationwide’s youth education programme. As part of this, colleagues volunteer to educate children and young people on topics such as savings, budgeting and staying safe online, an important issue which has been widely debated in Parliament of late.
Another crucial issue impacting residents is the risk of financial scams and online fraud, and I am encouraged by the branch’s work to raise awareness around these. Having met with a number of impacted residents, I know it is an important issue to highlight. As such, I welcome that much has been done in Parliament to enable authorities to deal more effectively with these types of crimes through the Economic Crime Bill. Further information on how to spot scams can be found in-branch, or via Nationwide's online guide to avoiding scams.
However, I am concerned by a recent shift to scams taking place offline, and a number of troubling incidents in Pinner where older and vulnerable people have been targeted, in person, by individuals claiming to want to help them. I have written to the Leader of Harrow Council to support the improvement of security and lighting, particularly in car parks, to act as a deterrent, and will also be raising with the Chief Superintendent for the North West Area, covering Harrow, in an upcoming meeting.
Lastly, from speaking with customers during the visit, it is evident just how valued and appreciated the branch is by the community, and the support provided by Judy and the team.
With the wonderful team at Nationwide's Pinner branch on Bridge Street
Tongues on Fire
Following a successful bid to the National Lottery Community Fund, I was pleased to meet with Dr Pushpinder Chowdhry and Dr Toyeba Mushtaq from Tongues on Fire.
Tongues on Fire is a company that was founded in Pinner and who produce the annual UK Asian Film Festival, with screenings at venues such as the Harrow Arts Centre in Hatch End and the BFI on London Southbank.
I was interested to hear about how the funding will be used to provide internships and work experience for young people at the film festival, presenting those who are not in current employment or training with an opportunity to improve their skills and job prospects. Furthermore, I also learnt about their work around mental health, and how they promote the arts as a beneficial tool for the young people who are affected, as well as creating awareness and tackling the stigma attached to mental health through the art produced.
With a background in leading children’s services within local government, improving opportunities for young people is something I feel passionately about. I was pleased to offer my continued support to the project and look forward to keeping in touch.
You can find out more about Tongues on Fire's work on their website here.
Meeting with Dr Mushtaq and Dr Chowdhry from Tongues on Fire at Cafe Amici in Pinner
HS2: Breakspear Road South Visit
Readers of my newsletter will know that one concern that has been present since my election just over three years ago has been the ongoing impact of the construction of HS2 through the constituency. As all will know, sites at West Ruislip and over in the Colne Valley have generated disruption on local roads with increased traffic and partial closures. While I am grateful for the London Borough of Hillingdon’s work to mitigate the impact of work, I recognise that this is an ongoing project.
This month, I visited residents on Breakspear Road South who live opposite a Copthall Farm field. Residents along this road have faced regular flooding since work began at this site and most recently a power outage that lasted for more than a day. This is clearly unacceptable, and I had the opportunity to reassure residents that I will raise this with contacts at HS2 to seek assurances that they are acting to prevent future flooding.
I am eager to engage with and lend my support to residents across Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner who are facing disruption due to ongoing work. If constituents would like support, I would encourage them to contact my office asking for assistance.
With residents of Breakspear Road South discussing the impact of HS2 on the area
Ultra-Low Emission Zone Expansion
An issue that remains high in the in-tray is the Mayor of London’s decision to expand the ULEZ zone to incorporate Hillingdon and Harrow. Since last month’s newsletter, readers will be glad to know that I have been able to pursue this matter further and I have helped to table an amendment to give our local councils the final say, in line with their legal duties on air quality.
In Parliament, I am grateful to Lord Moylan who has tabled an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB). If accepted, this amendment would give London boroughs the final say over the expansion of the ULEZ to their area. This would enable Hillingdon and Harrow the power to prevent the road charging scheme’s implementation on local roads. This will also work retrospectively. I am encouraged by my conversations with Ministers so far, and I am hopeful that they accept this amendment in due course. There is also a large amount of cross-party consensus on this issue, and I will work to secure its support in both the House of Lords and in the House of Commons.
The Mayor has been keen to portray his move as in the interests of every Londoner to address air quality. However, his own independent assessment shows that, while costly to constituents, the ULEZ expansion will have a negligible effect on air quality. I firmly believe that air quality is tackled more effectively by local authorities who can implement tailored plans in the area. As seen in TfL’s air quality maps, it is only targeted measures that will have the greatest impact.
As well as my conversations in Parliament, I have been keen to support both Hillingdon and Harrow councils in their objections to the Mayor’s proposals. I am glad to see that there is cross-party support on both councils who are united with other outer London boroughs in their reservations. As you may know, both councils have committed to challenging the decision and have began legal proceedings with a number of other London boroughs.
I will endeavour to keep residents updated via my monthly newsletter, social media and the ULEZ campaign section of my website, which can be found here.
Earlier this year, London Councils published a report into school places in London and the challenges boroughs in the capital face. London Councils do important work into issues facing our city on a range of topics and in this report, it was highlighted that Hillingdon has seen a 15% reduction in the number of primary school children, while Harrow has seen a similar decline in demand. This is a trend across the city as London’s local authorities deal with a significant and sustained period of reduction in demand for places. This is in part caused by changing demographics in the capital, which creates challenges for local authorities. Despite this, the report highlights the worrying lack of capacity for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).
I am grateful for the work of London Councils, and I had the opportunity at the beginning of February to raise these findings in the House of Commons. During Business Questions, I asked the Leader of the House whether the Government could find time for a debate about the provision of spaces and the opportunities for local authorities to open their own SEND schools to provide capacity.
In her response, the Leader expressed her support for every child’s right to access education and ensure they can reach their full potential. While she is not responsible for these matters, the Leader indicated that this is a priority for the Department for Education and pledged to contact the Department to raise the matter with Ministers. I welcome her statement and promise of actions, and I look forward to following this up in my meetings with Ministers. You can watch this exchange here.
Oral Parliamentary Questions
As ever, oral parliamentary questions continue to be the perfect time to scrutinise government policy and the work of individual departments. This month, I was privileged to ask questions to the Department of Levelling Up, the Department of Education and the newly created Department of Energy Security and Net Zero.
Constituents will know that I am keen to see our two great local councils, Harrow and Hillingdon, given the powers and support needed to provide excellent services for residents. These councils have a significant role to play in improving my constituents' access to nature and despite our proximity to the countryside, I know that many rely on the excellent green spaces in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner.
I recently had the opportunity to press the Minister to ensure that local authorities are granted greater power to create and maintain good-quality green spaces, like Ruislip woods and Pinner Memorial Park. Given the Government’s access to nature target, the Minister was keen to highlight the significant funds already made available to local authorities across the country to achieve this. You can view this here.
The following week, I pressed the Minister on the issue of eye tests in special school settings during Education Questions. This is a prominent issue that has been raised with me by constituents and in my recent visit to Eden Academy in the constituency. I specifically asked about the Government’s plans to ensure the provision of sufficient and appropriate eye testing for children in SEND schools. In her response, the Secretary of State was quick to highlight existing availability for children of school age, while committing to ensure that the NHS maintains support in schools. You can view this here.
Energy and Net Zero Questions
As readers may be aware, the Prime Minister recently announced the creation of a new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. In their preliminary oral questions, I pressed the Minister to welcome Hillingdon and Harrow’s plans to increase the availability of electric charging points locally, and asked whether he believed this to be a more effective way forward than the Mayor’s plan to expand ULEZ for improving local carbon emissions. The Minister was delighted by our local boroughs’ plans and implored the Mayor to reconsider his plans. You can view this here.
As my readers will know, I take a keen interest in childcare reform to ensure that children across the UK are able to flourish in caring environments.
I am glad that the Government shares this goal, and this was outlined by the Prime Minister earlier this year who spoke of the importance of families and the need for families to be surrounded by safe care networks. Sadly, we know that families are not always the safest places for children to be. This is why it is vital that we have a robust child protection system and a strong children’s social care sector. As high-profile cases have shown, children in the care sector are not always given a safe environment to grow up in and reform is needed going forward.
To that end, I very much welcomed the Government’s review into social care that focused on making the biggest difference to vulnerable children across the country. In a recent statement, I was keen to press the Secretary of State on the details of the Government’s reforms and the efficiency of Government spending. While Sure Start was effective, a great deal of money was squandered and ultimately did not impact the lives of children who needed it most. I am hopeful that the Government’s What Works centres will provide greater accountability and transparency so that we know that taxpayer money is going towards making a transformational difference in the lives of children.
In her response, the Secretary of State for Education was quick to assure me that the proposed reforms go beyond the physical centres and will build upon the available evidence to ensure that children are at the forefront of future work.
You can view that response here, or by clicking the image below.
School Sports Facilities
Schools in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, as well as Hillingdon and Harrow councils, provide children with excellent facilities for physical education. The Government has a role in ensuring that this provision continues long into the future and, in particular, supports schools who are keen to open and enhance sports facilities.
In a recent parliamentary debate, which was led by my colleague Ben Bradley, the matter was discussed at length by Members of Parliament. This important debate largely focused on the importance of such facilities for pupils across the country. In particular, I was interested to ask about the use of school leisure facilities when the schools are shut. Provided that this does not come at the expense of the schools in question, I believe that this will only benefit the wider community. A notion shared by many colleagues in the House.
You can view my contribution to this debate here, or by clicking the image below.
Woodcock Westminster Hall Debate
As I have said earlier, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner benefits from its proximity to the countryside with vast habitats for wildlife across the constituency. In particular, birdlife thrives locally especially in Mad Bess' woods and Ruislip woods and, as a result, many of my constituents are keen to promote the conservation of all species of birdlife.
Due to this interest, I was keen to attend and contribute to a Westminster Hall debate on the preservation of the Woodcock population in the United Kingdom. While a number of colleagues chose to focus their remarks on the proposed restrictions of shooting Woodcock, I hoped to set out the need for a balanced approach to legislation. I understand their arguments and the need to manage the habitats and the conservation of the species. I therefore argued in the debate that the Government should work with conservation charities and communities who can depend on the economic benefits of shooting to create reasonable regulations in the field.
Through co-operation, I am hopeful that the Government will be able to protect the species and its habitats.
You can view my contribution to this debate here, or by clicking the image below.
Thank you to readers of my newsletter. Please do feel free to share with friends, family and neighbours, and encourage them to sign up if they would like to receive regular updates.
I am grateful to residents who have taken the time to contact me this month, and look forward to speaking with more of you over the coming weeks.