Summer 2021 Update
I am pleased to bring you my summer 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.
When I last wrote to you, I was hopeful that we would be seeing a much brighter picture by summer. I am pleased that we have been able to move forward, cautiously, and are living as close to pre-pandemic life as we have been able to over the past 18 months.
I have heard differing views from constituents; some of whom believe we have moved too quickly and others who feel we have not moved quickly enough. I think we have struck the right balance and was supportive of the reopening last month.
If we cast our eyes back to the very start of the pandemic, the restrictions were brought in to protect hospitals being overrun and our health service collapsing. Thanks to the success of our vaccine rollout, we are now in a very different position and so it is hard to justify further impositions on people’s lives and the economy. This is evidenced in the data that shows we are breaking the link between cases and hospitalisations/deaths.
As such, it is the right time to learn to live responsibly with Covid, with less reliance on detailed Government edicts and more emphasis on individual responsibility and making our own decisions. These should, of course, be based on the science, and how best to protect ourselves, our family and those around us.
We have seen some of the biggest changes over the past few months and I have continued to support residents as restrictions have eased. Work in the constituency and Parliament has carried on, a little bit closer to normal, and I would like to share some of that work with you.
If you would like to see more of my latest news and updates, please do visit my website here.
Pinn Medical Centre
Following an incredibly well-fought campaign to keep the walk-in services at Pinn Medical Centre open last year, I shared residents’ disappointment that this was once again under threat due to the demands and pressures on healthcare services as a result of the pandemic.
For some background, at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, Harrow CCG asked Pinn Medical Centre to re-deploy services to become a GP Access Centre (GPAC), to which they agreed on the basis of a three-month review. Pinn has continued to work as a GPAC/Walk in Centre (WIC) hybrid model throughout the pandemic. However, as restrictions are now lifting, they are not able to maintain this hybrid with the current funding framework and the increased influx of patients on the service.
As a result, in July the Pinn was asked to sign a contract to deliver a GPAC-only service, which would remove the ability for patients to walk in and the centre would largely work as an overspill for other GP services via referral from 111. This is not what partners want, preferring to continue to provide WIC for all patients as an alternative to over-stretched hospital based urgent care centres.
Given the short time frame offered by the CCG, the contract was signed. However, it has been made clear that the conversation is far from over and I have met with partners and the Patients’ Association several times over the past month to discuss how we can work at a local and national level to maintain walk-in care. I have assured the partners and Patients’ Association, and now I would like to do the same with residents, of my support and will continue my conversations with the new Health Secretary about sustaining this local service.
Speaking with partners at the Pinn Medical Centre at one of our meetings
The review of the cancer centre at Mount Vernon continues and there is not a great deal to report at this stage. As I have said previously, the clinical need to relocate to a new site is a compelling argument and one which I can understand.
However, since I last wrote on this matter there have been a few issues which have cropped up and have made it clear that these changes are not going to be taking place at quite the pace people had previously worried. The first is that the Paul Strickland Scanner Centre, which provides an essential service to the cancer centre, is an entirely separate charity with its own equipment and so cannot be easily included in the move. The second element is that, while the clinical case for a move is strong, the project does not currently have any funding signed off. As such, once the review has concluded, a full business case will need to be presented to the Department for Health and Social Care before it can be progressed.
The positive side to all this is that it gives us the time to ensure this is all done correctly, and we can help alleviate the concerns that residents have raised previously. I am hoping to meet with the team again in the near future and I shall be working with them to ensure we deliver the best outcomes for patients.
Visiting the Mount Vernon Hospital site in June
Northwood and Pinner Cottage Hospital
Work has also continued on the plans to redevelop the Cottage Hospital. I know that many residents still have concerns with regards to the housing development, but I maintain my belief that we must not object to the housing at the expense of a significantly larger and more modern healthcare facility for the community. That all being said, I have been engaging with the team leading on the project and I am working with them and council colleagues to see if we can agree a mutually acceptable future use for this housing. I will of course keep constituents updated on the matter.
Proposed development for the Northwood and Pinner Cottage Hospital
In the Constituency
The easing of lockdown restrictions over the past few months has allowed for more in-person visits and I am delighted that this includes being able to resume coffee shop surgeries. I am grateful to Maison du Soleil in Ickenham, Village Express in Northwood, We Love Coffee in Harefield and Caffe Pascucci in Hatch End for their hospitality, and to Eastcote House Gardens who hosted me for the first time last month. It was refreshing to have facetime with residents after living ‘virtually’ for so long and would like to thank all those who took the time to come and speak with me.
I am continuing to hold both in-person and virtual surgeries at present. As ever, if you would like to make an appointment, please telephone my office on 01923 822 876 or email email@example.com
With the owner of the wonderful Caffe Pascucci in Hatch End at my recent surgery
Education settings have been one of the areas with the biggest hurdles to tackle, but I am pleased that their reopening has enabled me to safely visit local schools and colleges.
I was grateful to visit Cannon Lane Primary School to see how the return has been. It was very clear that the children could not have been happier to be back with their friends and fully immersed in classroom learning. I was also fortunate enough to speak with the school council, who were very enthusiastic about improving their school and were proud of the tree planting they had been doing.
Visiting pupils at Cannon Lane Primary School in Pinner
I was also delighted to accept an invitation to Northwood College for Girls and to attend a session on sexual harassment and strategies for dealing with it. It was both insightful and thought-provoking, particularly hearing about individual experiences and encounters with sexual harassment. It is clear that more needs to be done to help women feel safer in public spaces and we discussed some interesting ideas on how both local and national government can help shape policy to make this a reality. I look forward to looking into these ideas in more detail and will ensure that I work at both a local and national level to help women feel safer.
Speaking at a sexual harassment session at Northwood College for Girls
'Great British Spring Clean' Campaign
Lockdown has taught us to really appreciate our local environment and greenspaces. That is why I was pleased to join Friends of Roxbourne Park and local ward Councillor Richard Almond for a litter pick as part of Keep Britain Tidy's Great British Spring Clean campaign, which ran from 28 May until 13 June.
It was encouraging to speak with residents who were out enjoying the park and its facilities. They told me they were inspired to play their part in keeping the park clean. I would encourage residents who are interested in volunteering to contact their local park residents’ group or resident associations.
I am incredibly grateful for all the volunteers who work so hard to keep our greenspaces clean and tidy for residents to use. Please help them and the community by putting your litter in the bin, or taking it home with you. We must all work together to eliminate litter now and for future generations.
With volunteers of Friends of Roxbourne Park, Councillor Richard Almond and Joey the dog
at Roxbourne Park in Pinner
Out and About
Since my last update, it has been wonderful to see normality returning and residents coming out to support our fantastic local hospitality venues and retail outlets.
One of these is the Black Horse in Eastcote, which is a fantastic investment in a local pub and clearly very popular with residents who, when I visited in June, were enjoying the sunny weather and Euro 2020 tournament. I am grateful to Bhargav and his team for the warm welcome and I hope to visit again soon.
With Bhargav at the Black Horse in Eastcote
I have also spoken with local business owners in high streets across the constituency. This includes the vibrant Ruislip High Street, where I visited businesses such as Homeflair, a long-standing paint and hardware shop, Action Replay Sports, which has been a part of Ruislip for close to 30 years and the Red Onion Café, a wonderful independent business.
Sadly, the pandemic has thrown up some real challenges, but it was great to hear that government grants and rates relief have provided a lifeline to local businesses and have been vital in ensuring that they outlive the pandemic and continue trade on the high street. It is also really heartening to see the local community supporting our cherished local businesses.
I will continue to speak with business owners across the constituency to ensure they are getting the support they need as we continue to recover from the pandemic.
With Gordon at Action Replay Sports, and local councillors Devi Radia and Philip Corthorne
Foodbanks have been a lifeline for many over the pandemic and I was pleased to pay an informative visit to Harrow Foodbank earlier this year. I am aware that people use foodbanks for many and varied reasons, and it was useful to be able to discuss the complex circumstances that lead people to be referred. It was also interesting to see the amazing logistics of the team, and I am very grateful for the time taken out of their busy morning to show me around.
With the team at Harrow Foodbank in May
Earlier in the year, as restrictions allowed for more outdoor social contact, I felt there was no better place to start than at some of the wonderful slices of the countryside we have here in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner.
As such, I visited Bourne Farm and Whiteheath Farm, two long-standing family farms in Harefield who contribute so much to our local economy. It was interesting to discuss plans for the future, effects of the pandemic and wider issues on animal welfare. I look forward to visiting again soon.
Meeting some of the livestock at Bourne Farm with owner Suzy
Taking home some fresh milk from dairy farm Whiteheath
I’ve also been pleased to recently attend both in-person and virtual events. Harrow Mencap held a very interesting session at Northwood Methodist Church at the end of last month. It was great to learn how they have supported members through the pandemic and to hear views on a wide range of issues.
I also attended a Zoom event with Pinner and Harrow Institute of Financial Accountants recently, organised by Pinner Councillor Norman Stevenson, and attended by the Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, and Harrow East MP, Bob Blackman. It was a very well-attended event with an interesting discussion that covered many issues, including state pension and workplace pensions.
At the Harrow Mencap event in Northwood last month
As we enter the final few weeks of summer, I would like to encourage residents to support the Federation of Small Businesses' #MyHiddenGems campaign which shines a spotlight on our brilliant small businesses.
Our high streets are made up of many small, independent businesses that are cherished by residents and which form the backbone of our local economy. Sadly, they have been hit acutely hard by the pandemic and even after reopening, key challenges remain. That is why I have joined the campaign to encourage residents to support local businesses and visit their hidden gems this summer. I would love to hear about them, so please feel free to connect with me on social media to let me know about your favourite places.
Visit my website to watch the full video here
Northwood Police Station
A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to visit the site of the former Northwood Police Station and to hear about the plans the new owners, the Iron Aid Foundation, have as part of their redevelopment. It was very sad to see this historically significant building in such a state of disrepair, but I was incredibly pleased to hear that it is being fully restored to its former glory.
We are still at the early stages of this project, and the foundation are hoping to go to preplanning in the next few weeks, but once it has been completed it will not only provide a centre for their own activities, but a venue for different groups across the community.
For those who do not know much about the Iron Age Foundation, they have been operating in the area for the past 11 years. They are currently working just down the road at St John’s Reformed Church but have now found somewhere to own themselves.
With the Iron Aid Foundation and Cllr Carol Melvin at the former Northwood Police Station site earlier this month
I have been keeping in contact with both Chief Superintendent Sara Leach, Borough Commander for North West BCU, covering Harrow, Brent and Barnet, and Chief Superintendent Peter Gardner, Borough Commander for West BCU, which covers Hillingdon, Ealing and Hounslow. Regular meetings are a good opportunity for me to raise residents’ concerns on a local level and to hear the views of officers on national policy.
An issue I know has come up frequently and is of concern to residents in both the Harrow and Hillingdon wards of the constituency, is catalytic converter thefts. I was pleased to hear that there has been a lot of activity between residents and Safer Neighbourhood Teams to help prevent this type of crime. I have been asked to encourage victims of thefts to report them, as it may help to make future convictions, even if it is not possible to do so at the time. It also allows the wards to build up a bigger picture of what vehicles are being targeted.
On this subject, I spoke about how we can tackle the increasing issue of catalytic converter thefts in the Opposition Day Debate titled ‘Protecting the Public and Justice for Victims’ this Parliamentary term. I suggested that the Government bring used car parts within the remit of the laws on scrap metal, making it much harder for criminals to sell on these parts.
During the Minister’s response at the end of the debate I was very pleased to hear that this was something that he was going to take forward with Ministerial colleagues. I have written to him to follow up on this and offer my support in trying to make these important changes. You can watch my contribution and read my full letter on my website here.
Speaking in the 'Protecting the Public and Justice for Victims' Opposition Day Debate
Another concern I have noticed come up a lot over the past few months are incidents involving e-scooters. I have been assured that most wards are trying to deal with this issue and have been asked to encourage residents to contact their local ward to report any incidents. This will once again help to build up an accurate picture of incident hotspots. You can find out how to do this here: www.met.police.uk
Lastly, on a more positive note, it has been great to hear such excellent feedback on the OWL network, which I was told is a fantastic support to local policing operations. I know this is a thought shared by both BCU’s and so I must pass on my gratitude to all those involved in making this such a success.
I will continue to work closely with local police and local authorities to ensure that we are doing as much as possible to make our area as safe as possible.
It has been a very busy Parliamentary session since the Queen’s Speech earlier this year. I have been pleased to contribute to some of the key pieces of Government legislation and spoke in support of the Building Safety Bill at second reading, a Bill which will not only improve the safety of homes, but also help end the anxiety which has plagued many constituents who are private leaseholders, often with very moderate incomes. One of the points I did make to Ministers was to ensure it was clear what exactly is required to meet the new standards set out in the legislation. This will help prevent people from having unnecessary work done and ensuring that appropriately qualified professionals are available for those who do need work to be completed. Similarly, I expect Ministers to properly engage with councils like Harrow and Hillingdon, who have very good building control departments, to ensure that we are learning from the best practice already seen in the market. You can watch my contribution to this debate here.
The other significant piece of Government legislation I have contributed to lately is the Nationality and Borders Bill. For those who have been following me for a while will know that ensuring we have a fair and well-funded system for asylum seekers has been a long-term passion of mine. During the last debate on this Bill, I took the opportunity to remind the Government that, as we progress with a new immigration system through the Bill, we must have a process in place which is compassionate and humane, whilst also being efficient and well-resourced. I also stressed the importance of integration and called on the Government to build on the success of the resettlement scheme. You can watch my contribution to this debate here.
Speaking in my recent Westminster Hall Debate on cross-government strategy for children and families
I have, for a while, been working with Government colleagues to improve the offer we give to children. In particular, I would like to see a more coherent cross-government strategy for children and families and was very pleased to secure a recent Westminster Hall debate to further progress this ambition. During the response from the Minister, Vicky Ford, she was clear that they are working ever closer between Departments, but I know there is more we can still do. If you would like to find out more about this Westminster Hall Debate, you can do on my website by clicking here.
Further to this, I have been working with Officials at the Department for Education to change the approach given to extra-curricular activities. Improving this element of the school curriculum, as well as supporting schools to deliver it, it has the potential to do a lot of good for children’s mental wellbeing, personal agency, self-efficacy, and social skills. We know that if these soft skills are developed from an early age, children are much more likely to have better outcomes as they get to later stages of education and employment. I am pleased this has now received Ministerial approval and we shall be moving to trial the scheme in schools and colleges.
In light of the wider government review of children’s social care, I have been chairing an inquiry into children’s social work models as part of my role on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Social Work. We have been speaking to representatives from all corners of the sector and the findings will be shared with Ministers and fed into the process for new policy decisions.
Locally, we have particularly good early years and children's services and that is why I was very proud that Hillingdon has been used as an example of best practice by Andrea Leadsom’s Start for Life Unit, based in the Department for Health and Social Care. This new unit is looking at ways to achieve the ambitions set out in the Leadsom Review, for which I sat on the advisory group. The ambition is to reform and produce a better early years offer across England, giving young people the best possible start in life.
Local Council Information
At a local level both Hillingdon and Harrow Councils are continuing to deliver support to our community. To access their information pages concerning the local response, and to find out more about assistance you can access, please visit the frequently updated pages on their websites here:
Councillor Chris Mote
I would like to pay special tribute to Councillor Chris Mote, who sadly passed away last month after a short illness.
Cllr Mote served Harrow Council for 27 years, including 2 years as Leader and in his most recent role as Shadow Portfolio Holder for Adults & Older People. I know he will be sorely missed by colleagues, friends and family. My thoughts are with them all at this difficult time.
With Cllr Chris Mote (middle left) and his wife, Cllr Janet Mote, at the Pinner War Memorial last year.
L-R: Cllr Norman Stevenson, Cllr Richard Almond, Cllr Chris Mote,
David Simmonds CBE MP, Cllr Janet Mote, Cllr Stephen Wright
I know that it has taken some time, but we certainly are moving in the right direction. For this, and it cannot be said enough, we must thank the success of our vaccination programme and the sacrifices the British people have made over the past 18 months.
I hope to be able to continue with in-person meetings and surgeries over the coming months, but this will of course be subject to future clinical advice. If you would like to contact me for any help or support, please do email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01923 01923 822876.
I hope that you have had the opportunity to spend time with loved ones in the warmer weather and enjoy the remaining summer days.