Some local (and otherwise) news


News courtesy of Kevin Foster

(MP for Torbay)
Any views expressed in this news post are those of Kevin Foster, unless stated otherwise.

Fairer Funding For Our Schools

For many years Torbay Schools have lost out due to a national funding formula that sees them receive one of the lowest levels of funding per pupil in the country.

The reasons behind the current formula have mostly been lost to history and representatives of the 40 local council areas which get the lowest amounts, have been calling on the Government to introduce a fairer funding formula. They strongly believe that a school’s funding levels should be determined by the needs of the children it serves, not by the postcode the school is located in.

Earlier this week the Education Secretary gave a statement to parliament on a proposed new formula and early analysis by Schools Week showed Torbay as one of the areas predicted to gain the most from it. We came third in their table of “winners” with a projected 2.4% increase in funding overall. That said the details will need to be checked.

You can read the statement from Justine Greening and the comments of other MPs by clicking here and see School Week’s figures by clicking here.

Parkfield School Application Refused

The debate surrounding the future of the Parkfield Youth Centre took a dramatic turn this week as the plans for a new school to be built there were considered by the Council’s Planning Committee.

The Councillors on the Committee were unimpressed with the plans and decided to reject them by a clear majority. You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here.

Obtaining planning permission for the conversion is vital before any work to build a school at the site can start and it is unclear where this refusal leaves the overall plans for the future. Once there is more clarity we will include details in a future news post.

GWR Modernisation Programme Spending Scrutinised

On Wednesday Kevin Foster worked with a Labour MP from Bristol to lead the questioning of senior Network Rail and Department of Transport officials on the recent National Audit Office report that slammed the financial management of the project to modernise the Great Western Railway.

The report highlights a range of mistakes and failure to plan effectively that not only helped delay the project by some years, but are so far estimated to have cost up to £330m of public money, not least due to a contract for fully electric trains that were to be delivered before the electrification of the tracks they were meant to run on would be completed.

What makes it particularly galling is that this waste comes at a time when the rail network desperately needs investment in many schemes to deal with growing demand. Judging by the way this project has gone billions of pounds over budget, is running years late, missed key milestones and (until recently) was not even managed as a coherent project, there are major improvements needed in how such schemes are delivered on our rail network.

You can watch footage of the hearing and read more about the issue by clicking here. The Committee will produce a report on our findings in the new year.

Save Our Trains Discussion With Rail Minister

Many people have been backing the Save Our Trains Campaign against plans by Crosscountry Trains to axe the majority of their direct services to Torquay, Paignton, Dawlish and Teignmouth.

As part of the campaign on Monday night Kevin Foster met with Rail Minister Paul Maynard. The final decision on the plans, which are included in Cross Country’s Timetable Consultation Document, will be made by Ministers so he was keen to ensure he knew the strength of feeling in our bay.

During a frank exchange of views he made clear a number of points about how these changes would hit our bay and its economy. He pointed out how passengers with luggage who currently enjoy a direct service to the bay would instead be forced to change at Exeter St David’s during busy periods. He also made clear that local businesses benefited from having direct links to key business centres like Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol.

Helpfully, Paul is a seaside MP himself (he represents Blackpool) so immediately understood the point about tourists, in particular families, with luggage being put off from visiting if they could not use a direct service. He was also aware of the way in which Cross Country had sought to sneak this proposal out as part of a lengthy consultation. Whilst he could not give a view ahead of a formal decision making process he did indicate that the strength of response to the proposals is being noted by Ministers.

Finally Dr Sarah Wollaston and Kevin will present the “Save Our Trains” petition, which has been run by the Herald Express and my team, to the Department of Transport on Monday.

Silent Service Is Heard

The core talent of the Royal Navy’s elite submariners is to operate undetected across the world, hence the tag “silent service”, yet this week HMS Torbay’s work was being shouted about in the media.

The Daily Mirror’s Defence Correspondent spent a week aboard HMS Torbay and wrote a fascinating piece about their work, which by its nature is virtually always unseen. You can read her report by clicking here.

This report and the work of HMS Torbay was highlighted in the House of Commons this week and you can read my comments by clicking here.

Development Approved For Sheddon Hill Eyesore

Anyone who drives or walks along Sheddon Hill will share my delight at news that the eyesore which is the old Sheddon Hall Hotel is set to be redeveloped.

The plans include refurbishment of the old hotel building into four apartments, the demolition of modern extensions and the construction of three two-storey cottages, four four-storey town houses and one four-storey coach house. There would be 19 car parking spaces.

You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here.

Health Secretary Unveils Action To Tackle Preventable Deaths

Losing a loved one is hard enough, yet the discovery that their death could have been prevented makes that even harder.

The Secretary of State for Health made a statement to MPs this week in which he outlined plans to tackle this issue, in particular ensuring there is more openness about issues that might have led to a preventable death.

Six years ago three year old Sam Morrish died at Torbay Hospital, a death that could have been prevented if the correct care had been given by the NHS. You can read the full story on the Herald Express website by clicking here. A recent report from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman showed the way in which the NHS failed to identify his death was avoidable.

This week’s statement was welcomed, although openness will bring with it difficult questions, a point raised with the Health Secretary and you can read the comments on this by clicking here.

Last Posting Dates

If you still have some Christmas Cards to write then you have only a few days left to get them in the post.

Royal Mail’s last recommended posting days for UK Inland Mail are:

Second Class           Tuesday 20th December
First Class                Wednesday 21st December

Christmas Bin Collection Dates

Just a quick reminder that waste and recycling collections are scheduled to continue as normal until Friday 23rd December.

Yet in the week starting Monday 26th December waste and recycling collections will be delayed by one day for all residents.

Collections will return to their normal day on Monday 2nd January 2017.

Homeless By-Law Blocked

In a recent update it was reported on a controversial suggestion that a new by-law could be introduced that would seek to ban rough sleeping in the bay.

The suggestion of a new by-law was included in a consultation that was due to be started by the Council, which also included looking at how the services supporting homeless people could be improved. The decision to undertake the consultation was formally challenged and this week Councillors voted to block the move pending a vote of all Councillors on it.

The Police have already advised me that they do not support the suggestion of a new By-Law as they already have powers to deal with any anti-social behaviour related to rough sleeping. You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here.

A new Bill currently going through parliament is aimed at reforming how support is provided to those who are homeless or in danger of becoming so. This will alter some of the support arrangements and the Government has promised to fund the new duties. Focussing efforts on how these will be used to deal with the genuine issues of homelessness and rough sleeping in our bay,plus the problesm caused by it, is the best option.


Christmas at Paignton Zoo
17th-24th December – Paignton Zoo, Totnes Road, Paignton, TQ4 7EU
Time – 10:30; 12:00 & 14:00
Cost – £9.50 + entry to the zoo for non-members
Booking – Must be booked in advance – click here
For more information please click here

Christmas at Babbacombe Model Village
17th-24th December – Babbacombe Model Village, Hampton Avenue, Torquay, TQ1 3LA
Time – 12:30-16:00
Cost – Adult £10.95; Senior £9.95; Child £8.95; Family (2+2) £36.50; Meet Santa £3.50 extra
Booking – No booking required
For more information please click here

‘Santa Claws’ Christmas Special
17th December-2nd January (Excluding Xmas Eve, Day, Boxing Day and NY Day)
Torquay Dinosaur World, Victoria Parade, Torquay, TQ1 2BB
Time – Entry 11:00-15:00, closes at 16:30
Cost – Varies – click here
Booking – No booking necessary
For more information please click here

Stanza Extravaganza
Monday 19th December – Artizan Gallery, 7 Lucius Street, Torquay, TQ2 5UW
Time – 19:30-22:00
Cost – £5 in advance; £6 on door; £2 for performers
Booking – Call 01803 428626 to book

Miscellanea – Art Exhibition
Until Friday 23rd December – Artizan Gallery, 7 Lucius Street, Torquay, TQ2 5UW
For more information please click here


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