News Courtesy of Kevin Foster
(MP for Torbay)
After another busy week in Westminster and the bay, it is time for my latest update.
The news today is understandably dominated by the explosion at Parsons Green this morning. Thankfully no-one has been killed, although dozens were injured on a busy tube train.
If planning a trip to London this week do check before travelling for any delays and be conscious that security levels have been heightened, with Police Officers (Including Armed Officers) visible at key locations and across the transport network. The military is also being deployed to guard key buildings to free up Armed Police Officers for other duties.
My week started amidst a sea of Red, White and Blue as I was invited to visit Gibraltar for meetings with their Government (Who paid the costs of my trip), Businesses and British Forces based there. There is more on this below.
I returned on Monday for key votes at Westminster. These included decisions on the EU Withdrawal Bill and the Finance Bill. There were also debates on a range of subjects including Public Sector Pay, University Student Loans, the Common Travel Area and a proposed new way of assessing the number of homes local areas should build.
Here in the bay “Home Instead”, a Home Care Agency based in Paignton, recently received the highest rating possible in a CQC Inspection, as it was graded “Outstanding”.
As pictured above earlier today I visited them to hear how this was achieved and what lessons there might be for our wider care sector. Their approach is different to many others in that they seek to recruit staff who are more experienced, allocate customers rather than slots to each carer and pay a Living Wage to their staff.
It was interesting to hear how they seek to provide companionship for those they care for and help keep them in their own home instead of a residential care home.
From next week groups of local residents, starting with Torre, are meeting my team to discuss the current issues that they are facing, and to suggest community-based solutions to resolve them. The focus is to try and bring together areas of work, start campaigns on issues that can make a difference more widely or point groups in the direction of other community based organisations they could work with.
If you are part of a residents group or just the residents of a street who want to discuss getting things done who would like to meet with my team do let me know.
This week’s update is below and includes: EU Withdrawal Bill, Support For Coastal Tourism Raised in Parliament, Children’s Services Update, Save Our Trains Campaign Update, Fair School Funding, Anode Set To Close, Bus Campaign Update, Community Fund Launched, Stonehenge Tunnel Plan Moves Forward, Hopes Nose Litter Pick, Council Clarifies Speed Limit Change and finally……Digital Dogs.
EU Withdrawal Bill
In the early hours of Tuesday Morning the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill cleared its first hurdle in parliament as MPs backed its Second Reading.
This bill is one of the most significant to be discussed in recent years with Brexit not only affecting our constitutional position in relation to the EU, but also requiring up to 12,000 pieces of legislation to be amended or incorporated into UK Law. You can read the second day of the debate on Parliament’s website by clicking here.
There has been quite a bit of coverage in the media about some of the provisions in relation to allowing changes that are technical or minor in existing UK Law, with some claiming changes could be made without parliament’s consent. This is not the case and any changes to UK (or the EU Law that currently applies to the UK) can be blocked by Parliament.
Support for Coastal Tourism Raised In Parliament
I was lucky enough to be drawn in the ballot to ask a topical question to the Ministers in the department that covers Tourism.
I used the opportunity to ask the Tourism Minister about what further support the Government could give to encourage more visitors to come to coastal areas in the South West, including ours in the bay.
You can listen to my question and hear the Minister’s response by clicking here.
Children’s Services Update
I had a long discussion this week with the Commissioner who has been appointed by the Government to ensure improvements will be made in vital services that keep vulnerable children safe.
Although some progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done locally by the council and other bodies to ensure the improvements made since the report that labelled them as inadequate are sustained. The most-high profile aspect of this being the move to deliver services in partnership with Plymouth City Council, with a merged service (Although Torbay Council will retain ultimate responsibility for services in the bay) expected to be in place by 1st April 2018.
Protecting children at risk of abuse is one of the most vital services delivered by any council or public body, hence I will be keeping a close eye on progress over the coming months.
Save Our Trains Campaign Update
Since the General Election I have chased both the Department for Transport and CrossCountry trains for a decision on the future of direct train services from the North and Midlands to our Bay.
Last year the train company proposed cutting the services by over 70%, and I gathered a signature of over 1,000 local people objecting to these changes. This week I was informed that the petition had indeed had an impact, and had caused CrossCountry, Network Rail and the Department for Transport to prolong the discussions beyond the deadline when a winter timetable had to be submitted. Direct services to the bay will therefore remain throughout the winter at their current levels. I understand transport Ministers have made clear Crosscountry’s plans for our bay were unacceptable during the discussions.
I will be keeping the pressure up to ensure that we maintain our direct services and will include any further news in a future update.
Fair School Funding,
For many years Torbay’s Schools have lost out due to an unfair funding formula which sees our schools receive some of the lowest amounts of funding per pupil in the country, yet change is on the way.
Over the last year the Government has been consulting on a new funding formula and yesterday published its latest set of proposals. In parliament I asked the Secretary of State to confirm that she would publish the impact of these proposals for each school. You can hear what I said and her response by clicking here.
Following my question the indicative figures for each school in our area were sent to me last night by the Schools Minister. The overall result is a welcome funding boost for our bay which will not only help schools meet current costs, but ensure they receive a fairer share of any future increases in education funding. If you would like a copy of the figures do let me know.
The new formula is a vital change as funding levels should be determined by children’s needs, not their school’s postcode. Leaving the current formula in place would be good news for London, but a blow for our bay.
Anode Set To Close,
There was shock and surprise yesterday when local Charity anode announced it would be closing its operations in October.
I meet with Nigel Williams, the Founding Director of Anode, to discuss the situation earlier today and what had led to it. Nigel was clear that there was no one funding decision that led to the decision, there had been a significant reduction in several of its income sources. One point he did make was that some public bodies had been quickly in touch after the closure announcement, having been slow to engage with them before.
The clear message Nigel did give me was that even if money was now found or if a funding stream could be secured, it was too late for the Anode Project.
Bus Campaign Update,
Earlier today I met with Torbay Council’s Executive Lead for Transport, Cllr Mark King, to discuss the latest position with getting Bus Services restored in areas of Torquay that lost their services in April.
The meeting follows me presenting a petition signed by 1,278 people to the House of Commons. Whilst council officers initially refused to accept it Cllr King today confirmed it will now be considered and he has offered to receive it personally at the Town Hall.
Cllr King also confirmed that at last week’s Full Council meeting a change to the Council’s Transport Capital Programme was agreed. This change allows community groups to bid for capital funds to buy a vehicle for their service. In light of this I will be contacting the TCDT, who run the not for profit 60 service, to see how their business plan for providing a new service in the areas formerly served by the 64\65 has progressed.
This is welcome progress and I will include any further news in future updates.
Community Fund Launched,
The Aviva Community Fund has been launched and I am advised they would very much welcome applications from groups in Torbay.
The fund awards grants of up to £25,000 for local community projects across a range of categories such as skills for life, health & wellbeing and community support. Last year they had over 450 winners and this year we have even more awards up for grabs.
Applications can be made until 12 noon on 10th October by clicking here. There will then be a chance to vote for your favourite projects, with the winners announced in January.
Stonehenge Tunnel Plan Moves Forward,
Possible solutions to the traffic problems on the A303 at Stonehenge have been debated for decades, yet this week the government confirmed its preferred option.
A detailed plan has now been finalised that sees a tunnel constructed to take traffic away from the World Famous stones and the A303 widened to become a dual carriageway. You can read more details, plus see a map of the proposed route, on the Department for Transport website by clicking here. Some have queried the £1.6bn cost of the scheme and argued other options should be re-considered.
My own view is that after decades we are finally in a position where a plan to solve this major traffic headache for our region (Including businesses here in the bay) is moving forward, with the Government prepared to fund it. This is a once in a generation project for our region and it is time for the decades long debate to end and the building work to start.
Hopes Nose Litter Pick,
Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust volunteers are holding a post summer season litter pick at Hope’s Nose on Friday 29th September starting at 10.00am.
If you can help just meet Neil Stanlake at the entrance to the site on Ilsham Marine Drive at 09.45am. Please remember to wear sturdy footwear and gloves, but litter pickers and bags will be provided. Also don’t forget a small bottle of water for personal consumption.
Council Clarifies Speed Limit Change
When a speed limit change was announced for part of the Ring Road many raised their concerns on social media that a large stretch of it might be reduced to a slow speed.
Yet Torbay Council has now clarified that the proposed change will only apply to the Gallows Gate Roundabout. You can read more on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
and finally……Digital Dogs.
The thought of a “digital dog” probably brings up memories of Dr Who’s faithful companion K-9, yet a new breed are getting their teeth into tracking down those who have something to hide.
PDs Tweed and Rob have been trained by our local police force to sniff out mobile devices, USB sticks, SD cards, hard drives and computers. These are often hidden by suspects as they contain information relating to sexual offences, fraud or terror plots.
The dogs’ ability to sniff them out makes it far easier to detect them. In one search Tweed picked out what looked like a fizzy drinks can, which turned out to be a “money box”, containing a number of SD cards. You can read more on the BBC News website by clicking here.
“Friends of Stoodley Knowle” will be holding a further “Table Top Sale” on Sat. 16th Sept. at Stoodley Meadow, opposite Kent’s Cavern on Ilsham Road between 10.30 and 4.30pm. . All funds raised will directly help with the development of the Wildflower Meadow. If you have items to donate please bring them by any time from 9.30am.
Paignton Art and Craft Society Exhibition of Local Artist’s work, in the Spanish Barn, Torre Abbey Torquay, from 23rd September– 3rd October 10am-5pm Daily. All work is for ‘Sale’ and Admission is Free – Contact Terri, (P.A.C.S) Contact 01803 521329 (email@example.com)
St John’s Church – Macmillan Coffee morning – Friday 29th September from 11.30am to 2.00pm St John’s Church, Montpellier Road, Torquay TQ1 1BJ www.stjohntheapostle.org.uk/events.htm
Cockington’s 24th Apple Day promising to be a show stopper, and this year it’s free! – at Cockington Court on Sunday 15 October between 10am and 4pm.
For more information on the event or for a Stall Holders Enquiry Form visit the Apple Day page on the Cockington Court website, www.cockingtoncourt.org
22nd September 2017 – 11am – 1pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD
7th October 2017 – 11am – 1pm @ Paignton Library, 22 Station Lane, Paignton TQ4 5AR
21st October 2017 – 11am – 1pm @ Torquay Library, Lymington Road, Torquay TQ1 3DT
27th October 2017 – 3pm – 5pm @ Preston Baptist Church, Old Torquay Road, TQ3 2RB