Friday 6th October 2017
After a sunny, but slightly nippy, day in the bay it is time for my latest update.
I was in Manchester this week for the Conservative Party Conference. I was sat near the front of the hall for what turned out to be a memorable speech by the Prime Minister, not least due to a breach of security. Whilst there is a lot of debate in the media following her speech I have been spending my time getting on with the job I have been elected to do, representing Torbay and campaigning on issues affecting our area. Some other MPs should be spending today doing the same for their constituents.
A Party Conference may seem like a rather strange event in an era when 24\7 news and the internet means information can be spread easily and quickly. Yet in many ways a conference is the political version of a Music Festival. The big-name speeches and set piece events take place on the main conference stage, yet there are then hundreds of other events on the “fringe” where delegates can take part in debates on virtually any issue you can think of.
One part of conference which can be both interesting and annoying is the number of people who suddenly want to catch up over a coffee, get lunch or hold a discussion over dinner with MPs. Many of these new “friends” are lobbyists who just want to read out a set of statistics about Torbay in the hope of convincing me of the cause they have been hired to promote. Yet other meetings, such as the one I had with the Rail Industry Association, can be a useful chance to discuss issues directly relevant to our bay.
One of the biggest subjects being debated in Manchester was how to tackle the problems with our housing market. Whilst Torbay does not see some of the extreme issues London experiences there is still a generation struggling to get on the housing ladder. I recently meet with the Chief Executive of Rent Plus, a Plymouth based group looking to help those on the housing list purchase a home. They are looking to invest in Torbay and the scheme sees those who rent given the option to purchase every 5 years.
Finally, as pictured above, at lunchtime I joined Bus Campaigners from Babbacombe to present their petition to Torbay Council. Those who have been following this issue may recall Council officers originally rejected considering it, but today Cllr Mark King accepted it.
This week’s update is below and includes: Paignton Rugby Club, Universal Credit, Draft Ward Boundaries Published, Monarch Airlines, Local Hero Succeeds At Invictus Games, Castle Circus Update, Stoodley Knowle Sale Confirmed, Do You Know An Unsung Hero?, VIP Book Club Launched, Volunteer Call for Cockington Bench Painting, South West in Bloom, Kev’s Column: Conference Time and finally… Final Days Of the Round Pound.
Paignton Rugby Club,
Paignton Rugby Club has been in the news this week following Torbay Council rescinding permission to use nearby Torbay Park for some youth games.
I visited today to meet with Darren Law from the club and find out more about the situation.
The club had contacted the Council earlier this year to discuss its growing need for extra youth facilities. The council then offered the nearby park as an option, which the club pays a small fee to use. The games planned last Sunday went ahead, despite the Council’s decision. No games are planned this weekend. The original permission only allowed use of the pitches once a week between 10:30am and just after midday on Sunday.
The pitches marked out in the park are far smaller than normal Rugby grounds and do not include “H” goalposts. This is due to the matches being played on them only involving 8 (Under 9s) and 9 (Under 10s) year old children. Rugby at those ages does not include any kicks, including conversions and field goals, plus teams have only 8 players. There is no prospect of an older team playing in the park due to the physical limits of the site. The club is required to make good any damage and clear the site of litter at the end of games.
Torbay Council should have taken steps to advise residents, local Councillors and surrounding businesses of the plan to avoid a surprise. Yet I cannot see any genuine problem likely to be caused by small groups of young children playing in a park, beyond those that would come from it being a park anyway!!!
A sensible conversation between the Council, Club and Residents should resolve any legitimate queries about games. I hope this will soon take place, as the current ban is unnecessary.
There has been a lot of coverage in the media recently about the rollout of Universal Credit, which is due to be introduced into Torbay in May 2018.
This will mean many local claimants needing to re-apply as their benefits are combined into one monthly payment. The theory of simplifying the benefits system, removing the need to apply separately for different ones, is something few would argue with, yet the numbers of people affected make this a complex process.
In preparation for this I discussed the provision being made to support local residents through this process on a visit to Torquay JobCentre Plus. Four of my team have also attended a training session on the new system to help with the casework queries which will follow.
I will be following this up in parliament on Monday by questioning Ministers about how many new claims for Universal Credit have been paid on time since its introduction.
Those who will depend on this system need to have confidence their claims will be effectively processed and paid on time, hence working on this issue now, not leaving it till May.
Draft Ward Boundaries Published,
On Tuesday the Local Government Boundary Commission For England published its draft recommendations for Torbay Council.
The Commission has been tasked with reviewing the current ward boundaries with a view to ensuring that each of Torbay’s 36 Councillors represents a similar number of voters. Developments such as The Willows and White Rock mean changes are inevitable as currently some councillors represent far more voters than others.
The draft proposals see major changes in Torquay, with a new Shiphay Ward and a large Barton With Watcombe Ward stretching from Riviera Way to Watcombe Beach. In Paignton the current Blatchcombe Ward is split. There are also many other minor changes, including my own street being included in the boundaries of Ellacombe Ward.
You can see a map of the proposals and submit your views to the Commission by clicking here. The consultation closes on 11th December with the new boundaries coming into effect for the May 2019 Council Elections.
On Monday the government began an unprecedented repatriation effort to return 110,000 passengers affected by the failure of Monarch.
The response means the government has agreed that passengers will not be charged for repatriation flights if abroad. A dedicated website has been set up for those affected by the airline’s collapse which you can find by clicking here.
Local Hero Succeeds At Invictus Games,
Paignton Veteran Karl Allen-Dobson returned from Canada this week a double Invictus Games Gold Medallist.
He was medically discharged from the army after a bomb in Iraq tore apart his right shoulder. Mr Allen Dobson won Gold medals in both the time trial and Crit circuit cycling events, with only 40% feeling in that arm. He rightly came home to a hero’s welcome at the Dartmouth Road YMCA where he works.
Karl’s determination is a real example to many others and it is a source of pride for our area that he has done so well. You can read more about his achievements on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
Castle Circus Update,
There has been further work this week to deal with the ongoing issues in Castle Circus.
Yesterday Torquay Police were out on the streets and (in their own words) rudely interrupted a drug deal being made in Castle Circus. Hanging baskets were also installed in Factory Row to improve the look of this area and discourage some of the recent trends in anti-social behaviour there.
This work followed a night on the town in Torquay Harbourside on Saturday for Torquay Police and their four-legged friends. Whilst the majority of people were pleased to see them out and about, a few were not as a quantity of drugs ranging from (what they believe to be) heroin and MDMA to Cannabis were seized.
Torquay Police are planning more nights out and other operations, but don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone thinking of dealing drugs in our Town so are not publishing dates in advance.
Stoodley Knowle Sale Confirmed,
The Stoodley Knowle Convent School site in Ilsham has been sold to new owner last Friday.
The sale ends the involvement in the site of the religious order which ran the school from 1924 until 2015. The price paid for the 47-acre prime site has not been disclosed.
When there is any further news I will include it in a future update.
Do You Know An Unsung Hero?
If you know someone who is always going the extra mile for our local community, nominations have opened for the Devon Community Honours.
The awards arranged by Devon Live have a range of categories and the closing date for nominations is 27th October. You can find all the details of how to make a nomination on their website by clicking here.
VIP Book Club Launched,
A new initiative to help people living with sight loss in Torbay is launching at Paignton Library.
The Torbay Visually Impaired Person (VIP) Book Club is a collaboration between Torbay Council, the RNIB, Torbay sight-loss charity VisualEyes and Friends of Paignton Library.
The club, which will meet monthly at Paignton Library, will use audio books to enable all members to read one title and discuss their reactions to it. Membership of the group will be free, and refreshments will be provided by Friends of Paignton Library.
Torbay VIP Book Group will meet on the second Tuesday of each month, commencing on 14 November, 10.30 am – 12.30 pm. Members are welcome to turn up on the day or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
To help anyone who wants to attend the book club, a specially discounted return taxi fare from anywhere in Torbay is on offer to members, subsidised by VisualEyes.
Volunteer Call for Cockington Bench Painting
Four years ago local resident Neil Stanlake decided it was time to do something about the benches at Cockington.
He got a team of volunteers together to paint them and is now looking to repeat this to keep Cockington looking its best. I copy below the details he has sent me of how any who would like to help can get involved:
“We have started repainting all the wooden benches again down in Cockington (believe it or not it was 4yrs ago we did them all), so is there any chance you can let people know of this through your weekly newsletter please? Weather permitting, we meet every Tuesday morning at the Cockington Cricket pavilion at 9am and work through until 1pm and we even provide mid-morning refreshment for volunteers. Anyone with a bit of time on their hands would be very welcome to join us.”
South West in Bloom,
The South West in Bloom Awards took place at The Imperial Hotel last night and there were plenty of local winners.
You can read the details of those who won Gold, Silver or Bronze on the dedicated website by clicking here.
Kev’s Column: Conference time
Every fortnight I write a “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express and you can read the latest edition by following the link below:
and finally… Final Days Of the Round Pound.
After 34 years in our pockets, wallets and down the back of sofas the old-style pound coin will be retiring this month.
The coins first introduced in 1983 will cease being legal tender at 23:59 on Sunday 15th October and after that will not be accepted in shops or retail outlets. There is estimated to be £420m of the old coins still in circulation and whilst they can still be paid into a bank after the deadline some limits may apply.
The Daily Telegraph did a feature this week on them, including what you could buy with your new pound coin when it was first introduced in 1983!!! You can read it by clicking here.
Finally if you do find one lurking in the glovebox later this month you can make it a PoppyPound by donating it to the Royal British Legion’s Annual Appeal which starts on Thursday 26th October.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.