Residents’ Update: Courtesy Kevin Foster
Friday 3rd November 2017
After what has been a difficult week at Westminster it is time for my latest update.
Last Saturday saw the Torbay Day of Prayer, with churches across the bay opening and holding special services to mark it. I started the day by joining the congregation at Holy Angels RC Church In Queensway for Mass. Later I headed to Mount Olive Ministries for their Open Day and a chance to see the Log Cabin being built in the woods to provide a new space for events.
Sunday evening had a special feel as I joined the congregation at All Saints, Babbacombe for their patronal festival, which also marked the 150th Anniversary of the Church’s consecration. The historic church was lit by candlelight for the start as a reminder of what early congregations might have experienced. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet gave a thoughtful sermon and afterwards we caught up about the issues facing parliament.
The House of Commons sat from Monday to Friday this week and saw me involved in a range of meetings and events, some of which I go into more detail about below. One highlight came on Wednesday morning when I joined serving Armed Forces Personnel and dozens of colleagues for the Poppy Ride (As pictured above). The annual event sees an exercise bike used for a sponsored ride, with me contributing 2.2 miles to the total, as the picture above shows.
Earlier today I got a familiar “Friday feeling” as I attended debates on two Private Member’s Bills, but due to limited time I did not get to speak on either, with the only vote being a procedural one at the start. Yet I am pleased to report a bill aimed at reforming the procedures for how restraint is used in Mental Health facilities was passed.
Finally, I am aware of news in the media today about the Ministry of Pudding in Barton (Click here to read the article on Devon Live). I will be contacting the company to get some clarity about the position and will include any response in next week’s update.
This week’s update is below and includes: Edginswell Discussion With Rail Minister, Need For Change at Westminster, Flexible Armed Forces Bill, Balfour Declaration, Brixham Express Update, Contaminated Blood Inquiry, Neighbourhood Plans Published, Have Your Say On Council Budget Plans, Free Tours of Palace Theatre, Climbing Wall Re-Opens, Fire Brigade Exercise at Oldway, Kev’s Column: Supported Housing and finally…..Volcanic Vindaloo.
Edginswell Discussion With Rail Minister,
On Tuesday night I met the Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, for a detailed discussion about the project to build a station at Edginswell.
Edginswell failed to secure funding from a new stations fund announced earlier this year, yet was given very positive feedback with a view to further development ready for any future funding opportunities. My discussion with the Minister focused on the costs of track work needed as part of the scheme, the position with planning permission being granted and other aspects of the work done so far to ensure this project is shovel ready.
The discussion with Paul was positive and we both remarked on the benefits the scheme could bring to nearby developments including the Edginswell Business Park. There is some further work to be done on the project, but it was clear from my conversation this scheme has real potential if commitment is maintained to it locally.
Need For Change at Westminster,
The media has been full of stories this week about alleged behaviour of several political figures.
I do not comment on individual cases which appear in the media as I believe it is right investigators are able to do their job without political pressure, with those accused given a fair chance to reply. If claims are well founded it is better to comment with the benefit of an investigator’s report, rather than on the basis of whether you agree with the accused’s politics.
One key point which comes out of this week’s events is the urgent need to modernize the system for employing staff at Westminster. The current rules treat each MP’s office as a small business, even though it is funded by parliament and payments for many items must be specifically approved. This arrangement dates back to a different era when few MPs had staff, only dealt with a small amount of letters from constituents and employment laws\practices were not what they are today.
A modern system is desperately needed, including a parliament wide grievance and HR process. This could also save taxpayers money by sweeping away duplicated work the current arrangements require.
Flexible Armed Forces Bill,
The ability of our Armed Forces to be flexible in meeting the needs of our nation is legendary, yet for those looking to serve in them the conditions under which they do are still fairly rigid.
The reserve forces have for many years given a chance to mix a civilian career with military training and deployments. Yet as competition for skills vital for the military to function increases, with many servicemen\women looking to balance their commitments with family life, a need for flexibility has grown. The traditional model of a family following a serviceman around the world, wherever they may be deployed, is also one which can create real challenges where a child is approaching key exams or a partner is pursuing their own career.
It is against this backdrop the House of Commons discussed a proposed new law on Monday which would allow for Regulars to request the chance to serve on a part time basis. This change is not about a “part time” Army or Navy, there will be exemptions for those in key roles or units which operate at a very high readiness, in units about to deploy and where a person going part time would not be practical (eg Submarine or Ship at sea). Yet it could see people with key skills such as engineers and pilots retained, plus help attract those with niche capabilities, such as cyber, to take on a uniformed role in addition to civilian work.
I spoke in the debate and you can read my speech by clicking here.
The bill was given its Second Reading unanimously and will now proceed to detailed debate by a smaller committee of MPs.
A century ago the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild which would change the course of history in the Middle East.
The First World War appeared to be nearing an end and thoughts were turning to what the future would hold for the vast area covered by the Ottoman Empire. The British Empire would be given a mandate over Palestine and the letter, which has become known as the Balfour Declaration, confirmed support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish People there.
This short letter set off a chain of events which a century later has seen Israel, the nation envisaged, emerge as a prosperous modern democracy, yet the second part of the vision (a Palestinian State) is yet to be firmly established.
This week the Foreign Secretary made a statement on the centenary and I highlighted how the vision of two states, able to exist in peace and democracy with each other, must be kept alive, no matter how remote it might seem at the moment.
You can read my comments by clicking here.
Brixham Express Update,
In last week’s update I reported on the ending of the Brixham Express Ferry Service.
A resident contacted me earlier this week with a photo of the boat moored in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. Interestingly it sailed there with its AIS (A ship identification and position system) switched off.
I have received some further info from the council confirming the operator paid 5 years of berth fees and this year’s mooring fees upfront. I have also been advised the new pontoons in Brixham and Torquay, built as part of the scheme, are retained and owned by the Harbour Authority, with them available to be made available for other users.
I have asked ministers to confirm what action is being taken to protect the public funds involved in this scheme, including any funding used to support the construction of this vessel. I will include any further news in a future update.
Contaminated Blood Inquiry,
The Contaminated Blood Scandal may have happened thirty years ago but victims in the bay are still living with its effects.
Treatments which were supposed to help cure them and improve their health have left them disabled and in pain, with many victims having suffered an earlier death due to it.
Earlier today the Government confirmed the Public Inquiry announced earlier this year will be a full statutory inquiry led by the Cabinet Office. This followed concerns being expressed by victim’s groups about the Department of Health, whose actions will be scrutinised, not being the appropriate body to do this. You can read more on the BBC website by clicking here.
When I first spoke on this issue in parliament I remarked how my predecessor, who worked on this issue in parliament, would have found it impossible to believe when picking this issue up in 1997 that it would still be ongoing 20 years later. I welcome news the Cabinet will lead on this and hope justice will finally be done.
Neighbourhood Plans Published,
The three neighbourhood forums in Torbay (Torquay, Paignton and Brixham Peninsula) have submitted their Neighbourhood Plans to Torbay Council.
The three Neighbourhood Plans and related information can be viewed on the council website by clicking here. Torbay Council is publicising these plans for consultation and any representations must be received by 09:00am on Monday 18 December 2017.
It is easy to give the council your views be emailing email@example.com with the relevant Neighbourhood Plan identified (Torquay, Paignton or Brixham Peninsula) within the Subject. Alternatively, responses can be posted to “Neighbourhood Plans”, Spatial Planning, Electric House, Castle Circus, Torquay, TQ1 3DR, again making it clear which plan the comments relate to.
In accordance with the appropriate regulations, all comments should be sent to Torbay Council who will forward correspondence on for consideration by an Independent Examiner (who has not yet been appointed).
Have Your Say On Council Budget Plans,
A consultation is underway after the elected Mayor of Torbay has published his proposals for what Torbay Council’s budget should be for 2018/2019.
The proposals include a Council Tax increase of 1.99% and that the Council use the flexibility, granted by the Government, to raise Council Tax for adult social care by 3%.
Service changes, increased income and efficiencies totalling just over £0.8 million are also being proposed. Despite this, Torbay Council will still spend approximately £3.5 million per week on services in the community (excluding funding for schools and housing benefit payments), and plans to spend more than £48 million on capital schemes.
The consultation is running until Friday 15th December 2017 and you can find full details of the budget plans, plus how to have your say, on the council website by clicking here.
You can also have your say in person by attending the Mayor’s budget event on Thursday 16th November at 4pm. The meeting will be held at the Riviera Centre and full details can be found by clicking here.
Free Tours of Palace Theatre,
The Palace Theatre in Paignton is inviting everyone to enjoy a free backstage tour as part of #LoveTheatreDay on Wednesday 15 November 2017.
During the tour you will also have an opportunity to have your say on what the Palace Theatre should offer the community to make the most of this busy arts space located in the heart of Paignton. To find out more and book a tour click here.
Climbing Wall Re-Opens,
The popular climbing wall at Paignton’s Parkfield Centre has re-opened.
The Reach Outdoors has agreed a short-term tenancy of the climbing wall room at the centre on Paignton seafront. The climbing wall doors have been closed for a long time, meaning local children have missed out on using a valuable facility.
You can read more, plus get details of the new operator, on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
Fire Brigade Exercise at Oldway,
Some Paignton residents might have been worried to see lots of activity from the Fire Brigade at Oldway Mansion on Wednesday night.
There was thankfully no need to worry as their presence was part of a large training exercise aimed at honing firefighter’s skills on a range of equipment. I am advised crews from Paignton, Torquay, Newton Abbot and Moretonhampstead took part.
The long term future for this magnificent building is still being considered and I will include any further news I receive in future updates.
Kev’s Column: Supported Housing
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…..Volcanic Vindaloo.
Ending on a lighter note it is not just the Fireworks and Bonfires being prepared this weekend that may cause some significant heat.
A supermarket in Paignton will be returning to its shelves a vindaloo so hot it comes with an age restriction and gloves are used to handle it. The “Volcanic Vindaloo” is made with a chili that’s 200 times hotter than a Jalapeño. You can read a review of this rather fiery dish on The Sun website by clicking here.
If (bizarrely) you do decide this sounds a tasty treat it might be worth carefully considering if it really is sensible to be in the vicinity of a bonfire afterwards.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
Artizan Gallery 7 Lucius Street TQ2 5UW – Exhibitions featuring Susan Cavaliere and Nina Kleinzeller. Follow the links below for more informtion.
Exhibtion runs until 24th November
P A T H Fund Raiser – JUMBLE SALE -Saturday 4th November @ Robuck House, Warren Rd, Torquay TQ2 5TF. Between 10am and 1pm. Entry is free.
PUBLIC LECTURES AT TORQUAY MUSEUM – Every Tuesday and Wednesday – 10.45-12.00 NOON – £5 ON THE DOOR.
Tuesday 7 November – Professor and prolific author Jeremy Black on ‘HOLMES, POIROT AND THE BRITISH DETECTIVE STORY’.
Wednesday 8 November – RSPB SW Communications Manager Tony Whitehead on ‘THE NATURAL HISTORY OF BIRDS.Fun and Gift Fair – Thursday 9th November –, Join us for this fun event for the whole family! We will be having various stalls. We will be supporting the Torbay Blue Cross and will be doing lots of fundraising for them. Boots & Laces Bar At Torquay United Football Club, Marnham Road, Plainmoor, Torquay
TQ1 3QW between 2pm and 7pm – entry is free.
Torbay Hospital League of Friends – A CHORUS OF FASHION (SONGS WITH STYLE) at the Grand Hotel, Torquay – Thursday 16th November 2017, 7pm. Tickets £12.50 to include a welcome drink. Booking recommended available from 01803 290230.
Age UK TORBAY – Christmas Concert Saturday 25th November at 6.30pm – Paignton Parish Church, Church Street, Paignton TQ3 3AQ Adults £7.50 Children £4.00 Tickets available from Age UK Torbay 12 Dendy Rd, Paignton TQ4 5DB or 216 Torquay Rd, Manor Corner, Preston TQ3 2HP. Click here for full advert.
Advice Surgeries8th November 2017 – 2pm – 4pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD
18th November 2017 – 11am – 1pm @ Torquay Library, Lymington Road, Torquay TQ1 3DT
24th November 2017 – 3pm – 5pm @ Paignton Baptist Church, Winner Street, Paignton TQ3 3BJ
2nd December 2017 – 10am – 12pm @ St martins Church, Barton Hill Road, TQ2 8HU
8th December 2017 – 3pm – 5pm @ Paignton Library, 22 Station Lane, Paignton TQ4 5AR
16th December 2017 – 11am – 1pm @ Torquay Library, Lymington Road, Torquay TQ1 3DT
5th January 2018 – 11am – 1pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD