As summer officially comes to an end it is time for my latest update.
Parliament returned this week, with the House of Commons sitting from Tuesday till Thursday. I took part in debates on a range of issues including whether the minimum age for marriage should be raised, Widowed Parents Allowance and how the law can prevent teens avoiding a ban on buying knives by going online, more on these below.
My week started with a visit to the Christians Together in Torquay Prayer Breakfast at Central Church, Torquay. This monthly event sees members of churches across the area come together to share breakfast, prayer requests and fellowship. Each quarter I attend to talk about the challenges and opportunities local churches may want to be thinking and praying about. As key Brexit debates loom it seemed an apt time to be visiting.
After Breakfast I headed over to St Martin’s Barton for my regular surgery, then later in the afternoon headed out on the doorsteps in Livermead. The light evenings and good weather mean it is a perfect time to head out with my team and speak with residents. I particularly enjoyed meeting several update readers and hearing how they find these of use.
I finished my day by heading back to Central Church for the Torbay Police Choir Concert. The Choir sings in aid of local charities and they were joined by The Beaufort Male Choir from Wales. A selection of songs from the musicals and popular modern music was performed. One of the visitors from Wales stopped for a chat, as he recognised me in the audience as he takes a close interest in parliament, due to his daughter being the General Secretary of the Labour Party in Wales.
Monday was the last day of recess, but still time to fit in a meeting with the Torquay United Supporters Trust to discuss my recent meeting with the Club’s owner Clarke Osborne. The Trust is looking to ensure fans’ voices are heard in any decisions taken which would affect the Club’s future, hence their strong interest in the events which led to the idea of a new stadium being announced.
Monday also saw me take some time out to remember those who served in our Merchant Navy before heading to Westminster later in the evening, more on this below.
Finally today I was back in the bay for a range of meetings with residents, a visit to Torbay Healthwatch and best of all (As pictured above) heading to Torwood St where work is finally underway on a £30m regeneration project. More on this below in this week’s update which also includes: Torwood St Gets Underway, Park Hotel Planning Application, Offensive Weapons Bill Committee, Pension Dashboard, Widowed Parents allowance, Marriage Age, Airshow Sponsors Sought, Shiphay Chippy, Bodyworn Cameras Consultation, Kev’s Column: TUFC Stadium Talks and finally….Sorry I’m Late A Wallaby Was Holding Up Traffic.
Torwood St Gets Underway,
After so many years of waiting the £30m regeneration of Torwood St is underway!!!
Contractors have moved on site to start the preparation work needed ahead of demolition crews arriving to bring down the derelict buildings which have blighted the street for some years. The overall scheme will see new restaurants and a shop created on the street, with office suites above and a new Hilton Hotel. It is the largest single building project to be undertaken in Torquay Town Centre for a generation.
The contractors have removed asbestos present in some of the buildings and erected new hoardings along Torwood Street. These cover the entire pavement and the parking spaces outside to ensure enough room for demolition work to be undertaken safely. A pedestrian walkway along the road will be maintained throughout the works, with a cover due to be installed over the walkway when demolition works are taking place.
The project is getting underway after Torbay Councillors agreed to provide a loan necessary to put the final funding package in place. The developer will be required to repay this money, plus a commercial rate of interest.
It is great to finally see this project get underway and our bay needs to be positive about getting more regeneration schemes on site.
Park Hotel Planning Application,
It is not just Torquay which needs to see job creating developments and regeneration get underway, the derelict sites on Paignton’s Seafront also require urgent attention.
As mentioned in last week’s update the developer seeking to build the first major new hotel on Paignton Seafront for decades has now submitted their planning application to Torbay Council. Whilst the scheme is not perfect it would create a modern 161-bedroom hotel with the standards of facilities many other resorts can offer to tempt visitors away from our bay. You can see the detailed plans and lodge your comments on it via the Council website by clicking here.
I appreciate some will be sad to see the former Park Hotel demolished, yet it is now closed\derelict having been rated as one of the worst places to stay in Paignton, with Heritage England recently declining an application to list it. The thought of a large derelict site in this key location, whilst hoping for a slightly different scheme or that someone else might come forward, could lead to further derelict sites as visitors are put off from returning.
The risks of saying NO to the first major investor wanting to invest millions of their own money in Central Paignton for a generation is far greater than those of saying yes.
Offensive Weapons Bill Committee,
A key part of parliament’s process for considering a bill is the Committee Stage, where a small group of MPs examine each line of the bill, receive evidence from expert witnesses and can debate aspects of it over several days.
I have been selected to sit on the Committee considering the Offensive Weapons Bill. This bill seeks to make carrying corrosive substances a criminal offence (if there is no lawful reason to be doing so), tidy up the law around sales of knives to under 18s, alter the 1959 law banning flick knives to stop some attempts to avoid it, ban the sale of bump stocks (Made infamous by a mass shooting in the USA) and review other aspects of our Firearms laws.
These committees can really get stuck into the details of a bill, with a major debate this week on exactly what items you may need to pick up from a Post Office (So Proof of Age can be shown) when ordered online. We also discussed if a Zombie Knives ban could apply to a similar crossbow and if the age for knife sales should be 18 or 21.
There is more debate in Committee scheduled for next week, with the bill expected to become law early next year.
I recently received several e-mails expressing concerns the proposed Pensions Dashboard may be scrapped.
The idea of the Pensions Dashboard is it would allow workers to easily check online the position of their retirement funds, especially if they have changed employers and schemes over their lifetime.
I am pleased to say the Government issued a statement to parliament this week confirming the proposal is not being scrapped. You can read it on Parliament’s website by clicking here.
Widowed Parents allowance,
Following a Supreme Court ruling on whether an unmarried Mother should be able to claim Widowed Parents Allowance, MPs questioned the relevant Minister on how the Government plans to react to this.
The case itself related to Northern Ireland, where the welfare system is devolved, yet the principle in relation to being married or in a civil partnership to qualify is part of wider UK rules. As these are in primary legislation the court judgment does not change them directly but does mean the Government has to formally review them.
Any case involving someone being left to care for a child on their own following the untimely death of their partner will be one which needs a compassionate response. I therefore asked the Minister to be clear this will be taken into account in the Government’s review. You can read my comments here.
On Wednesday I spoke to express my concerns about a proposed Private Member’s Bill which seeks to change the legal age for marriage.
The law currently states a person must be at least 16 years old to get married (With their Parent’s Permission needed until they turn 18). The law was clarified back in the 1920’s to be clear the minimum age for marriage of was the same as the legal age of consent, 16. This age was set in the Victorian Era when the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 was passed.
The lifelong commitment of marriage will not be right for many 16 or 17-year olds and few do, but I know at least one couple in the bay who married before 18 and have been happily together for many years. There are concerns about forced marriage at this age, yet evidence of this should see a marriage annulled regardless of the age of those involved.
My principle concerns were how such a change would be implemented (Not least if an English couple aged 16 crossed the border into Scotland to marry as there is no proposal to change Scots Law on this), how it would reopen the debate about the age of consent and whether it was sensible to have a position where a couple could lawfully make the lifelong commitment of being a parent, but then must wait over a year to marry each other.
These points made me strongly question whether a private member’s bill, which cannot receive the level of parliamentary scrutiny Government Bills are awarded or be subject to detailed consultation, was in any way the right vehicle to consider such a significant change in our law.
Whilst the motion was passed giving permission for the bill to be introduced procedural rules mean it stands no realistic chance of becoming law. Parliamentary Rules mean only two MPs, one in favour and one against, can speak on such motions. You can read my speech by clicking here.
Airshow Sponsors Sought,
An appeal has gone out for sponsors to come forward for Torbay Airshow 2019 as the Council reviews its own financial commitment to the event.
Previously £90,000 of Council funding had been allocated, but Budget pressures due to increasing numbers of children in care have seen this commitment placed under review. The first Airshow was held in 2016 and this year saw the RAF’s famous Red Arrows perform on both days. Torbay Airshow 2019 is scheduled to take place on 1-2 June 2019.
If you are interested or know a business which might be do let me know as I will be happy to pass on details to the Council.
There was sad news this week as it was announced Steven Collyer, the popular owner of the Shiphay Chippy had died, aged only 52.
Steven’s death follows that of his Husband Jason six weeks ago. They had been together for 28 years. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
Many update readers will have enjoyed a meal from the popular Fish Bar and Steven’s photos on social media of the food available each day were always enough to make you feel hungry. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
Bodyworn Cameras Consultation,
Over recent years the use of bodyworn cameras by Police Officers has helped provide valuable evidence in criminal cases, plus seen a massive reduction in the number of complaints made against them.
Now a trial is taking place of the use of Body Worn Cameras by three groups of Torbay Council staff. This is mostly to help deter attacks on Council staff, but also to help with some criminal cases. These staff usually work alone and the incidents of aggression and assaults have been increasing.
This trial is taking place during September and October 2018, where upon an evaluation will take place of the equipment and the impact on incidents of aggression and assaults. The evaluation will also consider the results of an online consultation which residents are being asked to complete. You can find it on the Council website by clicking here.
Council officers who enforce litter and dog fouling rules can face the same aggression as other law enforcement agencies when challenging offenders. Bodyworn CCTV not only deters such behaviour, but also gives a clear record of any incidents ensuring the Police can take appropriate action afterwards, it is therefore right the Council undertakes this trial
Kev’s Column: TUFC Stadium Talks
Every fortnight I write a special “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express and you can read the latest edition by following the link below:
and finally…. Sorry I’m Late, A Wallaby Was Holding Up Traffic.
If this was the excuse you got from an employee or student who turned up late today you would instantly ask why they could not do a better job thinking up an excuse than create such a tall tale.
Yet one of Australia’s best-known marsupials was doing just that on the A396 in Devon this morning. Stunned traffic officers responded to calls from motorists who had seen what they described as “a kangaroo playing with traffic”, although like many other suspects he had hopped it before the Police arrived.
The suspect is still at large and may be using the alias “Skippy”. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend!!!
Every Saturday – Torquay’s U13 Rugby Team – fund-raising car wash to raise money for their World Cup Japan Tour 2019 – at Torquay Rugby Club. Click here for further information.
Saturday 8th September Charity Open Day at Preston Conservative Club. The club will be open from 12noon till 3pm with a range of stalls and a BBQ available. Funds raised will go to tackling Bowel Cancer.
Friday 14th September Michael Card In Concert – Christchurch, Paignton.
The Christian songwriter and musician is playing at one of Paignton’s Beautiful Victorian Churches. I am advised his style is quite gentle and will appeal to all age groups. Concert Starts at 7:30pm. Tickets £12.50 in advance, £15 on the door. Contact email@example.com
Saturday 15th September Friends of St. Matthias Church – Blackberry & Apple Fayre,10.30am. – 2.30 p.m.at the Church and Centre. Many stalls and competitions. Live band between 11.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. and organ recital 1.00 p.m. – 1.30 p.m. Refreshments with a delicious lunch followed by Raffle. Everyone welcome.
Every Monday and Friday – from 8pm. Torbay Brass Band are seeking players, they rehearse in The Salvation Army Hall, Torquay. Contact number for further information is 07901 647927 – Click here for more info.
Every Tuesday from 0930 till 1230. The Royal British Legion Office, 39 Church Street, Paignton is open. It is where ex members of the armed forces can receive help and advice. Information is also available about volunteering to help with the Poppy Appeal in November. appointments can be made by phoning 01803 555838, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you running an event in the Bay? I am always looking to promote local events, big or small. If you have an event coming up, please email email@example.com so it can be included.
Saturday 15th September, 11am – 1pm @ Preston Baptist Church, Old Torquay Road, Paignton TQ3 2RB
Friday 21st September, 3pm – 5pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD
Friday 28th September, 3pm – 5pm @ Paignton Baptist Church, Winner Street, Paignton TQ3 3BY
Saturday 6th October, 11am – 1pm @ The Acorn Centre, Lummaton Cross, Torquay TQ2 8ET
Friday 12th October, 3pm – 5pm @ Paignton Baptist Church, 43 Winner Street, Paignton TQ3 3BJ
It’s always best to book a slot to guarantee being able to see me. Full details of how to do this are on my website or you can call my office on 01803 214989, Monday – Fridays, 9am – 5pm.
You can either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 01803 214989 and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.