After what has been an eventful week in Parliament and here in the bay it is time for my latest update.
My week started last Saturday with a visit to Nightingale Park to meet residents and wildlife campaigners concerned about the potential impact any major development on it might have. Thanks to a decent pair of Army issue boots I was able to climb one of the banks to see evidence of the wildlife which is present. I won’t go into details of which species are present, but it was a joy to see so much natural life on what many residents will remember being an active landfill site.
After an outdoor visit in the cold a warm Pasty and Pudding Lunch organised by the Inner Wheel at St Matthias Church was very welcome. I joined Carol Colledge the Branch President and many others to test my knowledge of anagrams and pictures. Whilst my team did not win, we got a creditable top half finish.
The eagle eyed would have spotted Hazel and I at the bottom of St Marychurch Road watching the Torquay Christmas Carnival. It was great to see so many floats and lots of children enjoying themselves taking part. The Carnival is arranged by volunteers to raise money for charity, whilst also having a lot of fun, and I know all update readers will want to thank them for their efforts.
Saturday night was a chance to enjoy an evening at Preston Conservative Club (Bottom left) for a Charity Ball in Aid of Rowcroft Hospice. I managed to win a prize in the raffle………a free photo shoot.
On Sunday I headed up to London for a week of debates as Parliament sat from Monday till Friday this week. I also took part in debates on a range of issues including The Future of Local Press Titles, The Presidency of Interpol, Tax Avoidance, Supporting our Tourism Industry and our Naval Base in Bahrain. I was also in the House today to support two Private Member’s Bills, more on these below.
One highlight of the week came on Wednesday when Parliament marked the Centenary of the Act which ensured women could stand for Parliament. MPs were asked to nominate women who might be future MPs to attend the event. I invited two local Sixth Formers, Molly and Hannah (Bottom Right) who are studying politics and live in Torbay to join me for the day.
Yesterday I took a morning away from Parliament for a visit which brought home how prejudice can impact dramatically on the lives of one of the longest established communities in Britain. More on this below along with this week’s update, which includes: Torre Post Office Success, Mears Rated Inadequate, 60\65 Bus Meeting, Park Hotel Decision Praised, Stalking Bill Passes, High Noon For Private Parking Cowboys, Pensions Dashboard, Shedden Hall Hotel, Work Underway at Paignton Academy, Brexit, Tax Avoidance Debate and finally……..Feeling the Force.
Torre Post Office Success,
Torre Post Office is staying open and will be refurbished in the new year after a campaign championed by the Torre and Upton Community Partnership.
When closure plans were announced the whole community rallied to support Torre Post Office, with it even reaching the House of Commons when I secured a 30-minute debate on its future last December. Now Carters, owners of the nearby convenience store, have been awarded a contract to run the Post Office and keep it open at the heart of the local community.
The new owners have posted a sign in the window confirming the Post Office will stay open throughout the Christmas period, but will close on 2nd January 2019 for a major refurbishment. It will then re-open on Monday 14th January 2019.
This is a great result for the local community which I am pleased to have been able to play my part in achieving.
Mears Rated Inadequate,
A major provider of home care services and contractor to our local NHS, Mears Care, has again been branded “inadequate” by the CQC.
The CQC report is deeply concerning given the services Mears provide serve some of the most vulnerable people in our community. I am advised the report rating them as Inadequate reflects the information Torbay Healthwatch have received from many clients, family, carers and care staff concerned with unsafe practices, under staffing, plus poor communication and organisation of the Mears’ office. You can read the full report by clicking here.
I have been contacted today by both our local Integrated Care Organisation and Torbay Healthwatch about this report. Given the serious nature of it I will be seeking a meeting at the earliest opportunity to identify what action will be taken to prevent the failings identified continuing, especially given previous poor ratings for this service.
The immediate focus needs to be ensuring the vital care the residents receive in their own homes continues to be delivered, but work must be done to improve standards for the long term.
60\65 Bus Meeting,
As reported in last week’s update the 60 and 65 services are to be suspended for four months (last service Saturday 8th December), a blow for those who rely on them for everything from a trip to the shops to attending a hospital appointment.
I have arranged a meeting this week to discuss with local councillors what could be done, even if it was just maintaining the service until Christmas so residents who rely on it can use it to attend planned events in the run up.
The last time these services were threatened I campaigned alongside residents to get them reinstated. I will be doing the same over the next few weeks.
Park Hotel Decision Praised,
Earlier this week I got the chance to ask Ministers for Business and Enterprise about how the Industrial Strategy would promote investment in our bay.
I decided to highlight the decision to grant permission for the £14m plan for a major new hotel on the site of the now derelict Park Hotel and ask what would be done to encourage further investment like this.
You can read my question and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
Stalking Bill Passes,
Earlier today I was delighted to be in Parliament to support my neighbour Dr Sarah Wollaston’s bill to introduce new protections for the victims of stalking.
Stalking Protection Orders will allow the Police to make an application to a Magistrates Court for an order which would prevent a person engaging in behaviour linked to stalking. This would allow action to be taken to protect someone without matters having to escalate to the point where a criminal conviction is received. Breach of a Stalking Protection Order would be a Criminal Offence once it is in place.
Victims of Stalking can face endless harassment as a former partner or a total stranger seeks to control their live or inject fear into them. Hence Sarah’s Bill is a very welcome move and one I was delighted to help get through its final stages in the House of Commons today.
You can read my speech in the Report Stage of today’s proceedings by clicking here.
High Noon For Private Parking Cowboys,
Since I was first elected, I have received a regular stream of complaints about enforcement practices in a privately-owned care park in Torquay.
Whilst Torbay Council’s Parking Enforcement operation is covered by a clear code of practice and an independent appeal process the current system of self-regulation of private operators is unable to effectively deal with sharp practices from a small number of operators. This issue is not unique to Torbay with MPs from across the UK having similar tales of private parking enforcement companies engaging in sharp practices.
A new law which cleared the House of Commons today will change this by putting in place a single system of regulation and an enforceable code of practice, with the ability to access DVLA data removed for those who do not co-operate.
You can read my speech in the debate by clicking here.
With many people working at different employers throughout their career it can be easy to lose track of the Pension Entitlements you may accrue with each of them.
The Pensions Dashboard is intended to simplify this by allowing people to see their retirement savings in one place, making it easier to work out if they are putting enough away and to ensure an informed choice can be made about their retirement options.
Some have queried with me if this system will be going ahead and whether it will cover all schemes, including those provided by the smallest employers.
This week I got the chance to raise this with Ministers and you can read the response I received by clicking here.
Shedden Hall Hotel,
Having waited years for some well-known eye-sores to be regenerated the last three months has seen real progress being made.
First demolition work got underway in Torwood St, then workers arrived at the Old B&Q, followed by builders starting at Roebuck House. Now the bulldozers are in action at the derelict mess which was once the Shedden Hall Hotel.
As regular update readers will know this site is one I have constantly been chasing Torbay Council to take action on. Its shabby appearance does little to attract tourists to make a return visit and constant excuses for not getting work underway were being provided.
I look forward to seeing further progress on site and, following the Planning Permission granted last week, it will be good to see workers on site building the first major new Hotel on Paignton Seafront in decades.
Work Underway at Paignton Academy,
It is also great to see work get underway at Paignton Community and Sports Academy’s Borough Road Campus on a project which will see over £3m invested in better facilities.
For some years the site had been blighted by near derelict buildings which suffered from damp and were in urgent need of replacement. Dr Sarah Wollaston and I worked with the school to secure the funding needed to replace them and it is great to see work starting on site.
The new building will include a new kitchen, dining area and a multi-use hall\theatre with retractable seating for around 300 students.
This is a great investment in providing opportunities for our next generation, especially when combined with the £17m Hi-Tech Skills Centre being built at South Devon College.
This week saw another round of debates on Brexit as a Political Declaration in relation to our future relationship with the EU beyond the Transition Period was published.
The document published this week is far shorter than the draft Withdrawal Agreement. It sets out the basis for talks with the EU on a permanent future relationship which would ultimately replace the arrangements set out under the Withdrawal Agreement. Until the UK leaves the EU on 29th March 2019 it cannot sign a separate Trade Deal with it, hence the agreement of a legal treaty on a future arrangement would follow our leaving.
You can read the latest document and the draft Withdrawal Treaty on the Government website by clicking here.
Like my reading of it discussions are continuing with the European Union about the Withdrawal Treaty this weekend, with work being done around the Northern Ireland Backstop and how it would be brought to an end.
Tax Avoidance Debate,
After each Budget a Finance Bill is presented to Parliament in order to make any significant changes to the law necessary for it to be brought into effect.
Monday and Tuesday saw the Report Stage for the latest Finance Bill take place on the floor of the House of Commons. Four separate sessions for debate were chosen, each with a specific theme.
Given my previous work on the Public Accounts Committee I decided to take part in the session on Tax Avoidance, which was looking in some detail at a new proposed tax around the transfer of profits from “intangible assets”. Put more simply it is focused on ensuring large online companies cannot just shift revenues abroad to avoid paying UK taxation on income generated from services, such as advertising, provided to UK residents.
You can read my speech, plus the contributions from other members, by clicking here.
and finally……..Feeling the Force.
Ending on a lighter note one Devon resident has been left feeling the force after he built a replica of an Imperial Scout Walker near Ashburton.
The replica of the combat vehicle from Return of the Jedi cost £12,000 to build, but could soon be felled not by a laser blast from a Rebel X-Wing, but a letter from Teignbridge District Council saying there are 21 days to remove it because it does not have planning permission.
Whether a Jedi Mind Trick on the Council’s Planning Officers will be successful in getting permission for it to stay is yet to be seen, but you can read more and see a photo on Plymouth Live by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
Tuesday 27th-Friday 30th November, join us as we take part in marking Carers’ Rights Week – organisations across the UK working together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to. Click here for full details.
Friday 30th November – Churston Golf Club – Xmas Fayre 10-12am, entry fee includes coffee and mince pie, stalls and raffle – Proceeds to RNLI
Friday 30 November 2018 – SHEKINAH GROW
Community Christmas Fayre from 11am till 3pm, For full details click here.
Saturday 1st December – South Devon Choir concert. The theme is Calm after Chaos. The concert features Haydn’s Nelson Mass (Mass for Troubled Times), the Tsunami Requiem for the 2004 Tsunami, and Lauridsen‘s O Magnum Mysterium, bringing calm to the end of the concert. Starts at 7.30pm – Venue Central Church, Torquay, TQ2 5RF. Ticket Price £12 on the door. £11 in advance. https://southdevonchoir.org/nelson-mass-1-december-2018/
Saturday 8th December – from 10am – The Christmas Fayre at Central Church – Coffee, various stalls and light lunches. Everyone welcome.
Sunday 9th December at 4pm and 5.30pm at Rowcroft Hospice – Rowcroft Light up a Life service. All the details can be found on the website www.rowcrofthospice.org.uk/light
Friday 14th December at 7.30pm – Christmas Quiz – Cost £5 in advance, or £6 on the door (open at 7pm). To include wine and pasty (vegetarian option available) at Paignton Parish Church, 31 Winsu Avenue, Paignton TQ3 1QE – for more details click here.
Saturday 15th December 11am to 2pm – Paignton Parish Church, 31 Winsu Avenue, Paignton TQ3 1QE – Christmas Fayre – Free entry – Christmas Draw tickets 50p a ticket will be available for purchase from end of October.
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. Appointments can be made by phoning 01803 555838, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday 1st December, 10am – 12pm @ St Martin’s Church, Barton Hill Road, Torquay, TQ2 8JA
Friday 7th December, 3pm – 5pm @ Age U.K. Dendy Road, Paignton TQ4 5DB
Saturday 15th December, 11am – 1pm @ Barton Baptist Church, Happaway Road, Torquay TQ2 8EU.
Friday 21st December, 3pm – 5pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD.
Friday 4th January, 3pm – 5pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD
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.