As Christmas nears and Father Christmas starts packing his sleigh it is time for my latest update.
This week’s update is a bit like the Christmas Radio Times, a bumper edition for the fortnight ahead!!!! Like many update readers I will be taking time to be with my family over Christmas. This means there will be no update next week. The next update will be sent on Friday 4th January 2019.
My week started with a visit to Cary Park Tennis Club in Babbacombe to draw their Christmas Raffle. The Club is in the middle of extending its clubhouse to help even more local people get the chance to play sport and make friends whilst enjoying some low-cost fun. There was even a special prize at the end for myself of a Club Sweatshirt for me to wear when visiting the many events they hold throughout the year.
After pulling the prizes I headed to Barton Baptist Church for my weekly advice surgery. My surgeries are a chance for residents to ask for my help when they have a problem such as an immigration case which has gone wrong or a need to be rehoused. In many cases my team and I can quickly find a solution, in others we will pursue them over some months, potentially including raising them in Parliament.
Once my surgery was over I headed to my East St Office for the presentation of the latest awards from Foster’s Fund, the scheme I run to honour my pledge to donate the 10% MPs Pay Rise to local charities. This month three charities benefited from a total of £1,500 of donations for projects including planting in Chelston, equipment for debt advisors and Christmas in a Bap.
Later in the evening Hazel and I joined other members of Toads Stage Musical Company for a superb evening of Festive Entertainment and Carols at Lincombe Manor.
On Sunday evening I joined the congregation of St John the Apostle, Torquay for their Carol Service. This magnificent church has a special feel at Christmas when the candles are lit and the organ is playing some of my favourite carols. I was asked to read the Third Lesson and the fellowship afterwards over some mulled wine was exactly what I needed before heading back to Westminster.
Parliament sat from Monday to Thursday this week, with lots of issues discussed ahead of breaking for the Christmas Recess. I cover several of those I was involved with below, but some eagle-eyed residents noted I was not in my usual spot for Prime Minister’s Questions, but was instead sat almost directly behind the PM. This is because Cabinet Office Questions were held this Wednesday, during which I sit behind and take notes as David Lidington’s Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS), so rather than try and move out at the end I sit next to the PM’s PPS for PMQs.
Amongst some angry debates at Westminster this week there was one event where festive cheer, a smile and a waggy tail was guaranteed: Guide Dogs Annual Christmas Reception at the House of Commons. The charity is this year highlighting how too often those who rely on assistance dogs are turned away from services they have a right to receive.
I returned home yesterday just in time to catch the Wellswood Street Party, which despite the rain still had plenty of festive spirit. Then this morning it was an early start to visit the Paignton Delivery Office to thank our local Posties for the work they are doing to get the Christmas Mail out (I am visiting Torquay Delivery Office on Monday).
Finally today is the 45th anniversary of the murder of PC Dennis Smith, who was shot whilst on duty in Torquay protecting our community. Later that evening the same gunman entered a local Casino killing three others, including Ann Andre who bravely approached him as he fired on others. As we recall PC Smith’s courage and sacrifice, we think of all our Emergency Services who will be working to keep us safe throughout the festive season.
This week’s update is below and includes: A Big Move For Torquay’s Big Screen, TUFC Stadium Update, Christmas Bin Collections, Christmas Opening Times, Not Feeling Well?, A Christmas Near You, NORAD Tracks Santa, Paignton Christmas Miracle, Higher Needs Funding Boost, Torquay Magistrate’s Court, Brexit, Future Trade Deals, Yemen, and finally…….Stuck For a Gift Idea?
A Big Move For Torquay’s Big Screen,
There was big news this week for Torquay’s movie lovers as it was announced Merlin, the company which owns the historic Central Cinema in Abbey Road, is set to buy the former BHS Store in Union St, Torquay.
Merlin will, during 2019, be converting the former BHS building into a multi-screen cinema, initially offering six screens of varying capacities. They presently operate 15 cinemas in mainly coastal and rural locations, but predominantly in the South West.
The current cinema in Abbey Road, once an Opera House, will be redeveloped although the exact details of the plans for it are yet to be revealed. The new cinema in Union Street is expected to attract 300,000 visitors a year.
Many update readers will (like me) have fond memories of the current cinema in Abbey Road, especially of seeing a particularly good film, heading to a Saturday Morning Show or even a date sat in its back row!! Yet in recent years it has become tired and the conversion to multiple screens some years ago is far from ideal in terms of access or visitor experience. As it faces increasing competition from more modern facilities elsewhere and online movie streaming services there had been concerns a night out at the pictures might soon no longer be possible in Torquay. Yet this doubt disappeared with news of this major new investment. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
The Buyology store which is in the BHS building is, to my knowledge, on a temporary lease, but I am very concerned to hear staff working at it first heard news of the building’s sale via the media. I will be writing to the TDA to clarify what work is being done to find an alternative location for the store if they wish to stay in Torquay and what they know of any plans for the redevelopment of the current cinema building.
TUFC Stadium Update,
There was another twist in the tale of plans for a new stadium this week, as a draft “Memorandum of Understanding” between the Club and Torbay Council,was discussed by Councillors and Torbay’s Elected Mayor.
I am advised a specific site is not mentioned in the document, neither are there details of publicly owned land which it indicates might be released to facilitate a development. Whilst statements were made of this only being an agreement to work together in a professional manner, rather than a financial commitment, such documents are normally intended to indicate a more formal commitment to a process.
Whilst the Elected Mayor indicated he was prepared to sign it I understand a challenge has been lodged by Councillors. The agreement will therefore only be signed by Torbay Council if the bay’s 36 Councillors agree with the Mayor, whose post is due to be abolished in May. Given the strong opposition already expressed on a cross party basis by several leading Councillors, including Members of the Mayor’s Executive, the document is almost certain to be rejected.
You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
Christmas Bin Collections,
Some bins are being collected a day earlier than normal.
Normal collection day Revised collection day
Monday 24th December 2018 Sunday 23rd December 2018
Tuesday 25th December 2018 Monday 24th December 2018
Wednesday 26th December 2018 Thursday 27th December 2018
Thursday 27th December 2018 Friday 28 December 2018
Friday 28th December 2018 Saturday 29th December 2018
Monday 31st December 2018 Sunday 30th December 2018
Tuesday 1st January 2019 Monday 31st December 2018
Normal collection days resume on 2nd January 2019.
Christmas tree recycling
TOR2 will be collecting Christmas trees from 9am to 1pm at Lymington Road Car Park, Torquay and at Brixham College, Ranscombe Road, Brixham on:
Sunday 6th January 2019
Sunday 13th January 2019
You can also take your tree to the recycling centre in Paignton on any day of the week during normal opening hours.
Christmas Opening Times,
All Torbay libraries will close on Saturday 22 December and re-open on Saturday 29 December. They will close again on New Year’s Day before opening again on Wednesday 2 January 2019. This will include access to the Connections Self Service Zone provisions within the buildings of Torquay and Brixham library.
Paignton Connections Office
Paignton Connections will be closed from 5pm on Friday 21 December and will re-open on Thursday 27 and Friday 28 December between 9am and 5pm, before re-opening again from 9am on Wednesday 2 January 2019.
Housing Options and Homeless service will be closed from 5pm on Friday 21 December. The Emergency Duty Service will then be available on 0300 4564 876 until the Housing Options service re-opens 27 and 28 December between 9am and 5pm. They can be contacted on 01803 208723 to receive reports of homelessness and enquiries that require urgent assistance
You can find details of other Torbay Council opening times over the Festive period by clicking here.
Not Feeling Well?,
If not feeling well over Christmas the staff of our local NHS will be on duty to help, but it is right we all think carefully about which service is the right one to access.
You can find details of Urgent and Emergency Care Services available, along with current waiting times, on our local NHS website by clicking here.
I would highly recommend downloading the “NHS Quicker” App which allows you to check live waiting times at our local A&E and Minor Injury Units to decide where is the best place to head if you need urgent care. You can find details of it by clicking here.
If you need to collect a Prescription on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day you can find details of Pharmacy Opening Times by clicking here.
A Christmas Near You,
Some of the best memories I have of Christmas past are not of presents, but of special events I attended with my family.
Local churches across the bay will be extending a special welcome to families and anyone who wants to share some fellowship at this special time of year. Some of the highlights on Christmas Eve include the Christingle and Crib Service at 3pm at St Martin’s Barton, the 5pm Christingle Service at St Mary Magdalene Torquay, the beautiful Candlelight Carol Service in Paignton Parish Church at 7:30pm and Midnight Holy Communion at St Matthias, Torquay which starts at 11pm.
You will find a warm welcome at any of our local churches this Christmas, with the Church of England having set up a website where you can easily find the details of services by popping in your postcode. Just click here to be taken to it.
NORAD Tracks Santa,
Travelling at high speed and crossing many contentious borders where air defences are on high alert could result in a tragic end for Father Christmas and those waiting for their presents.
Thankfully the team at NORAD, the United States of America’s elite early warning system, has for over 60 years ensured Father Christmas a safe journey by alerting military forces around the world to his whereabouts on Christmas Eve.
Using Satellite Tracking and Advanced Radar Systems designed to detect ballistic missile attacks on the USA or its allies they can pin point his location from the moment he lives his North Pole Base. In order to ensure every Air Force across the world is aware they share their track online and you can find it by clicking here.
NORAD do point out they are sadly unable to jam the signal on his sleigh which detects if anyone waiting for him is awake. They therefore recommend any children expecting a delivery have been in bed for some hours before he starts approaching the UK.
Paignton Christmas Miracle,
The best part of Christmas is being able to share it with those you love and care about.
One Paignton family spoke to Devon Live this week about the Christmas Miracle of being able to spend it with their Toddler Son after he survived major heart surgery.
You can read their story by clicking here.
Higher Needs Funding Boost,
Following the recent proposal by Torbay’s Elected Mayor to top slice school budgets I voiced the concerns of parents, teachers and governors in parliament on Monday with the Minister of State for School Standards, Nick Gibb MP.
Having been part of the campaign to secure a fairer funding settlement for our schools, I am concerned to see much of the benefits of this may now be lost, with some schools in Torbay facing receiving less than the minimum per pupil promised under the new formula. I was therefore pleased to note an additional £250m of government funding for high needs was announced on Sunday and asked the Minister how much of this pot Torbay will receive.
These figures have since been published and will see Torbay receive over £536k of additional funding for higher needs pupils over the next two years. I believe this additional funding should be used to reduce the top slicing proposed. You can read the detailed breakdown here.
I will be arranging a meeting with the Schools Minister in the New Year to discuss the situation in Torbay further and will be inviting representatives from local schools to join me for it.
Torquay Magistrate’s Court,
The former Torquay Magistrates Court has stood empty since its closure in 2017, but it could be given a new lease of life as a centre for the local community.
Few potential purchasers have come forward for the site due to the difficulties with converting it to another use. Yet it would be an ideal location for an expansion of the work undertaken by St Mary Magdalene Church, given it is next door. I therefore raised its future in Parliament this week with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice.
I highlighted the great work undertaken by groups like the Living Room and emphasised how the Church’s work could be enhanced if they were able to expand into the neighbouring building. I asked the Minister whether she would agree to meet with representatives from the Church to discuss how, if they acquired the site, they could use it to make a real difference for vulnerable people in Torquay.
She agreed and I will be arranging the meeting early in the New Year. You can read my question and her response by clicking here.
Whilst the church does work with some ex-offenders given its outreach services, the main intention in taking over the site would be to replace the now elderly church hall and expand its community work in a way not possible within its main Victorian Building.
There were further discussions on Brexit this week as the Prime Minister gave a statement to MPs and Opposition Parties secured two debates in the House of Commons.
The Northern Ireland Backstop was the focus of much debate and I again questioned the Prime Minister on it. You can listen to my question and her response by clicking here.
I also spoke in the debate secured by the Scottish National Party. You can listen to my speech by clicking here.
Future Trade Deals,
Yesterday I got the chance to ask Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, a question on future Trade Deals.
I decided to again push the case for the United Kingdom joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership, a trading block which includes Japan, New Zealand, Canada and Australia.
You can listen to my question and his response by clicking here.
Most of my time in parliament is focused on issues which directly affect our bay, yet the disastrous situation in Yemen is one I have regularly spoken on.
The ongoing Civil War has produced a humanitarian disaster, yet a ceasefire recently agreed around the key port of Hodeidah has brought new hope this week to many facing starvation and disease.
The Foreign Secretary updated MPs on Wednesday about the situation, so I took the chance to ask about what work the UK would be doing to help rebuild this shattered country. You can read my comments and the reply I received by clicking here.
and finally…….Stuck For a Gift Idea?
Ending on a lighter note with only three shopping days left many update readers may still be stuck trying to think about what gift to buy for a friend or loved one.
Many of us will opt for one of the traditional last-minute presents of a plant or some “smellies”. Yet these were given a whole new meaning by the team at Paignton Zoo this week as they packed off a special Christmas Gift to their friends at Marwell Wildlife who are setting up a new Tropical House.
The endangered Titan Arum is a very rare plant, yet it has a catch, when it blooms it has a fragrance which is strong and unmistakable……..of Rotting Meat! You can see the present ready to be packed off and read more on the Zoo’s website by clicking here.
That is all for this week and for 2018. It therefore only remains for me to wish you, your family and those you care about a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
In Parliament yesterday, I raised the prospect of Torbay adopting a Housing First approach to tackle homelessness with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP.
This follows a meeting I arranged in Westminster this week with the Minister for Homelessness, Heather Wheeler MP, (Left) at which the case for government support to deliver this approach in Torbay was made. The meeting was attended by representatives of Torbay Council, Crisis and Shekinah who briefed the Minister on the Torbay End Street Homelessness Campaign, work being done to support rough sleepers in getting off the streets and the difference moving to a full Housing First Model could make.
In my question yesterday I emphasised how local support services work hard reaching out to those who are rough sleepers, but the evidence is too many end up back on the streets at a later date, hence why Torbay is ready to implement a Housing First strategy to end rough sleeping.
I asked the Secretary of State about what evidence he has seen from the three Housing First schemes piloted by the government this year to confirm it would be an effective approach for Torbay. In reply the Minister indicated good practice learnt from the three existing pilots could be used for a future similar scheme to tackle homelessness in Torbay.
You can listen to my question and his response on my Facebook Page by clicking here.
From now until December 24th The Artizan Winter Open will run at their pop-up venue in Unit 5 on the lower level of Fleet Walk and will include submissions from their Geopark Ambassador Artists. A donation from all sales will go to the important work done by the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark. For more information, visit art-hub.co.uk/winteropen2018. For more on the family run Artizan, visit artizangallery.co.uk
22nd, 23rd, 27th and 28th December – If you’re looking for something a little different to entertain the kids this Christmas, then enjoy a storytelling performance with the Grinch, festive trails and Christmas decoration-making at Torquay Museum on , when museum entry will be free of charge. The Devon-based Pocketwatch Theatre Company will entertain all ages with The Grinch Story – an interactive performance featuring a storyteller, the Grinch and puppetry. The performances take place at 12.30pm and 2.30pm and are suitable for all ages. Tickets are £5 each for children and £7 for adults – for more details click here.
Monday 24th December at 3pm – All Saints, Torre’s Family Crib Service. Everyone is welcome to come dressed as someone from the Nativity. Click here for more details.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org so it can be included.
Friday 4th January, 3pm – 5pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD
Saturday 12th January, 11am – 1pm @ Preston Baptist Church, Old Torquay Road TQ3 2RB
Friday 18th January, 3pm – 5pm @ The Windmill Centre, Pendennis Road, Torquay TQ2 7QB
Saturday 26th January, 11am – 1pm @ The Acorn Centre, Lummaton Cross, Torquay TQ2 8ET
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 email@example.com or leave a message on 01803 214989 and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.