After a week when the schools and parliament went back it is time for my latest update.
My week started last Saturday heading out in Watcombe with local resident Martin Brook. Some will know him through his work with the Torbay Holiday Helpers Network and having stood in the Elected Mayor Election in 2015. He wanted to discuss with me his concerns about the local environment and how it can be improved. We also helped reunite a stray dog with its owner.
Following this meeting I headed over to St Marychurch to formally open the new Diverse Fitness Gym.within the community hub of St Marychurch situated opposite Sainsbury’s. I was joined by local celebrities Ian and Janette Tough (the Krankies) and Cllr Ray Hill, with us even giving some of the Gym equipment a go.
Saturday afternoon saw me out on the doorsteps in Cockington talking to residents and conducting a short survey. It is a welcome change to the conversations in Parliament to hear directly from residents who would not normally get in touch with me. The issues raised included everything from Brexit to suggestions of a new Stadium for Torquay United.
Sunday saw me head up to London ahead of a busy and hectic week with Wednesday also seeing the resumption of the most significant debate in parliament for many years, with parliament debating Government Business on a Friday for the first time since my election. I cover this and many other issues discussed in parliament this week below.
Wednesday also saw a visit to Westminster by the Parents of Alice Sloman, who met Health Minister Stephen Hammond to discuss their campaign for basic heart checks to be routine before those children with existing conditions receive a general anesthetic.
One constant over the last two years has been protestors making their point strongly, but peacefully, outside parliament. I have on many occasions walked past Pro and Anti-Brexit protestors happily making their points side by side. Yet in recent weeks this has taken a more sinister turn with a small number of people threatening, harassing and intimidating not just MPs, but staff members, visitors and even just pedestrians walking by.
I therefore joined dozens of MPs, on a cross-party basis, in writing to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner calling on her to review law enforcement outside Parliament. Free speech cannot exist in the face of football hooligan style behaviour being ignored, hence our call for action.
I caught the train back home to our bay on Friday, with home being a welcome sight after all the issues faced at Westminster this week!!!!
This week’s update is below: Bins, Corbyn Head Hotel Planning Application, Goodrington Roadworks, Long Term NHS Plan, Dawlish Rail Resilience, Universal Credit, Royal Marines Basing Arrangements, Hi-Tech Business Funding, Police Precept Survey, Wellswood & Torwood CP Meeting, Devon Record Breaker Bigger Than Nelson’s Column, Kev’s Column: High St Fund and finally……… Open Wide and Say “GRR…”
I was invited onto BBC Radio Devon this morning following a stream of complaints from constituents about missed bin collections.
Echoing the concerns of a local resident also interviewed on the show, I agreed the service currently provided is unacceptable and the Council should act urgently to implement a solution. The fault does not lie with the hardworking frontline staff making the collections, but with the management of the service and the type of vehicles used to make collections.
Torbay Council’s current contract with the Kier group runs until 2020. I strongly feel this should be reconsidered urgently to ensure residents in Torbay receive the service they expect. I spoke last night with Cllr Dave Thomas, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Torbay Council, who will be raising questions about this with the Mayoral Administration of the Council.
If you have experienced a missed refuse collection, I would be happy to raise this directly with Tor2. Just contact my office on 01803 214989 or at email@example.com.
To listen to my comments on the radio this morning, click here and fast forward the programme to 55.40.
Corbyn Head Hotel Planning Application,
A consultation is underway on a Planning Application for a major new hotel on the site of the Corbyn Head Hotel in Livermead.
The application would see the existing building demolished and a 177 bedroom hotel built in its place. Whilst the site needs regeneration many residents have got in touch with the council expressing concern over the proposed height.
You can see all the details and submit your comments to Torbay Council on the Planning Application on their website by clicking here.
After being contacted by many residents concerned about delays to the road widening project on the A3022 Brixham Road, which has been front page news in this week’s local paper, I have sought reassurances and an update report from Torbay Councils Head of Highways that everything possible is being done to ‘get the job done’ as quickly as possible.
I understand due to the delay, caused by moving of key gas and other utility pipes, it has been decided to reschedule the starting on the next phase along Goodrington Road, to make sure traffic congestion is kept to a minimum. The work on Goodrington Road was due to commence at the end of January / beginning of February and residents had received letters notifying them of this.
I have asked the Head of Highways to keep me updated on further developments, so I can keep residents up to speed.
Whilst I welcome the total investment of around £11m for the ‘Western Corridor Improvement’ and the benefits it will eventually deliver in reducing traffic congestion, Torbay Council must not lose sight of minimizing the disruption and completing the job as quickly as possible.
Long Term NHS Plan,
This week the Government launched its Long-Term Plan for the NHS.
The publication of the plan follows the announcement last year the NHS would receive £20.5 billion extra by 2023-24. In return, the NHS was asked to develop a plan for how to spend this additional funding to transform patient care and make sure every penny of taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.
The plan is based on a new focus on prevention, keeping people out of hospital by improving their health and investing £4.5 billion in primary and community care, supporting GPs, health visitors and community nurses.
MPs debated the launch of the plan on Monday and I questioned the Health Secretary about the need to ensure those needing Mental Health Services were no longer sent to placements outside our county for the care they need.
You can read my question and the Minister’s answer by clicking here.
Dawlish Rail Resilience,
This week I questioned the Rail Minister, Andrew Jones MP, on what work the government is doing to ensure the resilience of CrossCountry services west of Exeter.
I noted the regular issues rail users experience on their services due to a well-known fault with CrossCountry’s rolling stock, as well as the ongoing problems on the stretch of line at Dawlish.
When raising this with the Minister, I asked what future requirements there will be for rolling stock which can cope with the conditions at Dawlish, along with how the work currently being carried out at Dawlish to improve the resilience of the line will seek to resolve this long-standing problem.
I was pleased to hear the Minister again describe work to improve the resilience of the line at Dawlish as a ‘national priority’ and reference how projects are currently underway to repair four existing breakwaters in the area. Yet there is still more work to be done in starting work on a major project being designed by Network Rail to guarantee its long-term future.
Securing rail services west of Exeter are key to ensuring Devon and Cornwall are not isolated from the rest of the UK. The Minister highlighted how improving the resilience of the rail line sends an important message the South West is ‘Open for Business’.
I will continue to work within Parliament with colleagues from across the political divide to secure the vital long-term investment our rail network needs.
Universal Credit has been in the news this week following announcements relating to the migration of claimants from existing benefits to the new system.
The first announcement confirmed a pilot would be undertaken involving 10,000 claimants to ensure the system proposed was correct and able to ensure those in receipt of the new benefit received the help they needed. This was discussed by MPs on Tuesday and I asked about how this pilot would be monitored. You can read my question and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
The second announcement today covered the two child limit and pilot schemes to provide more frequent payments for new claimants, a new online system for private landlords and a more flexible approach to childcare provisions. You can read today’s statement by clicking here.
Universal Credit was rolled out to Torbay last year with new claimants now applying for it rather than a host of previous benefits. If you or someone you know is having a problem with it do get in touch as I have a specially trained caseworker in my office who will be happy to help.
Royal Marines Basing Arrangements,
The Royal Marines have a proud history serving our country, with bases in our area providing vital support to their operations.
South Devon has always been a place the Royal Marines call home, with many proud veterans of the service, plus future Marines, call home. Yet whilst reflecting on their past is a lesson in excellence and professional soldiering, housing these elite troops in Barracks dating back over 300 years is not.
Whilst the Stonehouse Barracks in Plymouth are described as the Royal Marines spiritual home outdated facilities, coupled with the limitations of operating from a base where the sole jetty is accessed under the bows of Cross Channel Ferries, now need urgent replacement. Similarly, the iconic Royal Citadel where Commando Artillery is based has a major issue, some modern artillery vehicles cannot fit through the main entrance.
The need to replace these historic barracks has been identified, but there needs to be firm details about plans for new facilities to replace them. Plymouth Labour MP Luke Pollard secured a debate about this issue on Wednesday and I attended to support the calls being made for certainty.
As it was a short debate I could only make a brief intervention, but you can read this and the rest of the comments made by clicking here.
Hi-Tech Business Funding,
On Tuesday I questioned the Minister for Business and Industry, Richard Harrington MP, on what support his Department can offer to help boost Torbay’s hi-tech sector.
Paignton’s £8m EPIC Centre received funding from central government and will open later this year, boosting Torbay’s electronics and photonics industry. I was keen to enquire what further support Torbay may receive in the future for developing our hi-tech sector.
I was pleased to hear the Minister confirm his Department will continue to work closely with the Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership to identify strengths within our region and future opportunities for increased productivity, including from the photonics sector.
You can read my question and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
Police Precept Survey,
Our local Police and Crime Commissioner is asking residents if they would be prepared to pay around 40p a week more to fund improvements to policing, including 85 more officers.
Currently most households in the region contribute less than £3.20 a week to pay for policing through the council tax precept. Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, has now launched a poll to establish whether people would ‘pay more to get more’ for the 2019-20 financial year.
A rise of 41p a week for a Band C property (most households in the force area are Band C or below) would allow the force to recruit 85 officers by the end of 2020, taking the force strength to 3,100 officers.
You can read more and take part in the poll on Alison’s website by clicking here.
Wellswood & Torwood CP Meeting,
Issues ranging from local Policing to major developments in the area will be on the Agenda for the next General Meeting of the Wellswood and Torwood Community Partnership.
All residents living in the area are welcome to attend the meeting which will be held on Thursday (17th January 2019) at St. Matthias Church Hall from 7pm – 9pm.
Torquay Town Centre CP Meeting
Will also be meeting at the Torbay Community Develeopment Trust Offices on Temperance Street on Wednesday 16th January 7 – 9 pm
Welcome, notices, introductions
A presentation, Ageingwell, By Jess Slade.
Minutes of the November Meeting and a report on deliberations at the Christmas Party.
Item” A” A report on the BT phone box at the top of Abbey road, Possible purchase and conversion to an advertising Hub. Mrs Tracey Cabash will undertake enquiries.
Item “B” To raise monies for the purchase of Defibrillators for the Town Centre
A O B
Devon Record Breaker Bigger Than Nelson’s Column,
This week saw a record-breaking discovery made in Sidmouth, which if stood on one end would be higher than Nelson’s Column, but sadly it is not one the town will be boasting about.
The 64 metre “fatberg”, a disgusting mix of hardened fat, oils and wet-wipes, the size of six double decker buses, was discovered lurking in a sewer. All caused by some residents ignoring advice about what should, or in this case should not, be flushed down the toilet or poured in a drain. If stood on one end it would be higher than Nelson’s Column.
An epic clean-up is now underway which it is estimated will cost South West Water £130,000. In many cases the only effective way of clearing this type of obstruction is to dig it out by hand.
You can see video footage of this grim find on the Sidmouth Herald website by clicking here.
Kev’s Column: High St Fund
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…… Open Wide and Say “GRR…”.
Ending on a lighter note no-one likes the thought of a visit to the Dentist for root canal work, yet this week one very brave veterinary dentist faced a particularly anxious patient.
Paignton Zoo’s 11-year-old male Sumatran tiger Fabi, is over 2 metres long and weighs over 100 kilograms. As a Sumatran tiger he has 30 teeth, including four very long canines. These teeth are important for biting, tearing and his favourite pastime, eating meat.
You can see an amazing video of the work being done on Paignton Zoo’s website by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
After much debate since the EU Referendum on 23rd June 2016 the date for the UK’s Exit from the European Union is nearing.
A large number of residents have been in touch with me ahead of the debate and the votes in Parliament next Tuesday. With views expressed ranging from No Deal to No Brexit it is impossible to please everyone, also much of the commentary in the media has focused on a small number of MPs with views from opposite ends of the spectrum.
The events on Wednesday afternoon, when the Speaker allowed an unprecedented amendment (Which I opposed) to be considered on a business motion described as unamendable, have also brought added tension and drama to the proceedings. This move raises the stakes dramatically with the prospect of parliamentary procedures being twisted in a way which makes events after Tuesday even more unpredictable if the proposed treaty is rejected as is looking very likely to happen.
I spoke in the debate on Friday, but given the amount of MPs wishing to speak was only given five minutes for my speech, hardly time to scratch the surface of this issue. I will be doing a more detailed comment piece, including on the myriad of alternative options being put forward, plus what could happen after Tuesday. Do let me know if you would like to receive it.
You can listen to my speech by clicking here.
Sunday 20th January – 10am to 3.30pm – Bird Watch Day Workshop @ Cockington Visitor Centre, Cockington Village, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 6XA. For full details click here.
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.
2nd Wednesday of each month at the Quaker Meeting House in Torquay – Torbay Interfaith Forum meet. For more details click here.
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.
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
Friday 1st February, 3pm – 5pm @ AGE U.K. 12 Dendy Road, Paignton TQ4 5DB
Saturday 16th February, 11am – 1pm @ St Peters Church, Queensway, Torquay TQ2 6BP
Friday 22nd February, 3pm – 5pm @ Paignton Baptist Church, 43 Winner Street, Paignton TQ3 3BJ
Saturday 2nd March, 10pm – 12pm @ St Martins Church, Barton Hill Road, Torquay TQ2 8JA
Saturday 9th March, 11am – 1pm @ Preston Baptist Church, Old Torquay Road, TQ3 2RB
Saturday 16th March, 11am – 1pm @ The Acorn Centre, Lummaton Cross, Torquay TQ2 8ET
Saturday 23rd March, 11am – 1pm @ Preston Baptist Church, Old Torquay Road, TQ3 2RB
Friday 29th March, 3pm – 5pm @ The Windmill Centre, Pendennis Road, Torquay TQ2 7QB
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.