After an interesting week at Westminster and here in the bay it is time for my latest update.
My week started quietly with a Saturday at home catching up on emails and paperwork after a busy time in parliament. This was followed by a session out on the doorsteps in Babbacombe with Hazel and Cllr Anne Brooks. I always find knocking doors is a great way of hearing from a range of people who may not get in touch with me regularly, but who have a view on their area or national events.
Sunday was very different as I headed to Upton Vale Baptist Church for the Induction of Pastor Rev. Andy Hickford. It was great to be part of a large congregation of all ages for a celebration of the new ministry about to start. The church plays a large part in supporting the local community and hosts the CAP Money Advice Service which has helped many residents escape the clutches of unaffordable debts.
Sunday evening saw me head up to London ahead of a busy week in Parliament with the House of Commons sitting from Monday till Friday this week. I cover below some of the debates I was involved in, plus some significant announcements made this week in relation to issues which affect our bay directly.
The highlight of my week was one which some eagle-eyed residents may have noticed on Wednesday. As the Prime Minister was away meeting European Leaders David Lidington responded to Prime Minister’s Questions on her behalf. When he stands in for her I am asked to substitute for the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) who would normally support her, including sitting behind David during the live session. More on what this involves below.
Later in the afternoon I headed to a Parliamentary event ahead of the national launch of the Adult Social Care Recruitment Campaign which is starting on Monday. The national recruitment campaign aims to boost recruitment into the adult social care sector where there are approximately 110,000 vacancies across England and a high turnover rate of around 31%.
Today I was in parliament to support two Private Member’s Bills. One which seeks to ensure cultural objects looted during the Holocaust can be returned to their rightful owners. The second a bill dubbed “Finn’s Law” ensuring those who attack Service Animals, including Police Dogs like Finn, get dealt with more appropriately by the courts. I even got to meet Finn in person, or should it be in dog, after the bill completed all its stages and headed to the Lords.
Sadly today in Parliament was also notable for the use of arcane procedure by one MP to block a bill aimed at tackling Female Genital Mutilation. I was present in the chamber for a moment which embarrassed the whole house. Thankfully the Government Chief Whip has this evening indicated time will be found, using more modern procedures in Government Time, to ensure the change progresses
This week’s update is below and includes: PMQs, Sport Debate, Rough Sleeping Debate, PATH, Unauthorised Traveller Camps, Legal Aid, Fireman Sam?, Shedden Hall Hotel, Paignton Beach Slipway, Housing Standards Crackdown, Dawlish Rail Plan Submitted, Kev’s Column: Recess Cancelled and finally……..I Just Missed An Octopus!!
Love it or loathe it Prime Minister’s Questions is the most high-profile event of the Parliamentary Week, but what is not visible to those watching is what happens to prepare for it.
Whilst some MPs scheduled to ask questions will let the Prime Minister’s team known their chosen subject many, including the Opposition Leader who has 6, will not. This means the Prime Minister or David in her absence, must read up on a range of subjects and prepare lines on literally any issue which could be thrown at them.
There are three preparation sessions. The first on Monday lunchtime is a quick half hour to discuss likely subjects and what research is needed. The second on Tuesday Afternoon for an hour to look through the first versions of the briefing packs. Then on Wednesday morning 90 minutes of practice and reading beforehand.
During the session as PPS I have three packs. One a small pack with each questioner and a list of useful stats, plus briefing notes on “hot topics” it is believed are very likely to come up or with questions MPs have indicated they will ask if called by the Speaker. The Second is a larger document with points made on issues by the Prime Minister (or David) at previous sessions for reference. The final one is a large lever arch file which contains briefings on virtually any subject likely to come up.
As a question is asked I listen to them and once I realise the subject I pass a note forward (if we have) one on the subject, especially if a detailed question being asked. I also keep count on the Opposition Leader Questions as it is easy to lose track when answering of whether they are on number 4 or number 5.
Finally ahead of the session I will as PPS for the session encourage other colleagues to take part and highlight some issues they might wish to ask about.
Our bay’s vibrant sport scene and the army of volunteers who support it was highlighted in parliament on Monday as MPs debated Sport in the UK.
Due to the number of MPs wanting to take part in the debate I could only make a short contribution, but still found time to mention Barton Cricket Club, Cary Park Tennis Club, Paignton RFC, Sea Rowing and Torquay United. I also expressed some views on the idea of a new stadium for TUFC and issues being raised around “safe standing”.
You can read my remarks and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
Rough Sleeping Debate,
The site of anyone being forced to sleep rough is one which will concern any update reader, hence I was keen to take part in a debate on this subject.
Over the last year significant work has been done to stem the increase in the numbers of those sleeping rough, with projects such as TESH and the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act. I have also worked with colleagues on Torbay Council and in local charities to see if a “Housing First” approach could be brought to the bay. This would see rough sleepers more quickly moved into permanent accommodation, with support services to help keep them off the streets.
It is welcome to note the fall in the latest official numbers of those Sleeping Rough in our bay, yet there is still plenty of work to be done both locally and at Westminster.
You can read my remarks by clicking here.
Several update readers have been in contact with me about the future for PATH, a local charity working with those affected by Homelessness in our bay.
They face being evicted later this month from their temporary base in Abbey Road after Torbay Council received a possession order. Whilst the property was never intended to be permanent base it is a bitter irony this Charity could soon end up homeless itself.
I have been in touch with the Council and raised the issue in parliament yesterday. I am also arranging to speak with the Conservative Group Leader Cllr Dave Thomas, about what they can do to force the Mayoral Administration to intervene and prevent this eviction whilst a permanent home is found.
I will include further news in future updates.
Unauthorised Traveller Camps,
The Government has unveiled plans to crack down on a nuisance which regularly affects our bay, unauthorised traveller camps.
Many groups seek to exploit the current law which requires landowners to get a possession order, then evict the travellers concerned. In many cases turning up just before a Bank Holiday, pitch on a high-profile site like Paignton Green, then disappearing just before the eviction notice would come into force. Given the law currently makes it an issue of “Civil Law” the Police can intervene to keep the peace during an eviction, rather than deal with the problem itself.
The most major change proposed is a review which will consider whether to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an encampment. This will consider the financial and operational impacts new legislation would have, investigate the effectiveness of similar legislation in Ireland and consider how such a power could work in practice. This could act as a real deterrent to such activity in the future, and it is therefore right this option is explored fully.
You can read more on the Government website by clicking here.
The Lord Chancellor made a statement to MPs yesterday on the Post Implementation Review of Legal Aid.
I was keen to explore how a suggested evaluation of Criminal Legal Advice would take into account the challenges of providing such services in a county like ours, as opposed to just basing the work on larger urban areas like London.
You can read my comments and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
The famous children’s character Fireman Sam is a popular one with many boys in the bay, yet there are efforts being made to ensure girls also see the Fire Service as a career for them.
Yesterday Ministers were being questioned on work to improve facilities at Fire Stations for female firefighters, so I reflected on the work being done to promote this career to women.
You can read my comments and the Minister’s reply by clicking here.
Shedden Hall Hotel,
Despite some signs of demolition work last year the eyesore which is the Shedden Hall Hotel is still standing in a prominent location in our bay.
Over the last year I have regularly chased Torbay Council for action, including the use of legal powers to force improvements to be made. Despite previous indications this appears not to have happened.
I have chased the Council again this week and will include any further news in a future update.
Paignton Beach Slipway,
A seafront slipway which was damaged in last year’s storms will now be repaired after a campaign by Cllr Barbara Lewis.
The slipway leads directly from the promenade to Paignton Beach. It is not only a route used by those heading for a paddle in the sea, but by sailing, rowing and other water sports clubs.
Barbara has secured a pledge of £35,000 to get the work completed.
Housing Standards Crackdown,
Over 1,350 residents in the Bay have had their living conditions improved since the start of the Rogue Landlords programme.
The Rogue Landlord programme, which started in 2012, targets landlords providing poor standards of accommodation, not effectively managing their properties or acting outside the law. The programme also takes positive action to support good landlords and promote good practice.
Checks and operations are carried out by a range of organisations including Torbay Council, Police, Fire and Rescue Service and the Home Office Immigration Service.
Since the Rogue Landlords programme started:
- 231 enforcement notices have been served
- 2,095 hazards were identified in 590 properties, which belong to 366 Landlords
- 1,357 Torbay residents have been protected from a range of hazards, including damp, excess cold, possible falls and fire
- 82 prohibition orders were served, which prohibited the use of 106 dwellings until standards improved
- 8 prosecutions have taken place
And 1 landlord has been ordered to pay £6,570 through a civil penalty
Most Landlords in the bay provide a good standard property for a reasonable rent, but the small minority who let the whole sector down must be tackled. I therefore welcome the action taken by the Council in this area.
Dawlish Rail Plan Submitted,
Network Rail has made a planning submission to Teignbridge District Council to improve the long-term resilience of the railway linking Devon and Cornwall to the rest of the UK.
Plans, developed in partnership with world leading engineering contractors Arup, for a new, higher sea wall at Dawlish will be submitted to the council, targeted at providing greater resilience for generations to come.
The design will prevent stormy conditions from damaging the railway at Dawlish in Devon. Owing to high waves and strong winds, the tracks and station are regularly being damaged by flooding, as seen in 2014 when the line washed away.
You can read more and see artists impressions of the proposed new Sea Wall on Network Rail’s website by clicking here.
Kev’s Column: Recess Cancelled
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……..I Just Missed An Octopus!!
Ending on a different note Tuesday night saw the Emergency Services called to a crash on the A381 between Salcombe and Kingsbridge where a car had overturned.
Given no other vehicle was involved the Police were keen to establish what had happened by speaking to the driver. His reply? He he had swerved to avoid an Octopus!!!
Unsurprisingly the Police, like most reading this update, did not find this a convincing explanation and quickly arranged a lift for him to the Custody Suite at Torquay Police Station on suspicion of Drug Driving. You can read more here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
Wednesday 13th February Artizan Gallery Re-Launch. Join the team and exhibiting artists for a preview on the first exhibition for 2019. 6 – 8 PM 7 Lucius Street TQ2 5UW https://www.art-hub.co.uk/feb19
Wednesday 13th February at 7.30pm – the next meeting of the Torbay Interfaith Forum in the Events section of this week’s Residents Update, Quaker Meeting House
48 Tor Hill Road, Torquay TQ2 5RT. The talk will be entitled ‘Druidry Today’, The speaker will be Sandy Buckle. Contact is William(Bill) Becher (Chair, Torbay Interfaith Forum).
Wednesday 13th February in Paignton, ‘Hidden Crime Awareness Events’ across Devon. The aim is to raise awareness around some of the important, current, key safeguarding messages which are impacting on our communities, including those with learning disabilities and or autism. events start at 9.15am until 1.00pm with tea / coffee and are FREE. Click here for full details.
Thursday 14th February – Big poetry returns to the Blue Walnut Cafe, 14 Walnut Road, Torquay TQ2 6HS – Show starts at 8pm, tickets £6, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations – click here for more information.
Tuesday, 12th February – Free Social Event – 2pm to 4pm. Come Along And Meet People.
Free Tea/Coffee & Cake And Showing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (No.2) The Movie.
For More Information & To Book Telephone 07504 990613 – Engage Torbay Church
8a Lower Union Lane, Torquay, TQ2 5PN – www.Facebook.Com/Engagetorbaychurch.
Saturday 16th February Free Drop’n’shop – Drop Your Children Aged 5-11 With Us While You Shop Or Chill In A Local Coffee Shop It’s Up To You. Reserve Your Place By Phone 07504990613 – 10am To 12pm. Lead By Qualified Teachers All Helpers Are DBS Checked
And Safeguarding Trained. Engage Torbay Church, 8a Lower Union Lane, Torquay TQ2 5PN.
www.Facebook.Com/Engage Torbay Church
Saturday, 16th February, 12 Noon – 2.00 p.m – “Soup & Pud At St. Matthias’Church Hall, Babbacombe Road, Torquay, TQ1 1HW. Admission £5. Delicious homemade soup with puddings and coffee/tea. Raffle, Bring & Buy stall. Proceeds in aid of Rowcroft Hospice. Do come and bring a friend to support this worthwhile cause.”
Saturday 16th February – YOUNG ARCHAEOLOGISTS CLUB – ARCHAEOLOGY ON FILM: A PRACTICAL WORKSHOP. 10 – 4pm at Torquay Museum; Cost: £15 per child member
SPACES LIMITED TO 10 CHILDREN – SO MUST BE PRE-BOOKED. Click here for more details.
Friday 22nd February – Torbay Hospital League of Friends host The Torbay Police and Community Choir and The Morriston Ladies Choir at Central Church, Torquay. Tickets are £10 – contact Roy Tuttle on 01803 369617 – Click here to download the advert.
What’s Going On In Wellswood? – click here to see a full list of the many social events taking place in Wellswood throughout February.
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.
2nd Wednesday of each month at the Quaker Meeting House in Torquay – Torbay Interfaith Forum meet. For more details click here.
PARKFIELD Youth services have a range of activities throughout the week for young people – click hereto see what’s on and when.
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.
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 @ Paignton Library, Great Western Road, Paignton TQ4 5AG
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 email@example.com or leave a message on 01803 214989 and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.