After a hectic, dramatic and historic week it is time for my latest update.
My week started with a welcome chance to join my constituency neighbour Dr Sarah Wollaston and local Rotary Clubs for the launch of the Prostate Cancer Cycle Ride Event at Torbay Velopark. There were plenty of cyclists pounding around the track in exchange for a donation towards helping fight a condition which claims too many men’s lives each year. Whilst I am not the most regular cyclist Sarah is and was happy to give me a couple of tips.
After this I headed to East St for one of my regular advice surgeries, followed by a discussion with St Marychurch WI about our environment, climate change and what we can do locally to combat plastic pollution in our seas. Some people have an outdated view of the WI as being purely about making jam, it is actually a very modern group where its members engage in a range of activities and campaigns, whilst maintaining a strict party-political neutrality.
The reason for our meeting was a forthcoming lobby of parliament by the WI on these issues. I always make clear there is no need to travel 200 miles to see me and often my parliamentary commitments mean I cannot meet those who turn up at times chosen by those organising the lobby, rather than one arranged in consultation with my office diary. Hence offering to meet them at my office in Torquay instead.
After time with my family in Plymouth on Father’s Day I headed up to Westminster ahead of a week full of political drama as the Parliamentary Stage of the Conservative Party Leadership contest reached its climax. I was part of Sajid Javid’s Campaign Team, making me very popular from 1pm till 3:30pm yesterday when he was knocked out of the contest and just two votes decided who would appear on the ballot paper with Boris Johnson!!!
Away from the House of Commons my week at Westminster can see a range of issues on my agenda as a Minister. This week’s selection included Voter ID, the Government’s Drugs Strategy, Agricultural Rules post Brexit, the military presence in Wales and how the Government’s Communications Service is working. One with a strong link to the bay though was a meeting about the way those who work on travelling fairs can register themselves as a group on the 2021 Census.
Finally today I was back home in the bay, with an early start as I appeared on BBC Radio Devon at 07:10am followed by visits to two local Pre-Schools to discuss funding issues affecting them, then my latest weekly surgery, this week at Age UK in Paignton.
Yet the biggest issues of the day was the proposed loss of overnight Fire Cover in Paignton, more on this below along with this week’s update which includes: Torbay Armed Forces Day, Trust Signs Armed Forces Partnership, Oldway Update, Crossways, £500k Lottery Funding Boost For Youth, Goodrington Toilets Plan, Shiphay Lane Resurfacing Works, First Apprenticeship Fair, All Aboard The Disabled Railcard, Orangutan ER, Diplomats in Wales, Restoration and Renewal, The Addams Family and finally……On Your Marks! Get Set! Trawl!
Torbay Armed Forces Day,
Babbacombe Downs will be packed with fun and activities tomorrow (Saturday 22ndJune) for Torbay Armed Forces Day.
Armed Forces Day is a chance to celebrate the work of the whole military family and thank all those who serve or have served. The event’s future had been in doubt until the Torbay Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club stepped in to take it on, with support from local Councillors and many other donors and local businesses.
The event kicks off at 10am and lasts till 6pm with a range of entertainment, stalls, charities and live music on offer. The highlight of the day is the Veterans Parade which will step off at 11am. All who have served are invited to join the paradeand I know those on parade greatly appreciate the support and thanks of those who attend to cheer them on.
Do note the main road along the Downs will be closed to traffic and Princes Street car park is, I am advised, being reserved for permit holders and event vehicles.
Trust Signs Armed Forces Partnership,
Torbay Hospital recently hosted a ceremony at which Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and the Army signed an Armed Forces Covenant.
The covenant is a pledge to acknowledge and understand those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives.
You can read more on the Trust’s website by clicking here.
There was a brief update on Oldway this week.
Councillors voted in January to go ahead with a plan to transfer the running of the building and estate to a new body backed by the community. My understanding is the “shadow trust” had asked for a “memorandum of understanding”, this would have committed the council to a course of action.
Instead, following the recent elections, the council has agreed only to write a letter of support to the Charity Commission for an application which had to come from the trust itself to be formally established.
Supporters of the new trust raised concerns in written questions to the council on Wednesday, June 19, about the apparent delay in setting up the trust and what would happen when the fund ran out.
You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
The rundown Crossways Shopping Centre was front page news again this week after Councillors met to discuss options for it on Wednesday.
As the discussion was held behind closed doors I do not have access to what was discussed, however this eyesore has blighted Paignton for too many years. Despite the owner’s protestations there have been many attempts to work with him on a redevelopment scheme, instead the building has been left to rot.
Last year I called on the Government to review the position with Compulsory Purchase Powers to give Councils, including Torbay, an easier path to dealing with long term empty commercial buildings. Crossways was the place I had in mind, but most MPs have a story of similar eyesores in their own area.
As the old B&Q in Torre is refurbished and Torwood St’s multi-million pound development moves forward, I am only too happy to give Torbay Council whatever help I can in dealing with this mess, including volunteering to help with demolition works if needed.
£500k Lottery Funding Boost For Youth,
Children and young people are to come under the spotlight in a £500,000 lottery funded project to tackle the challenges they face growing up in Torbay.
24 different voluntary sector groups have come together led by the Torbay Community Development Trust to look at children’s services across the bay to improve the lives of children, young people and families.
The partnership has already consulted children and young people about what they think needs to change and, in line with their recommendations, have come up with an ambitious plan to design new activities, support older young people and create more “safe” places for young people to spend time together.
This funding is great news and will be a boost for many in the bay.
Goodrington Toilets Plan,
A plan has been put forward to keep public toilets at Goodrington open after more than 1,000 people signed a petition to save them.
The move followed concerns about what would happen after a replacement pay-to-use unit with five cubicles opens on the car park between the north and south beaches at Goodrington, Paignton. The plea to Torbay Council to keep the toilet block on Goodrington South Beach at Paignton was signed by 1,292 people. There were concerns access could be closed or restricted to customers of a nearby cafe.
The campaigners claimed the new pay-to-use central unit would not be able to cope with demand from an estimated 5,000 visitors at peak periods.
A proposal has now been put forward to offer a long lease to the cafe owner including the toilet block, which would be available for public use during opening hours. The toilets on the north and south beaches would remain open during the summer.
The new toilet block which will cost 30p to use is being installed in the car park between the two stretches of beach, near the entrance to the Quay West water park, and is expected to be open in a few weeks.
You can read more on Devon live by clicking here.
Shiphay Lane Resurfacing Works,
From Monday (24th June 2019) road reconstruction and resurfacing work will be taking place in Shiphay Lane, Torquay, between Diary Hill and Collaton Road. The works will take up to eight weeks to complete.
For the works to be carried out, there will be a mixture of traffic lights and road closures which will help to reduce the impact and the disruption to local traffic. Yet some disruption is inevitable so do bear this in mind if making an important journey.
The work, which is costing around £160,000, will be delivered by Torbay Council’s surfacing partner CORMAC Contracting Ltd.
First Apprenticeship Fair,
The first Torbay Apprenticeships Fair will take place on Wednesday 10 July 2019, 2pm-7pm at the Riviera International Conference Centre, Torquay.
The free event is for school and college learners and parents, as well as those people looking to upskill themselves or their employees. There will be over 20 employers across all sectors with over 100 live Apprenticeship vacancies on offer.
There is no need to book to attend the event, just drop in.
Employers can book space at the Torbay Apprenticeship Fair by clicking here.
All Aboard The Disabled Railcard,
Last year 18,355 journeys starting from Torbay were made using a Disabled Railcard, up from 15,240 in 2015.
Nationally there has been a 43% increase in journeys made using a Disabled Persons Railcard, with them rising from 5 million in 2015 to 7 million in 2019.
The Disabled Persons Railcard offers a third off adult rail fares at any time (including Peak Periods) on the National Rail network for people with a disability, plus a companion. On average, passengers with the Disabled Persons Railcard save £108 a year, even after the £20 cost of the card is factored in.
You can find out more about the card on a dedicated website by clicking here.
Animal experts at Paignton Zoo have been battling around the clock to save a sick primate.
Keepers, vets and vet nurses responded swiftly when female orangutan Gambira was taken ill suddenly and sat with her long into the night after emergency surgery.
They found she had an infection of her air sac (a large pouch in the throat, thought to be used for vocalisation and connected to the respiratory system). The condition is known as air saccultis and can be fatal. The team gave her a general anaesthetic and operated, making holes in the wall of her throat sac to drain off more than a litre of fluid.
She is still being cared for and you can read more on the Zoo’s website by clicking here.
Diplomats in Wales,
My role in the Wales Office can see me picking up a diverse range of issues and debates where they affect the Principality.
This week’s source of interest was a 30 minute debate secured by Plaid Cymru on getting more diplomatic representation into Wales.
You can read my speech on behalf of the government by clicking here.
Restoration and Renewal,
Major plans to restore and renew the Palace of Westminster took a leap forward this week as a Bill to create the legal body to oversee them cleared the House of Commons.
Decades of neglect has seen the building left in a perilous condition with major services regularly failing, masonry falling on a regular basis, a heating system which is flawed, asbestos risks throughout the building and most seriously of all only the most basic of Fire Safety standards being met. The work to be done is of such a scale parliament will decant from the building for several years to allow it all to take place.
As Minister for the Constitution I was asked to help guide the bill through the House of Commons, yet as a matter of “house business” free votes were available to all MPs. This makes it much more difficult as there is no requirement to follow a Government or Party line. In the end only two amendments not supported by the Government were made following a range of meetings I held with backbench and opposition spokespersons to ensure the Bill was not wrecked by a well-intended change.
I spoke summing up the report stage and you can watch my speech by clicking here.
The Addams Family
They’re creepy and they’re kooky! Everyone’s favourite spooky family comes to life on stage at the Princess Theatre from Wednesday 26th till Saturday 29th June.
When Wednesday falls in love with a respectable boy, the Addams family must try to appear normal…with hysterical consequences.
The show is the latest production by TOADS SMC. Whilst they are an amateur company the only thing “amateur” about their productions is the performers are not being paid for taking part. Their previous shows have been fantastic and the equivalent of anything on the stage in the West End of London.
You can book tickets for the show online by clicking here.
and finally……On Your Marks! Get Set! Trawl!
Ending on a lighter note last week crowds lined the bay for what is the heavyweight championship of racing around the waters of our bay, the annual Trawler Race.
Giving the contest an international flavour guest from the Netherlands joined local crews for a hard-fought lap of the bay as the sun and many spectators looked on. The first beamer to the line was Stephanie, followed by Margaret of Ladram and Emilia Jayne.
You can see some superb photos of the action on Devon Live by clicking here.
The race is a lot of fun, but it has a serious purpose, raising thousands of pounds for local charities.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.