My week started with a taste of Italy at Torquay United’s Plainmoor Stadium as I attended a fundraising quiz night organised by the Torbay Hospital League of Friends. There was a great atmosphere and those who had an Italian passion were well placed for the Quiz! Cllrs Foster, Barrand and I joined a team and we finished in the top half of the league!
Sunday was a chance to catch up on a range of work and issues ahead of heading up to London for a rather special sitting of Parliament on Monday.
The Queen’s Speech is one of the great state occasions, complete with carriages, military bands, plenty of traditions (The cellars are checked the night before by the Yeoman of the Guard for any repeat of the gunpowder plot) and some fantastic job titles including Black Rod and Silver Stick! It is also great to see the area around parliament decked out for the occasion as well.
After all the arguments of recent months it was good to see a range of proposals come forward on the many domestic issues which need Parliament’s attention in addition to Brexit, more on some of these below.
Most of my time at Westminster this week was focused on meetings in my Ministerial roles, plus plenty of time dealing with the large amount of correspondence I receive.
Whilst answering questions in the main House of Commons Chamber is the most visible way Government Ministers are held to account, the most detailed Scrutiny takes place in front of the Select Committee which covers each Government Department. On Tuesday it was the turn of Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, and I to answer questions about our work on Growth Deals. A unique part of this Committee’s sessions are they are held simultaneously in English and Welsh.
Thursday night I headed home ahead of a busy schedule here in the bay today. This included attending a drop in organised by Paignton Branch of the Royal British Legion for those looking to volunteer as poppy collectors. This was then followed by a meeting with the Torbay Peer Support Project which works with those aged over 50 who are struggling with their mental health to discuss the challenges they face, not least the need for support services for those under the age they are funded to help.
Finally I got a unique view of the coast at Dawlish this morning thanks to GWR , more on this below along with this week’s update which includes: Brexit Deal, £150m Torbay Care Deal, Queen’s Speech, Voter ID, Torbay Council Buys Fleet Walk, Bonmarche, H&M To Close, New Peacocks In Paignton, Terrace Car Park Disruption, Rogue Landlords Fined, Beacon Cove, Kev’s Column: Queen’s Speech and finally……. One In A Million.
Normally on a Friday I am at home in the bay writing this update, yet this evening I am in London ahead of what could be the biggest vote by MPs for a generation. The result is believed to be on a knife edge.
Yesterday the Prime Minister announced a new deal had been reached with the European Union, which if agreed would see the UK Leave on Thursday 31st October 2019. There is not space in these updates to go into the level of detail needed on every aspect of this issue, but the following links may be useful:
The Government’s legal position on the question of terminability of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
The House of Commons will sit at 09:30am tomorrow (Saturday 19th October 2019) and votes are expected at 2:30pm. The debate and results will be broadcast live on BBC Parliament (Available on Freeview TV).
For those wondering, the last time the House of Commons met on a Saturday was 37 years ago in the aftermath of the Argentinian Invasion of the Falkland Islands.
£150m Torbay Care Deal,
Care funding for the elderly and disabled is set for a big financial boost in Torbay.
Torbay Council has done a three-year £150m deal with health service partners to provide adult social care, this represents an increase of around £10m a year on the current funding package. The new agreement, which has yet to be finally approved by the council and NHS providers, would give financial certainty and allow better planning, for example with staff training.
From next April, Torbay Council would provide funding of £47m, with £3m NHS cash known as a “health premium” to acknowledge how the system reduces pressure on health services. An example of how the system works is home care staff are trained in tasks like putting cream on an elderly person’s legs, which frees up nurses to deal with more complex cases.
The service also has a “rapid response” in-house team to look after people with the greatest needs. The service will continue to be provided by Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust through community teams in Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, with mental health services provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust.
This is welcome news and the way our care services are integrated is a model regularly cited across the country as an example of good practice. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
The Queen’s Speech mentioned 22 bills (proposed new laws) which the Government is seeking to introduce into parliament, with another 4 included in the briefing packs around it.
Given the ongoing debate around Brexit it will not surprise many update readers to hear several major bills connected to the UK’s departure from the EU were included. The most notable is the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill to formally ratify the deal (if approved in principle tomorrow), but there will also be an Agriculture Bill and a Fisheries Bill to create the new legal structures necessary once we leave the EU’s Common Agricultural and Fishing Policies.
Other proposals include:
- Legislation to establish the Health Service Safety Investigations Body – the world’s first such body.
- A Sentencing Bill will change the automatic release point from halfway to two-thirds for adult offenders serving sentences of four years or more for serious violence or sexual offences.
- A Police Protections Bill will support the police, establishing a Police Covenant.
- A landmark Environment Bill, including a new Office for Environmental Protection, more local powers to tackle air pollution and charges for specified single use plastic items.
- Re-introducing the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty.
You can read the Queen’s Speech on the Government website by clicking here.
One item in the Queen’s Speech which excited a lot of interest was plans by the Government to introduce a requirement to show a basic proof of identity when voting at a Polling Station.
Currently a voter merely need state a name and address on the roll to be given a ballot paper, if suspicious the Presiding Officer can ask further questions. This system of identification originates from the 19th Century when only a small percentage of men could vote, with the local polling clerk likely to know many of them personally.
For some time, the Electoral Commission has recommended this system be changed to prevent electoral fraud and a basic form of ID be presented when asking for a ballot paper. In May 2018 and 2019 the Cabinet Office conducted trials of different systems of Voter ID, with over 99% of voters having no problem presenting an acceptable form of ID at the polling station. You can read the Electoral Commission assessment of this year’s trials by clicking here.
Sadly this announcement saw false claims being circulated implying voters would only be able to vote in future if they held a passport or driving licence. Whilst these are two of the forms of ID accepted, these are not the only ones and, in the trials, the third most popular form of ID accepted by Polling Clerks was a Pensioners Concessionary Bus Pass. Other forms of ID items such as Military ID cards were also accepted. In all pilot areas a free of charge electoral ID was also available from the local Council concerned for any voter who did not have one of the items listed.
Northern Ireland has had a system of photographic voter ID since 2003 which is also used during UK General Elections, with no appreciable impact on turnout, but a strong impact on confidence in the electoral process.
Torbay Council Buys Fleet Walk,
Last week I reported on Torbay Council purchasing a food warehouse in Oxfordshire, this week a purchase much closer to home has been made.
Fleet Walk Shopping Centre in Torquay has been bought by the Council for an undisclosed sum. I was made aware a few weeks ago this was likely but advised this was subject to commercially confidential negotiations. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
Provided Torbay Council got the price right this is a sensible move to secure a major piece of real estate within Torquay Town Centre, which may assist in future regeneration efforts.
A not so positive piece of news for Fleet Walk is retail chain Bonmarche heading into administration.
The chain appointed FRP Advisory as administrators today to look for a new buyer. There are no redundancies at this stage, with its 318 stores and concessions staying open, but the future of the chain is uncertain.
You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
H&M To Close,
Sadly there was another major hit to Torquay High St this week with H&M confirming its large store in Union Street is now up for sale.
Many update readers will remember the store as Woolworths, with a sign still visible at the back of the building in Pimlico from these times. The store is one of the largest in Torquay and the company has confirmed it is likely the store will now close as they approach the end of their lease agreement. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
This latest news coming on the back of the closure of New Look again reinforces why it is vital to take firm and realistic decisions about our Town Centre. The growth of online shopping and the change in shopping habits has presented a unique challenge not just to Torquay Town Centre, but the whole retail industry.
Local leaders need to grasp the opportunities being offered by the Government’s Town Deal and Future High Streets Funds to our bay, plus take the decisions needed to reshape our Town Centres for the future. I will do what I can as our bay’s MP to support them in doing so.
New Peacocks In Paignton,
On a much more positive note retail chain Peacocks has opened a new store in Paignton, directly facing onto Station Square.
Given the challenges facing retail across the country it is welcome to see this new investment at the heart of Paignton Town Centre.
Terrace Car Park Disruption,
Motorists are being advised to plan their journeys and parking as work is due to start on Monday (21st October) to pave the way for a new hotel in Torquay.
Part of the Terrace Car Park will be closed for a period of six to eight weeks to enable construction work which will be starting on a new hotel.
The ramps off Montpelier Road will be closed to vehicles during the demolition period, however there will still be pedestrian access from Montpelier Road. This means only the top level of the car park will remain open during this period, so cars will only be able to access the car park via Museum Road.
I am advised there will still be around 150 spaces available to the public during the 6-8 week period of the construction work.
Rogue Landlords Fined,
Torbay Councils Housing Standards team have issued fines to landlords who have been operating unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) in Torbay.
Since October 2018 landlords are required to have a licence for HMO’s if they contain five or more people in two or more households which contain shared, or lack, facilities, such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. Information about HMO’s and how to report a potential unlicensed and unsafe HMO can be found by clicking here.
Fines have so far amounted to over £15,000 with other cases currently being investigated likely to result in further financial penalties.
Most landlords in our bay provide good quality accommodation at a reasonable rent. Yet the minority who seek to avoid the rules can put tenants at risk, hence it is right the Council takes this action.
It was once known as the locals beach, yet residents have been in touch with me about constant anti-social activity at Beacon Cove.
Whist mainly being excessive loud music late into the night, starting fires and leaving behind debris from their partying it has also included graffiti and general vandalism.
In a show of community spirit residents have been working with Council officers and myself to find a solution to this problem and have put their hands in their pockets to help pay towards several security solutions, such as a gate and installation of CCTV.
Hopefully these measures will help turn Beacon Cove back into a treasure to be enjoyed, rather than a place to be anti-social.
Kev’s Column: Queen’s Speech
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……. One In A Million.
Ending on a lighter note one Torquay resident had an incredibly rare visitor to their garden this week, an Albino Sparrow.
It is sometimes described as a million to one chance for such a bird to be born, with the distinctive colour being caused by a lack of pigment. The small creature has been spotted nibbling at a feeder and hopping along a fence. You can read more and see some close up pictures on Devon Live by clicking here.
Artizan Collective Autumn Showcase Unit 5 Fleet Street util 16th November. Join the team for our 2019 Autumn Showcase featuring new works and Artizan exclusive collections from South Devon masters and new contemporary talent. Featuring works of Martin Dutton, Richard Slater, Arthur Homeshaw, F. G. Davis, Kirsteen Titchener, Susan Cavaliera and Jo West. Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 4 pm
Artizan Gallery My World 7 Lucius Street 22nd October – 2nd November. With the kind support of Cavanna Homes, Artizan Gallery is delighted to be inviting students from across Torbay to participate in an exciting opportunity to exhibit with us in the show ‘My World’ this October. The diverse exhibition will showcase the talented work of aspiring artists and creatives with submissions from four categories: photography, sculpture, fine art and other media. Work will be judged and awards presented to 4 successful practising artists. Tuesday – Friday 11 am – 6 pm Satrudays 10 am – 6 pm
Monday 21st October onward – Coffee and Conversation get together, every Monday. They will be in the new big coffee shop in Brunswick Square from 10am
From October 2019 – an exciting new series of daytime talks on the Palace Theatre stage.
The talks will be on a range of fascinating subjects and will take place once a month on a Thursday morning. Please see the attached leaflet for dates and details. Click here to see leaflet.
There will be lots of opportunities to socialise in the Theatre Bar before and after the talks, to meet new people, learn interesting facts and to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee (which is included in the ticket price!)
Tickets can be bought online via the Palace Theatre website or by calling the Box Office on 01803 665800 (between 11am and 3pm on weekdays).
Wednesday 30th October at 10.30 – Wellswood branch of the Torbay Hospital League of Friends will be holding a fundraising Coffee Morning at the Imperial Hotel on . Liz Davenport, Chief Executive of the Torbay and South Devon Healthcare Trust, will be speaking about the future plans for healthcare in our area. Tea/Coffee (with top-ups) will be served together with Danish pastries. Please buy your tickets in advance from Lynne and Shirley, click here for full details.. The group has just raised £1.3m for the latest Cancer detection equipment and would be very grateful for your support.
Sunday the 3rd of November at 12pm to 3pm. Meet and Greet. The event will be hosted at Terra Marique and will feature stalls from the four founders- Us, Greenwyse, L’il Mamas vegan kitchen, and The Vegan Bakery Torbay. The event is a way to introduce the general public to veganism and to us here at VITAT, we are also inviting other vegan traders to join the event and get involved. We will be answering questions, giving out samples and having a lovely day!
Monday 11 November at 2pm – Living with and Preventing Diabetes – Members Event, Venue is TREC Lecture Theatre, Torbay Hospital – Click here for full details.
Every Monday Noon until 2-pm (Soup from Noon) – Snack and Natter is in the Coverdale Centre, Church Path, Paignton. We are also looking for volunteers to come along and help out, either at Snack & Natter or Christ Church. Please call Anita 07895925785 for more information – for more info 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 email@example.com.
Every Tuesday & Wednesday (10:45 – 12 noon) – Lectures at Torquay Museum
529 Babbacombe Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 1HG – Lectures are free to TMSM,& cost £5 to Non-Members on the door! For more details click here.
Torbay Interfaith Forum – The Forum will be re-named as Torbay Faith and Belief Forum from 1st January 2020. Please click here for the updated talks until the end of this year and click here for the new Programme that has just come out for 2020.
PARKFIELD Youth services have a range of activities throughout the week for young people – click here to 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 2nd November, 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.