After a difficult week for our bay and region it is time for my latest update.
Earlier this week the first cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) were identified in our bay.
This has resulted in the closure of Chelston Hall Surgery until 16th March. Patients are being directed to contact Croft Hall Surgery in Torquay on 01803 298441 for anything else which cannot wait during this period.
The latest advice from Public Health England is to:
· Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
The Government published an action plan on the virus earlier this week on behalf of the UK Government and the three devolved administrations.
Whilst there have been some dramatic headlines in the media, the facts provided by the NHS and scientific advisors are much better guides to how people should react.
I have been grateful to our local CCG, the Leader of Torbay Council and Torbay’s Director of Public Health for the regular briefings I have received as the situation developed. The reaction locally and nationally is being guided by clear medical and scientific advice.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister confirmed Statutory Sick Pay would be available from day one, rather than day four for those required to self-isolate. Whilst the DWP has also confirmed those affected by the virus who are required to self-isolate will not see their benefits affected if it makes them unable to attend a scheduled interview. They do though ask contact is made by phone if this applies.
Finally on the frontpage of yesterday’s The Times newspaper was a suggestion Parliament may break for months because of the Coronavirus. This, like many claims about the virus online, is a myth and no such move is being considered, although any staff or members affected would be asked to self-isolate if needed, like everyone else.
There was sad news for our region yesterday as Flybe ceased operating.
The Exeter based airline had been struggling for some time and earlier this year had come close to collapse. The fall of demand for travel in recent weeks meant its already weakened position be came untenable.
Thankfully very few customers of Flybe were abroad and other airlines are operating “rescue fares” for those affected. If you are a customer there is lots of advice on the CAA website.
Following talks with Britain’s train operators, all Flybe staff and customers will be offered a free, alternative way home this week. To redeem the journey, staff need to present their employee ID and passengers, their flight confirmation details in place of a train ticket.
Several routes have already been picked up by other operators, including some from Exeter. Aurigny, the Airline owned by the Guernsey Government, has already confirmed it will provide flights from Exeter to the Island starting from next week.
The loss of connectivity to our region is a concern I will be picking up along with colleagues, yet the biggest impact is for staff who suddenly find themselves without a job. This was illustrated by the sight of a stewardess at Exeter who had been rostered for yesterday’s early morning London City flight finding redundancy, not a plane, awaiting her arrival.
Other employers with relevant job vacancies are reaching out to staff affected, including our region’s main rail operator GWR who has a range of customer facing jobs available.
FirstGroup, the parent company, have now set up a special website for Flybe staff to register their interest in opportunities across their rail operations.
Immigration Bill Launched,
The Immigration Bill was introduced by me to the House of Commons yesterday.
It will end the European Union’s rules on free movement applying in the UK and confirm the status of Irish Citizens in the UK, who can live in the UK as if they were British Citizens under agreements dating back to the 1920s.
The bill represents an important milestone in paving the way for the new UK points-based immigration system and it create a single set of immigration rules for our country. It will also be a significant piece of work for me over the coming months as the Minister responsible for taking it through parliament.
You can read more about it on the Home Office website.
EUSS Appeals Regulations,
As mentioned above on Tuesday morning I had an early start as a Committee of MPs met to discuss regulations to create an Appeals System for those unhappy with the result of an application under the EU Settlement Scheme.
The scheme is free to apply for and in most cases those who do not receive the status they hope for can make a second application free of charge if more evidence is needed.
The deadline for applying is 30th June 2021, although those eligible are being urged to apply immediately. The process is simple with many finding it takes about 10 minutes to make a successful application.
Finally today I announced a further £8m of funding for work to support those who may struggle to make an application without assistance. This includes those who may be in care or unwell.
There was further good news this week for plans to finally get the project for a new station at Edginswell on track again.
Leading Councillors confirmed a business plan would be revived ahead of a new round of new stations funding. You can read more on Devon Live.
I am pleased to receive this news and lets hope this project can finally build up a head of steam!
Four New Hotels On Track,
The amount of investment being injected into Torbay by a Singapore-based property developer tots up to £30 million more than first thought.
The Fragrance Group has now started work on all four of its planned new hotels. The (Torquay) Palace is expected to be completed by 2023, Park Hotel in August 2021, the Lighthouse in September 2021 and Corbyn Head will take between 18-22 months to build when it gets fully underway.
You can read more on Devon Live.
164 New Tasers For Our Police,
Devon and Cornwall Police was among the first forces to offer Tasers to all frontline officers who wanted them and this week received additional funding from the Government for another 164.
The new funding, an additional £135,300, will enable the force to equip the additional officers provided by the planned increases in officer numbers with Tasers. The allocation follows a Home Office bidding process which gave PCCs an opportunity to request money from a ring-fenced fund.
Our Police have a proud tradition of policing by consent, without the routine issuing of firearms. Yet everyday officers put themselves in harm’s way to keep our community safe and on occasions need access to equipment like taser to protect them and others.
This investment is therefore very welcome and you can read more on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website.
Drugs Gang Get 93 Years Inside,
Members of a Torbay drugs gang responsible for an ambush attack, in which a man was stabbed in the head, have been jailed for a total of 93 years.
The heaviest sentence handed down at Exeter Crown Court yesterday was the 33 year sentence given to the gang’s ring leader. The gang is believed to have dominated the Class A Drugs market in Torquay, being prepared to use extreme violence to protect their £1m a year trade. Interestingly two of the gang hit the headlines some years ago when as teenagers they became some of the first in the country to receive an ASBO
Thanks to excellent work from Devon & Cornwall Police these dangerous criminals are now off our streets and behind bars. You can read more on Devon Live website and on the Police website.
Torbay Council Buys Taunton Cinema,
Whilst the new Cinema being built by Merlin Cinemas in Union St is making progress, Torbay Council has bought one of its own, in Somerset.
The £11million deal for the Odeon at the Riverside retail and leisure park near the M5 at Taunton was reported in the press this week and will provoke some debate. Although Torbay Council is far from alone in making such purchases as Councils across the country have been taking advantage of discounted borrowing rates to buy properties and generate income from the profits.
Torbay Council has said it carefully assesses the risks involved and has put measures in place to safeguard its overall investment. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
It appears it is now more Somerset, than Saturday night at the movies.
Torquay Girls’ Is School Of The Year,
Torquay Girls’ Grammar School has won “School of the Year” in the Your UK Parliament Awards 2020.
The school has been extremely active in campaigning on environmental issues over the last year, including meeting then Cabinet Minister Andrea Leadsom. They will be invited to an awards ceremony in the House of Commons later this month to receive their prize.
This is great news and many congratulations to all at TGGS on this achievement.
Rock House Lane,
A 10-tonne landslip has blocked Rock House Lane in Maidencombe.
I am advised the soil is too wet to be removed now, but as it came from private land it is for the owner to arrange for it to be removed.
If not moved by the beginning of next week Torbay Council will arrange for it to be cleared, at the owner’s expense.
and finally…… A Horse Walks Into A Bar.
Ending on a lighter note many of us will have heard the old joke about a horse walking into a bar, yet this week instead of the classic punchline the barman said: “Your usual Patrick?”.
In a twist on the old joke Patrick the Pony has become a regular at The Drum Inn, Cockington, popping in daily for a pint. There is certainly no long face as he mixes with other customers and a birthday party, with carrot cake, is being planned for him.
You can read more on Devon Live.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
Torbay Weekly Launched
Earlier today I was delighted to join a large group of local residents, business leaders and Councillors at the Belgrave Sands Hotel for the launch of a new print publication for our bay.
The Torbay Weekly aims to be a “naturally inspiring” publication and feature the range of issues going on in Torbay. The initial plans are for it to be delivered free to 15,000 homes in Torbay starting on 2nd April, with 100 pick up points across the rest of Torbay. It will be free of charge, similar to the London Evening Standard and the Manchester Evening News.
The new paper is being supported by the Archant Group who already own titles in North Devon and Exmouth. Whilst new to Torbay there are some very familiar faces behind the new paper, including Jim Parker, former Editor of the Herald Express.
I was pleased to be asked to say a few words about the launch and to reflect on what it means for our bay. Whilst their website is yet to launch over 1,000 people have already liked their Facebook Page.
Saturday 7th March 12 – 3pm raising money for Path Torbay – Jumble and Craft Sale on in Paignton Methodist Cohurch Hall. for more details click here.
Saturday 7th March – The Male Trail, Rowcroft’s men-only event is back for 2020!
Once again, we’re calling upon the men of South Devon to do their bit to support their local hospice involving pints, pasties and watching the 6 Nations with your mates – all in the name of charity!
This 8-mile charity walk kicks off at 11.00 on Saturday 7th March with a Hakka warm up, ready for an 11.30 start from Torquay Rugby Club. The Male Trail takes in some stunning views of Torbay from the South West Coast Path as well as over 20 conveniently located watering holes (what a coincidence!).
Thursday 12th March – Hot Rocks And High Places: Hair-Raising Stories Of Filming On Location With The BBC And Blue Peter – for full details click on this link.
Thursday 12th March till Saturday 14th March – Agatha Crusty & The Village Hall Murders
The latest offering from SADS (Shiphay Amateur Drama) is guaranteed to be a great night out, with a few laughs thrown in. Evening shows start at 7:30pm (Doors open 7pm) and a Saturday Matinee at 2:30pm.
Tickets are £7.50 Adults, £5 Under 16s. You can buy yours at Shiphay Collaton Post Office or by clicking here.
Thursday 12th March @ 2.15pm at Peter Larkin Hall, St Matthias Church, Babbacombe Road, Torquay TQ1 1HW. Tim Mirfin presents “The Opera Singer’s Phenomenon” . Tickets are £8 for further details call 01803 311648 or click here
Saturday 14th March Afternoon Tea – 2pm until 4pm Babbacombe Corinthian Sailing Club.
Join Tessier Gardens Friends Group for an afternoon talk on the history of Torquay’s hidden gem ‘Tessier Gardens’ and a chance to find out about the work of Tessier Gardens Friends Group. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, cake and maybe indulge in a glass of prosecco. No charge for the talk, donations for tea and cake, charges at bar for prosecco
Every Monday Noon until 2pm (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 was re-named as the Torbay Faith and Belief Forum from 1st January 2020. Please click here for the new Programme that has just come out for 2020.
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 7th March 10:00 – 12:00 @ St Martins Church, Barton Hill Road, Torquay TQ2 8JA
Friday 13th March 15:00 – 17:00 @ Paignton Library, Great Western Road, Paignton TQ4 5AG
Saturday 21st March 11:00 – 13:00 @ The Acorn Centre, Lummaton Cross, Torquay TQ2 8ET
Saturday 28th March 11:00 – 13:00 @ Preston Baptist Church, Old Torquay Road, TQ3 2RB
Friday 3rd April 09:30 – 10:30 @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD
Saturday 18th April 11:00 – 13:00 @ Torquay Library, Lymmington Road, Torquay TQ1 3DT
Friday 24th April 15:00 – 17:00 @ Age UK, 12 Dendy Road, Paignton TQ4 5DB
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.