Our thanks to Kevin Foster for sending us this regular update.
After a much talked about week at Westminster it is time for my latest update.
There was an early start last Saturday as I joined a special St Matthias Men’s Prayer Breakfast at the Riviera Centre. Given the Festive Season it was a mixed event with the whole church family being invited to join the event.
After a good Breakfast my next appointment was at All Saint’s Torre where I was asked to open their Annual Christmas Tree Festival. Walking in the door I was hit by the wonderful smell of pine and incense, along with the sight of 40 well decorated trees, all raising money for local good causes and charities. I sponsored my own tree in a festive blue.
On Sunday I headed over to one of Paignton’s historic gems, Kirkham House, which thousands of people pass every day without realising the Medieval History it contains. I joined the members of Paignton Heritage Society for their open day at the house and for a guided tour of a unique building which has stood for hundreds of years. You can still see the original cobbles laid to help shelter animals overnight and much of the original woodwork.
Cllr Barbara Lewis joined me to judge the Table Top Decoration contest the Society had organised to coincide with the Open Day, with a Victorian Scene at the House being our deserved winner.
Later on Sunday I headed up to London for what has been a tumultuous week in British Politics. I do not use these updates to score party political points, not least given readers of them have a range of political views. Yet it may be of interest for me to give some insight into what it is like to be in Parliament during such a week.
The first part is how your day can change rapidly, with a well-planned diary having to be altered to prepare for an urgent debate, question or event.
On Tuesday I arrived in parliament early in the morning with a day of responding to emails and correspondence planned, along with speaking in a debate on Fuel Poverty. Yet I was quickly advised I needed to change my plans to assist the De-Facto Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington, as his PPS, with replying to a three-hour urgent debate due to start at 12:30pm, which the Leader of the Opposition would be opening.
My role does not just involve sitting behind David in the chamber to take notes but joining him for his briefing with officials beforehand, discussing the response to be given in Parliament and then encouraging colleagues to take part in the debate if the number of speakers is low. A debate involving party leaders will have dozens of speakers apply to take part, as occurred on Tuesday, hence most MPs get only 4 to 5 minutes for their speech following the Front Bench contributions.
The next day MPs woke up to the news a vote of confidence in the Leadership of Theresa May would take place that evening. This triggered a flurry of media activity, with journalists packing into the corridors of parliament hoping to gain exclusive bits of information, with broadcasters setting up camp outside on College Green. The atmosphere around the building is electric as people try to guess what groups of MPs might be discussing, even if it was nothing to do with the confidence vote.
Later that evening the Prime Minister addressed the 1992 Committee, with 300 MPs squeezing into a Cttee Room with less than 100 seats. Yet even getting in the room was a challenge as journalists packed the corridor outside, resulting in MPs having to go in single file through a large crowd. Party Whips are positioned on the doors to ensure only MPs\Lords enter, but those with good hearing stood in the corridor outside could follow most of what was said.
The vote was held in the same way as any other election with MPs entering the Polling Station, showing their identification, being crossed off the register of voters and being handed an official ballot paper. This vote is then cast in a Polling Booth and placed in a sealed ballot box. The ballot is a secret one to ensure all MPs are free to express their view, although I voted to retain the Prime Minister on the basis the next few weeks is too crucial a time for the Party of Government to be focused on an internal leadership election.
The result was then declared by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, in a Committee Room packed full of journalists and MPs, with a BBC Camera providing a live feed for all news channels.
A 90 minute train delay on my way home yesterday meant Mrs Foster had to substitute for me at an event in Paignton organised by United Response and ROC Creative. More details on this below.
Earlier today I headed over to Paignton for a meeting with Youth Genesis to discuss their outreach work with teenagers and younger adults.
Finally after the events of this week it was great to be able to relax with some old friends at one of my favourite events of the year, Paignton Royal British Legion’s Christmas Lunch.
This week’s update is below and includes: Brexit, Mace Protest, Police Appeal, Police Funding Settlement, Local Government Funding, Bus Update, Fuel Poverty Debate, Travelling by Train This Christmas?, Paignton Parish Church, Kev’s Column: Early Christmas Present for Torbay and finally……….. Fancy a Swim?,
The major news event at Westminster this week was the decision by the Government to not proceed with asking the House of Commons to vote on the proposed Withdrawal Agreement.
After three days of debate the views of many MPs across the House of Commons was clear, with a series of speeches describing the current Northern Ireland Backstop proposal as unacceptable. This is the fall-back position within the treaty if a future Trade Deal is not agreed with the European Union before the end of the Transition Period after the UK leaves on 29th March 2019.
One major concern is whether the UK would be unable to exit the Backstop, even if a future deal was vetoed by an EU Member State due to issues irrelevant to keeping the land border open in Ireland, eg France over Fishing Rights (Even though entering the Backstop would see the UK leave the Common Fisheries Policy).
When the Prime Minister gave a statement to MPs confirming the decision to seek further negotiations, I asked her about this issue. You can listen to my question and her reply by clicking here.
One notable event in parliament this week was the first protest involving grabbing the Ceremonial Mace for nearly a decade.
I had a front row seat as a Labour MP picked it up, then started walking out of the Chamber with it. He was intercepted by a House Official who removed it from him and placed it back in its normal holder. The incident captured attention across the world with American News Network CNN covering it along with many others. You can see their report by clicking here.
The MP was suspended from parliament for the day, but luckily for him the Mace itself was not damaged. If an MP does pick it up as part of a protest they are liable for the cost of any repairs needed afterwards, which could run into thousands of pounds.
Torquay Police have issued an appeal for witnesses to an incident in Temperance Street on Monday night which resulted in the death of a local Mother of two.
She died on Monday night after emergency services were called to Temperance Street following reports of a concern for the welfare of a woman. Despite being treated by paramedics she was later confirmed deceased at the scene, although her death is currently being treated as unexplained.
A man from Torquay was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken into police custody where he assisted officers with their enquires. He was later released under investigation pending further enquires.
Anyone with information relating to the incident is asked to contact the Police on 101 quoting CR/114501/18. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
I know the thoughts and prayers of all update readers will be with all those affected by this tragic incident, especially at this time of year.
Police Funding Settlement,
The Policing Minister presented the provisional settlement for Police Funding to MPs this week.
The provisional settlement suggests core grant funding will increase year on year by 2.1%, meaning an extra £3.4m for Devon and Cornwall Police. A further £152m in specific funding to make up for a pension fund shortfall is proposed which would mean an additional grant of £3.3m to help our force meet obligations of £7.6m for the financial year.
The cap on the police council tax precept has been changed to allow Police and Crime Commissioners to charge up to an additional £24 per year (Based on a band D property) on each household.
I am advised that if our Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez decides to increase the council tax precept by the maximum allowed our local force will receive a budget of £314.1m (up from £291.3m in 2018-19), allowing for a modest surplus to reinvest in service improvements before any efficiency savings are made.
I spoke with Alison last night about the settlement and discussed some of the pressures facing our Police, along with recent improvements in resources available to tackle issues in our bay.
Paignton’s Policing Team had a busy day yesterday with a day of action targeting shoplifters and prolific offenders.
From meetings with local traders some individuals not only regularly steal goods, but make working in the town unpleasant. 3 people were arrested, and one premises entered and searched. I am advised officers gathered a great deal of intelligence as a result and will continue to target these individuals with the help of retail premises and the local community.
Community intelligence is vital to the work of Paignton’s Policing Team to ensure they know who should be on Santa’s Naughty List this Christmas, so if you have any information please email the team by clicking here or phone the Police on 101 or Crime Stoppers 0800 555111.
Local Government Funding,
The Government also unveiled the draft Local Government Funding Settlement for next year to MPs this week.
Local Councils will be prevented from raising the main element of Council Tax by more than 3% next year without holding a Referendum to see approval from local voters for a higher rise. Figures supplied by the Government estimate this gives Torbay Council a spending power of up to £119m for the next financial year.
I will be talking with local Councillors about what this means for the future, especially the potential for further retention of Business Rates growth as new developments take place in our bay.
In last week’s update I reported how a new operator has been found for most of the former 60 Bus Route.
Torbay Buses have registered a Monday to Friday route between Paignton and Livermead/Occombe, on an hourly service between 09:30am and 3pm. While the service will no longer visit Torquay, connection with other bus services such as the number 12 may be made via Paignton Bus Station.
Christmas Bus Trips are also being run by Our Bus from Livermead Shops to Torquay Town Centre via St Luke’s (Following the route of the 60 bus) on Monday 17th December and Saturday 22nd December. Thye will be leaving Livermead at 10.15 and 11.15 then returning from Castle Circus at 12.45, 13.45 and 14.45 £3 each way but please book in advance by calling 01803 212638.
Finally if you have been affected by the loss of the 65 service there is an open meeting (Arranged by the Torbay Community Development Trust) on Thursday 20thDecember at 12 noon, Main Hall, Market Street, Torquay, TQ1 3AF to discuss potential ways forward.
Fuel Poverty Debate,
As mentioned above on Tuesday I had planned to speak in a debate on Fuel Poverty due to be held in the House of Commons.
The urgent debate saw the time for the Fuel Poverty discussion significantly curtailed, meaning I would not be able to speak in it. I did though attend for the Minister’s opening and to hear some of the plans outlined to tackle a serious issue for many residents as winter approaches.
You can read the comments made in the debate by clicking here.
Travelling by Train This Christmas?,
As the big day approaches many update readers will be making travel plans to share it with friends and family.
Yet if planning to travel by train over the Festive Season do bear in mind significant engineering works will be taking place which may disrupt services, especially at London Paddington where many services from our region start\terminate.
Handily you can find all the details of planned rail disruption over the festive period on a dedicated section of Network Rail’s website. Just click here to be taken to it.
Paignton Parish Church,
An old friend for many in the bay will be returning this weekend as Paignton Parish Church re-opens for services after a major refurbishment project.
I popped in tonight to see the new stone flooring which looks perfect in the surroundings of the medieval stones which have seen many centuries of prayer.
The Sung Eucharist at 10am on Sunday 16th December will mark the re-opening and all residents are welcome to join the congregation for the service. There is no need to let them know you are coming, just turn up.
Kev’s Column: Early Christmas Present for Torbay
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……….Fancy a Swim?,
There is nothing like a bracing swim at one of our beautiful beaches to wash away any Boxing Day blues.
This year there will be a chance to have an enjoyable, if rather cold and brief, swim from both Torre Abbey Sands and Paignton Beach on Boxing Day. All the details can be found on Devon Live by clicking here. If you would rather stay warm spectators are very welcome to come along and cheer on those taking the plunge.
I am hoping to take part in the Paignton Walk Into The Sea, so do give me a wave if you are there.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
Special Art Exhibition
Yesterday Hazel took my place at an exhibition of work by those from our bay with a range of unique and special talents.
All of the displayed work – including videos, photos, sketch books and character portraits – have been made by people with learning disabilities, Down’s syndrome or autism.
The free-of-charge exhibition at Paignton Library is themed on Mexican culture and aims to show how creative people with disabilities can be. It is open from 9:30am every day until Thursday 20th December.
The two organisations who have supported this exhibition United Response and ROC work with adults with learning disabilities to enhance their creative skills and use them to express their unique characters. Whilst this sounds serious work it is also a lot of fun for those involved.
You can read more about the exhibition by clicking here.
From now until December 24th The Artizan Winter Open will run at their pop-up venue in Unit 5 on the lower level of Fleet Walk and will include submissions from their Geopark Ambassador Artists. A donation from all sales will go to the important work done by the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark. For more information, visit art-hub.co.uk/winteropen2018. For more on the family run Artizan, visit artizangallery.co.uk
Sunday 9th December at 4pm and 5.30pm at Rowcroft Hospice – Rowcroft Light up a Life service. All the details can be found on the website www.rowcrofthospice.org.uk/light
Saturday 15th December 11am to 2pm – Paignton Parish Church, 31 Winsu Avenue, Paignton TQ3 1QE – Christmas Fayre – Free entry – Christmas Draw tickets 50p a ticket will be available for purchase from end of October.
Sunday 16th December – Raising money for a Community Defibrillator – take part in the FIREFIGHTER FITNESS TEST from 2pm at the Winners 2000 Gym, Lymington Road, Torquay.
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.
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 15th December, 11am – 1pm @ Barton Baptist Church, Happaway Road, Torquay TQ2 8EU.
Friday 21st December, 3pm – 5pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD.
Friday 4th January, 3pm – 5pm @ 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD
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.