After a momentous and unpredictable week at Westminster it is time for my latest update.
My week started with my regular Surgery, this time at the St Peter’s Centre. I believe it is important to give residents who may need my help on a personal issue the chance to meet with my team and I face to face. The issues raised during this surgery included PIP Assessments and Tax Recovery.
After this I headed out with Mrs Foster as, having missed Valentine’s Day due to Parliament sitting, we did something which reminded us of how we first meet by joining a campaign session for the local elections.
Later in the evening I headed up to the Babbacombe Hotel for a reunion with some old friends from Coventry. The Bob Brolly and Friends “Reunion” Weekends happen twice a year and see over one hundred “Brolly Fans” head to our bay. After a bit of fun and enjoyment I was asked to join former Para Lonnie Downes on stageas he launched an appeal for funds to improve the setting of the Sutton Stop Canal Junction.
On Sunday evening I headed up to London as Parliament sat for what was originally planned as a “Recess Week”. Given the large amount of legislation needing to be passed ahead of Brexit the recess was cancelled. This was the right choice as getting our statute book Brexit ready is vital, whatever the outcome of the current debates.
For some MPs this did mean potentially having to decide between family commitments (Based on half term) and being present for debates. In these instances the Government and Opposition Whips agreed for “Pairs” where two MPs agree to be absent to cancel the effect of each other’s vote out. Given this those who do not have such commitments may be asked to cover for a colleague’s role. This week in addition to being the PPS to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, I was providing duty PPS cover for the Leader of the House of Commons.
Many more technical items of legislation are considered in detail by a small Committee of MPs, then submitted to the full house purely for a Aye\No vote. These Committees are referred to as “DL Committees”, with a big push this week as the maximum number were held each day. I got to sit on three considering issues ranging from pre-packaged Insurance products to Horse Movement and Chipping.
I returned home late on Wednesday night after a significant day in parliament ahead of a busy couple of days here in the bay, with an early start today as I joined the Torbay Business Forum Networking Breakfast at PierPoint Café). I spoke on the current issues with Brexit and how the current efforts to find a deal acceptable to the House of Commons were going.
Later in the day I headed to Torquay Fire Station for a briefing with Chief Fire Officer Glenn Askew and Cllr Sara Randall Johnson, the Chair of our local Fire Authority).
This week’s update is below and includes: Dr Sarah Wollaston, Palace Hotel Plans Exhibition, Want to Know More About Dawlish Sea Wall Works?, PATH Evicted, New Paignton Primary, NHS Debate, Armed Forces Debate, Council Budget Debate, Town Councils Consultation, DAESH Fighters, Holy Trinity Church, Kev’s Column: Dawlish Funding and finally……..Watch Out Emu About!
Dr Sarah Wollaston,
The news at Westminster was dominated this week by 11 MPs leaving their existing political parties to form a new Independent Group, one of them was my constituency neighbour Dr Sarah Wollaston.
I disagree with her decision and deeply regret it. Yet politics is not made any better by personal attacks or acrimony.
Sarah was one of three MPs who left my party and shortly before Prime Minister’s Questions they came into the Chamber to take their seats for the first time on the opposition benches. I was called to ask a question a couple of minutes later and made clear my thoughts:
“I must say that, although my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) no longer sits on the Conservative Benches, she remains my hon. Friend.”
You can watch a video of my remarks by clicking here.
Palace Hotel Plans Exhibition,
The now empty Palace Hotel in Torquay was once one of the great hotels of our region, with many residents having memories of special occasions or events there.
The Hotel was acquired by the Fragrance Group 18 months with promises of a major redevelopment, potentially as a 5 Star Hotel. I have been advised an exhibition of their proposals for the site of the Palace Hotel, Babbacombe Road will be held on the following dates:
THURSDAY 7th MARCH 1pm – 7pm and FRIDAY 8th MARCH 10am – 7pm at the Pengelly Hall, Torquay Museum, Babbacombe Road,
From Thursday 7th MARCH you will also be able to obtain more information at: www.palacehotelexhibition.co.uk
Want to Know More About Dawlish Sea Wall Works?,
Network Rail is holding engagement sessions in Devon this month to update on its ongoing work to improve resilience of the stretch of railway connecting the South West with the rest of the country.
Two drop-in events will be held in Exeter and Torquay on the following dates:
• Wednesday 27 February – Mercure Rougemont Hotel, Exeter, EX4 3SP from 11:30-14:30
• Thursday 28 February – The Grand Hotel, Torquay, TQ2 6NT from 11:30-14:30
At the events representatives from Network Rail will provide an update on the ongoing work to repair to the breakwaters at Dawlish, as well as details of the recently submitted plans for an improved sea wall also at Dawlish.
Each event will start with a 30min presentation followed by the opportunity to speak to representatives individually.
There was frustration and heartbreak for the volunteers at PATH as they were evicted from their temporary home in Abbey Road, Torquay.
The building was provided by Torbay Council whilst they sought a more permanent location for their work after being evicted from their previous premises. I argued the Council should postpone the eviction until another building could be secured, rather than just seek to throw them into the street. The Elected Mayor of Torbay decided not to do so and proceeded with the eviction, despite appeals from other Councillors.
I appeared on BBC Spotlight News making clear my views on this behaviour and condemning the decision of the Mayoral Administration to evict them without a replacement property being secured.
I am though pleased to report I have been advised PATH have now secured a new home at the Central Church Contact Centre. If you would like to get involved in a new PATH steering group which will be forming soon to ensure they never find themselves in this position again you can email them on email@example.com
New Paignton Primary,
A brand-new Primary School, St Michael’s Church of England Academy, will open in the heart of Paignton in September 2020.
It will initially open to nursery and reception children as a one form entry school. The school will then continue growing by year group annually until Year 6. St Michael’s will build on the success of the Learning Academy Partnership’s current academies, achieving academic excellence within a caring and inspirational curriculum.
The formal application process for places at the new school will open in November 2019, but you can register an expression of interest for your child on their website by clicking here.
On Tuesday evening MPs held a debate on the NHS 10-year plan.
I put in to speak about the opportunities and challenges facing our local NHS, plus highlight a specific issue about Operating Theatre Capacity at Torbay Hospital.
Sadly an overrun on a previous debate and a large number of speakers meant I did not get called to speak, despite “bobbing” for nearly two hours.
I will try again the next time a relevant debate is scheduled.
Armed Forces Debate,
A quirk of our constitution dating back to the 1688 Bill of Rights means Parliament must pass a motion on a regular basis confirming our permission for the Army to exist.
In the aftermath of the Civil War Parliament wished to assert its control over the Army, with a requirement it could only exist “in this Kingdom” with Parliament’s consent. This was to prevent the King being able to raise a large Army which might allow him to challenge the position of Parliament.
On Monday MPs debated the modern version of this permission, which also allows military discipline to exist. Unsurprisingly the motion was approved, but it gives MPs a chance to reflect on the role our military plays today.
I spoke in the debate and you can read my speech by clicking here.
Council Budget Debate,
Last night Torbay’s Councillors discussed the Council’s Budget for the next financial year, agreeing to a 2.99% rise in Torbay Council’s part of the Council Tax.
Councillors also voted to take back control of waste and recycling in 2020 by setting up a new company. The Council is also going to spend £4.5m on new recycling and waste collection vehicles, which will be leased back to Tor2 to start with. This is aimed at dealing with the problems which emerged with recycling collections over the last year.
Town Councils Consultation,
Just a reminder of a consultation on a “Community Governance Review”, which includes the potential to set up new town or parish councils, will close on Friday 15thMarch.
Any new town or parish councils would not replace Torbay Council but would exist alongside it, just like Brixham Town Council does now. The amount they will charge through an additional Council Tax payment (precept) would depend on decisions made by those elected to it, but it has been suggested within the consultation paper this could be as high as £300 extra for each Band D Property in their area.
The initial suggestion is two new town councils could be set up to represent Torquay and Paignton respectively. However, alternative options are possible, for example, there could be a larger number of small town or parish councils representing individual areas, parts of Torbay could remain unparished, or our bay could simply retain the status quo. You can find the Council’s consultation and leave your comments by clicking here.
Whilst a new Town Council may sound good, much of the money raised in tax by it would need to be spent maintaining the structure of the Town Council itself. I also meet few people in the bay who think the ideal solution to local problems would be to employ some more Councillors.
A genuine community demand for Town Councils would be one worth listening to, yet the current proposals strike me as little more than an expensive and inefficient way to raise additional tax revenue dreamt up in the Town Hall.
As their so called “caliphate” collapses and the military forces opposing them close in on the final area of territory controlled by DAESH in Syria many who joined or supported their murderous regime are being captured.
The situation is similar in principle, if not in scale, to the position in May 1945 as Allied Forces captured many who had been involved in the crimes committed by Nazi Germany. The Allies decided it was vital those involved in genocide and crimes against humanity faced justice, most famously delivered at the Nuremburg Trials. UK Citizens who supported the Nazis, like William Joyce (aka “Lord Haw Haw”), faced the criminal law on their return.
On Monday MPs questioned the Home Secretary on this issue, especially what should happen with those UK Nationals who headed out to Syria in order to be part of this regime. I highlighted the need for those involved in DAESH to face justice either here or in an International Tribunal.
You can read my comments and the Home Secretary’s reply by clicking here.
Holy Trinity Church,
One of Torquay’s most significant and iconic buildings is now a sad sight after a recent fire which badly damaged its roof.
Holy Trinity Church was last used for worship in the 1970’s and is now known to many as the “Rainbow Fun House”. It is listed, but over the last year its heritage has come under threat as its magnificent stained windows are starting to be vandalised.
Kev’s Column: Dawlish Funding
Every fortnight I write a “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express and you can read this week’s edition by following the link below:
and finally……..Watch Out Emu About!
Ending on a lighter note an escaped EMU had his owners in a flap after he escaped from a South Devon Farm.
Keen to spread his wings he fled a farm in Churchstow, near Kingsbridge and headed into the distance. After 24 hours on the run he was finally spotted at a farm 1.5 miles away and recaptured with the help of a tarpaulin.
You can read the full story on Devon Live by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
Tuesday 26th February – 10:45 – 12 noon – Torquay Museum Society Lectures – Bush Master: Raymond Ditmars & The Hunt For The World’s Largest Viper. For more details click here.
Wednesday 27th February – 10:45 – 12 noon – Torquay Museum Society Lectures – BRUNEL’S HIDDEN KINGDOM. For more details click here.
Wednesday 6th March from 1:30pm to 2:30pm and the session on Thursday 7th from 10:30am to 11:30am. World Book Day is on 7th March 2019 and Paignton Zoo have teamed up with Torbay Libraries to bring you some storytelling and mask-making fun!
In collaboration with Torbay Libraries, the zoo will be running FREE* storytelling and animal mask making sessions on the 6th and 7th March 2019. Also for both days, children can come to the Zoo dressed as their favourite book character to be in with the chance to win a standard animal adoption of their choice! Click here for more details.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com so it can be included.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 01803 214989 and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.