Friday 10th February 2017
After what has been a busy and historic week in parliament it is time for my latest update.
There was a marathon voting session in the House of Commons on the bill which will allow the Government to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal negotiations for the UK to leave the EU. The bill passed its final stage in the House of Commons with a significant majority in favour and will now be debated in the House of Lords when parliament returns after a short recess next week.
On a local level there was a similarly historic moment last Sunday when Ellacombe Parish Church formally closed for public worship. Later that day Hazel and I were delighted to join the congregation at Hele Baptist Church for their evening service where Karl (Who had been baptised at Upton Vale BC earlier that day) was speaking.
Karl’s testimony was a truly inspiring story, whilst was also being very challenging as he recounted some of the abuse he had suffered during his life and his struggles with drug addiction. It was interesting to hear how he had dealt with his time in prison and eventually decided to turn his life around. He is now hoping his story will inspire others on their journey.
Earlier today I joined with Pluss to host a Disability Confident Event (Pictured above) aimed at encouraging employers to see the many abilities disabled people have. I am pleased to say a large number of local businesses and charities attended to not just hear the presentations, but to share their experiences of the benefits they had found from bringing some unique people into their business. I was delighted to be asked to present the employer of the year award which was given to Sainsbury’s at the Willows.
Finally following this week’s news headlines I met with the Deputy Chief Executive of Torbay Hospital to discuss the latest situation there. There is more in this week’s update which is below and includes: Hospital Beds Meeting, Paignton Hospital Protest Planned, School Funding Question, Police Crime Figures Questioned, Question Time In Torquay, Paignton Ring Road Works Reminder, Planning Set To Discuss Two Torre Eyesores, Former Mayors’ Funeral Held, Interested in Joining The Police?, Miss Torbay Hangs Up Tiara, 13 Bizarre Laws and finally…….Every Paignton Kids’ Dream Job Just Became Available!!!!!
Hospital Beds Meeting,
I was surprised to hear on social media last weekend that 32 beds could be lost at Torbay Hospital in April.
This is particularly concerning given the recent decision to close Paignton Hospital and the impact this may have on ensuring beds are available to receive patients at busy times of the year whilst also maintaining routine services. There has also been some considerable speculation that the Maternity Service may be affected.
Given these concerns I arranged two meetings today. The first was with Gordon Jennings of Torbay TUC to hear what feedback he has had, the next was with Paul Cooper (Deputy Chief Exec) and Liz Davenport (Chief Operating Officer) at Torbay Hospital.
I asked a number of questions during the meeting and suggested that they produced a statement I could include in this update. I copy below (unedited) what they sent and please note that these are their comments not mine:
"You may well have read or heard in the local media that there are plans to reduce beds at Torbay Hospital. You may also have read that some acute services, including maternity, across Devon are being reviewed. The local media linked these two things but I can assure you they are completely separate. The planned bed reduction has no impact on maternity services.
The acute services review is looking at some hospital services to make sure they continue to be sustainable, this includes maternity. You can find out more about this on South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group’s website here
Our plan to reduce the number of beds at Torbay Hospital it is part of our aim to support more people to remain at home, or return quicker if they do need a hospital stay, and to do this we need to focus more of our resource on community services.
We are investing in community services so that more people can be supported at home which is where most people want to be. Big steps have already been taken with £3.9m investment including in enhanced intermediate care and the voluntary sector through the appointment of Wellbeing Co-ordinators. These services are now up and running and successfully supporting people to be at home. This means there is less reliance on acute beds and we now believe that the time is right to plan to reduce beds by 32. No decisions have been made and ensuring the best possible care for local people is always our highest priority.
Later in February clinicians and senior managers will consider options and recommend how the bed reduction will be managed. Importantly the reduction in beds will have no impact on the range of services we offer.
I can assure you that in taking these decisions we will ensure that we continue to be able to safely provide acute care to those who need it. This important move takes us one step closer to being able to provide the care that we know most people want and that is to be able. "
Liz Davenport - Chief Operating Officer Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
Paignton Hospital Protest Planned,
I was deeply disappointed by the decision taken by the Clinical Commissioning Group to close Paignton Hospital without replacing its services.
A protest march against this decision has been arranged by Torbay and South Devon TUC. It will take place on Saturday 25th February and the marchers will assemble near Paignton Hospital between 10:30am and 11am. All residents are invited to take part.
School Funding Question,
Education Ministers faced questions from MPs in the House of Commons on Monday and I made sure the issues facing our local schools were raised.
Whilst Torbay Schools see a welcome rise in funding overall some, including our three Grammar Schools, could see a cut based on the indicative amounts included in a consultation currently being undertaken on a new funding formula. This is despite them (like all schools in Torbay) receiving some of the lowest amounts of funding per pupil in England due to problems with the current funding formula.
You can listen to my question and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
Police Crime Figures Questioned,
There has been some debate in the media this week about the way our local Police Force records crime.
This follows a report from HMIC which raised concerns about the methods used. You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here and the Police response to the report by clicking here.
Question Time In Torquay,
Last night Question Time was in the bay for a session of lively debate at the Riviera Centre.
Judging by feedback on Social Media some lucky residents managed to get a ticket to join the audience and take part in the debate, although quite a few were posting their disappointment at not being chosen.
If you missed it last night you can catch the show on the BBC I-Player by clicking here.
Paignton Ring Road Works Reminder,
Just a reminder that there is set to be major disruption in Paignton as work to improve the Ring Road continues.
The section of the Ring Road between Spruce Way at Kings Ash to Churscombe Cross, (the roundabout near Ye Olde Smokey pub at Marldon,) will close at the beginning of February until the end of March and even after the road reopens there will be roadworks through the summer until Christmas with traffic lights in place.
The closure will allow major earth works to take place, but if you depend on travelling via this road on a regular basis do plan to allow plenty of extra time for your daily commute when these works are taking place.
Planning Set To Discuss Two Torre Eyesores,
I am pleased to report that proposals to redevelop and improve the old B&Q Store and the Zion Road Chapel in Torre are on the agenda for the Council’s next planning meeting.
The meeting will take place at 2pm in the Grace Murrell Suite at the Riviera Centre, on Monday 13th February and you can find the Agenda for it by clicking here.
Given the current condition of these sites I hope the applications are successful and that work will soon get underway. I am advised the Chair of the Torre & Upton Community Partnership will be attending to speak in favour of the applications.
Former Mayors’ Funeral Held,
Earlier today I joined Cllrs and many others from across the bay at the funeral of Frank “Gerry” Skinner.
Gerry was a former Mayor of Torbay who devoted much of his life to improving St Marychurch. He played a key role in the early 80’s securing the bypass and pedestrianisation project that has helped sustain St Maychurch as a vibrant shopping centre to this day.
It is safe to say that he has left a legacy to the area that will continue for decades.
Interested in Joining The Police?,
Our Police Officers in Torbay do a job that is sometimes difficult and dangerous, but also highly valued and respected.
If you think you might have what it takes to serve as a Police Officer our local force is currently recruiting, although you need to get your application in by Monday 13th February 2017.
You can find all the details you need on the Devon and Cornwall Police website by clicking here.
Miss Torbay Hangs Up Tiara,
For many years being crowned Miss Torbay was a much sought after title, yet in 2017 the tiara and sash could be being hung up more permanently.
It has been announced this week that due to a lack of entries the competition for the title of Miss Torbay will not be run this year and will only come back in 2018 if interest levels increase. Only eight years ago 25 entered, with 18 contestants for the final night, but in the last few years the numbers have been as low as three on finals night.
Taking on the title of Miss Torbay does involve attending a range of local events and carnivals. The estimate given by the organisers is that a total of 1,000 hours of voluntary work is involved for Miss Torbay and her chaperones. You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here.
There have sometimes been debates about such competitions, not least the one depicted in “Carry On Girls” back in 1973 and a lot was said in the press by my predecessor when the Miss & Mr England contests were held in Torquay back in 2013.
My own view is that we should let people choose for themselves if they want to take part in such a contest. Yet changing attitudes and an increased focus on future careers means less young women will do so than in the past.
13 Bizarre Laws
Every year new laws are passed by parliament that are intended to either prevent people causing harm or tackle a modern-day issue.
Yet given our parliament has existed for hundreds of years some previous acts still sitting on the statute book can seem almost bizarre in a modern society not confronted by the problems they were meant to tackle.
This week the Herald Express listed its selection of 13 odd UK Laws, including one that bans me from wearing a suit of armour into Parliament and another one that states you can’t get drunk in a pub. You can read the full list by clicking here.
and finally…….Every Paignton Kids’ Dream Job Just Became Available!!!!!
Ending on a lighter note if you are thinking of a career change this year then the job most Paignton Kids have dreamed of doing is now being advertised.
Paignton Zoo has this week posted a number of seasonal and more permanent vacancies on its website, including Train Driver!!!! Yes, the opportunity of a lifetime to drive the miniature train round the Zoo is now on offer.
Thanks to the zoo’s well designed enclosures there is no danger of finding giraffes on the line or a gorilla wanting to go places whilst doing this job, although many younger members of the homo sapien species will be climbing on board throughout the summer.
You can find full details and how to apply on the Zoo’s website by clicking here.
That is all for this week and have a great weekend.