Friday 23rd December 2016
As Santa is busy filling his sack and Rudolph is polishing his noise so bright for the big night ahead it is time for my last update of 2016.
Like many residents across the bay I will be taking some time to be with my family over the festive season so there will be no update next Friday. The first update of 2017 will be sent on Friday 6th January 2017.
Whilst it has been the run up to Christmas this week has still seen me keeping busy with a range of issues to pursue both here in the bay and at Westminster. The House of Commons sat on both Monday and Tuesday this week, although (As the photo above shows) I was back in the bay on Tuesday for a very special event with two local D-Day veterans. You can read more about this and watch a video of the presentation on the Herald Express by clicking here.
Despite being the season of goodwill this week’s news has been dominated by events that are anything but. I know all residents will be keeping in their thoughts and prayers the families of those who died in the attack on the Christmas Market in Berlin, along with the widow of the Russian Ambassador who was murdered in Turkey. Our Police, Armed Forces and Security Services will be on duty throughout the festive period keeping us safe, with the UK continuing to be on a heightened state of alert for potential terror attacks.
I know many will be working over Christmas keeping essential services running and on the day itself I will be visiting some of them here in the bay. If you are one of them I know many appreciate your work and will want to say thank you.
Finally on Wednesday I paid a visit to our local sorting offices to meet the team getting out the vital Christmas Mail, more on this below along with this week’s update which includes: Weather Warning Issued, Bin Collection Times, Torbay Council Opening Times, Pharmacy and Health Services, Save Our Trains Petition Presented, Turkey’s Stability Raised, Housing Cash Boost For The Bay, Fancy A Visit To Parliament?, Tracking Santa, Guaranteed White Christmas For Torquay Electrician, TUFC Takeover, Kev’s Column: We Must Save Hospital Services and finally…..Need A Last Minute Christmas Present?
Thinking of traveling to London? Paddington Station is closed from Saturday 24th till Thursday 29th December.
Weather Warning Issued,
If you are making an important journey or planning to go near the coast, do bear in mind that the Met Office has issued a number of weather warnings and it may be worth checking the latest forecast before leaving.
You can find a the most detailed weather forecast for our area on the Met Office website by clicking here.
Bin Collection Times,
Just a quick reminder that waste and recycling collections will be delayed by one day for all residents next week (Week Commencing 26th December)
Collections will then return to their normal day on Monday 2nd January 2017.
Torbay Council Opening Times,
Torbay Council has confirmed the following opening times over the Christmas\New Year period:
Paignton Connections office
It will be open from 9 am to 5 pm on Friday 23, Wednesday 28, Thursday 29 and Friday 30 December with normal service resuming from Tuesday 3 January. The office will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Tuesday 27 and Saturday 31 December as well as Sunday 1 and Monday 2 January.
The call centre will be open during normal working hours, 9am to 5pm and can be used to book appointments for the registrars’ office.
The Connections ‘Self Service’ Zone provisions within the buildings of Torquay and Brixham Libraries will be available during the library opening hours.
Torbay Libraries will be closed from Saturday 24 December to Tuesday 27 December inclusive, and on Monday 2 January.
Benefits, Council Tax and Business Rates
Enquiries to 01803 207201 will be open during normal operating hours, 9 am to 5 pm except on the 26 and 27 December, and 2 January.
Housing Options service can be contacted on 01803 208723 for enquiries. This service will be available until 5pm on Friday 23 December. The service will be unavailable from the 24 to the 27 December. Service resumes at 9 am to 5 pm on the 28, 29 & 30 December. The service is then unavailable on the 31 December and 1 and 2 January. Normal service resumes at 9 am on the 3 January.
The Emergency duty service will be available from 4.30 pm to 9 am throughout the holiday period for anyone who is actually homeless at this time. The service can be contacted on 0300 456 4876. This service should not be used for non emergency enquiries.
The Crisis Support Team will provide a service over the Christmas period during the council’s Christmas opening hours. There will be no service on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 December 2016 or Monday 2 January 2017. Applications for daily living expenses received when the office is closed will be looked at on the next working day. Other claims will be considered within 7 working days. Please refer to the Council’s website www.torbay.gov.uk/crisissupport for details of how to make a claim
Pharmacy and Health Services,
Local NHS Services continue to be available throughout the festive period and if you feel unwell or have an accident there are several choices available.
If you need to visit a local pharmacy you can find the opening times for Pharmacies across Torbay by clicking here.
If the situation is not an emergency or a life-threatening situation the NHS 111 helpline is available 24 hours a day.
You can also visit one of our local Minor Injuries Units who can deal with a range of issues that need immediate attention, such as a cut or wound, but are not to the level where a visit to A&E is required. You can find out details of their opening times, plus check live waiting times at each of them, by clicking here.
Train Petition Presented,
On Monday Dr Sarah Wollaston and I took the fight to save our Cross Country train service to the Bay to the heart of Government.
My team and I, assisted greatly by the Herald Express, have gathered over 1,500 signatures from Torbay residents and commuters who object to CrossCountry Trains' proposals to cut virtually all their services to the bay. I am also pleased to say Rail Minister Paul Maynard MP agreed to meet us at the Department for Transport to receive the petition personally.
We expect a decision on the proposals early in the new year and you can keep up to date with the campaign on my Facebook Page by clicking here.
Turkey’s Stability Raised,
When you read this headline you might have thought I was referring to Christmas Dinner, yet the reality (sadly) is that it is based on a question I asked the Prime Minister this week.
The Prime Minister was reporting back to MPs on the outcome of the recent European Council Meeting as the news came through of the Russian Ambassador’s Murder. Given the coup earlier this year, recent terror attacks and the impact of the Civil War in Syria on Turkey there are real concerns for its future stability.
You can read what I said and the Prime Minister’s response by clicking here.
Housing Cash Boost For The Bay,
Earlier today I was pleased to receive a letter from the Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell MP, confirming the funding Torbay will receive from the Community Housing Fund.
The national Community Housing Fund is worth £60m per year and one third of that, almost £20 million, will be allocated directly to Councils in the South West as our area is the most popular region for second homes in England. It accounts for 21% of all second homeownership in England. This funding will be targeted at the community-led housing sector and distributed to groups via local councils.
Torbay Council will receive £643,208 per year under this scheme. The focus is to deliver affordable housing aimed at first-time buyers in response to the problem second homes can cause in reducing supply.
Fancy A Visit To Parliament?,
Christmas can be an expensive time and if you are trying to think of something you can do in the New Year for a low cost how about a visit to the Houses of Parliament?
If booked well in advance and using off peak tickets train travel to London can be quite affordable and Westminster is a short ride by tube from Paddington. My team can take small groups of visitors round (Up to 6) and if timed appropriately this can include a chance to visit the two chambers, there is of course no charge for this although we do have to check those attending are constituents of mine.
If this would be of interest just e-mail Nick Gray in my Westminster office on Nicholas.Gray@parliament.uk
Given the current international situation many readers (in particular their children or grandchildren) may be concerned that Santa might have some issues with air defence systems on high alert.
Thankfully Santa’s friends at NORAD are helping him out by tracking his flight across the world and keeping everyone updated about his location. They will be tracking his flight using their advanced radar systems that normally keep watch for any Ballistic Missile attacks on the United States of America or its Allies.
You can find the Santa Tracker station by clicking here and there are some fun games you can enjoy for free as well whilst waiting for the track to start.
Guaranteed White Christmas For Torquay Electrician,
The weather forecast from the Met Office predicts that Torquay has virtually no chance of snow on Christmas Day this year, yet one local man will have no trouble seeing plenty of it from his temporary home.
Electrician Matt Meaden will be able to see snow all around him as he has been working at the British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI Research Station since November and will now play a key role in its 23km relocation inland.
Halley plays an important role in studies into global issues such as the impact of an extreme space weather event, climate change and atmospheric phenomena. Matt's job as an electrical power generation technician sees him help maintain electricity at the station all year round among other important roles.
You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here and given he is scheduled to be at the station until March 2018 he is guaranteed a White Christmas in 2017 as well.
Earlier this week it was announced that Riviera Stadium a subsidiary of Gaming International had purchased a controlling interest in Torquay United AFC.
You can read the statement issued by the Club confirming the takeover on the TUFC website by clicking here. The Club Chairman David Phillips gave an interview to the Herald Express on the takeover which you can find by clicking here. and the Chairman of the Torquay United Supporters Trust also gave his reaction which you can find by clicking here.
Although chairman David Phillips is staying during a 'handover' period, the small outgoing board of supporter-directors are all expected to leave the club.
I have had a number of fans e-mail me about the takeover with most attention, rightly, focussed on what this means for the future of the Plainmoor Ground, particularly given speculation over recent years of a new stadium project. At this stage I do not have any further details about the new owners’ intentions, although will attempt to include further details in future updates once I have them.
My main concern as the bay’s MP is that a sustainable position is secured for the long-term future of League Football (Which is the whole aim of TUFC even though not currently playing in it) in the bay. A return to the Football League, on a sound financial footing, would boost the bay generally, not just those involved with or who support the club. This means future success must be built on encouraging a partnership with the community who support it.
Kev’s Column: We Must Save Hospital Services
Every fortnight I write a “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express, you can read this week’s edition by following the link below:
and finally…..Need A Last Minute Christmas Present?
Ending on a lighter note Christmas Eve tomorrow will see the traditional sight of last minute shoppers, mostly male, panic buying those last-minute gifts they need.
Yet one gift seeker could hit gold with one “gift” idea that has appeared on line for just £1. Whilst for many Children a toy fire engine is on the list for Santa, this is a chance to buy the real thing, a 1980 Bedford Fire Tender. The price indicates that the Engine is not in the condition it was when in service with Devon County Fire Service, but you can check it out for yourself on the Herald Express website by clicking here.
Well that is it for this update and all that is left is for Hazel and I to wish you and those you care about a Very Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2017.
With my very best wishes,