Friday 20th January 2017
After a sunny but cold day in the bay it is time for my latest update.
Given the news channels are full of coverage from Washington DC many reading this will be pleased to know that, as always, this update focuses on issues that are a bit more local in flavour.
The last week has seen me kept busy with a range of events, debates and visits both at Westminster and here in the bay. My favourite was a visit last Saturday to the 2nd Birthday of the Purple Angel Memory Café at Barton Baptist Church (Photo above). The Café is a chance for those with dementia or a memory problem to relax and enjoy a range of activities. It meets every Saturday (Except 1st Sat of the month).
On Monday night I was asked to Chair an event at which Rear Admiral Alex Burton, the Commander of UK Maritime Forces spoke. My family has close connections with the Senior Service and it is common to read a lot of commentary in the press about the Royal Navy and its activities. The Rear Admiral’s speech covered a range of the fleet’s activities and you can read it by clicking here.
Last night Hazel and I attended a very poignant service at St Paul’s, Preston to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. I give more details on this below, along with the rest of this week’s update which includes: Paignton Hospital Update, School Funding Formula Consultation, Save Our Trains Update, Northern Ireland Investigations, PM’s Brexit Speech, Mayor’s Fund Open For Bids, Major Closure For Paignton Ring Road, Campaign To Raise Tumour Awareness, Torre Marine Update, UKYP Elections, Homeless By Law Proposal Dropped, Kev’s Column: Sustainability Future For Social Care and finally…..Former Gull Reaches Premier League.
Paignton Hospital Update,
South Devon and Torbay CCG has today announced that they are pressing ahead with recommendations to close Paignton Hospital and remove many of the services it provides from Paignton.
You can read the report recommending this decision on the CCG’s website by clicking here. The only significant changes to the original proposals put forward in the consultation in relation to our bay are:
- Establish an urgent care centre at Torbay Hospital in recognition of demand for x-ray and minor injuries unit services.
- Enable specialist outpatient clinics to continue in Paignton where the volume of patients makes this a more appropriate option to travelling to Brixham, Totnes or Torbay (Hospitals).
In response I issued the following statement earlier today:
“I am underwhelmed and very disappointed at these proposals, and with the decision to plough on with closing our community hospital in Paignton. Although some of the measures announced today replace local services, they do not go anywhere near far enough. For example, the plan to establish an urgent care centre at Torbay Hospital is bound to put additional pressure on that site at a time when hospitals have just come through a difficult winter, particularly with delayed discharges. I cannot believe that diverting more patients towards an already busy hospital is a well thought out or good idea.
“I will be attending the CCG Governing Body Meeting on these proposals in Newton Abbot next Thursday morning, 26 January, and will be sure to speak up voicing my constituents concerns”
If you are free on Thursday morning and would like to attend the meeting being held at Newton Abbot Racecourse you can register to do so via the CCG website by clicking here.
School Funding Formula Consultation,
In November the Government announced a proposed new funding formula for schools that was stated to be about resolving many long standing anomalies in the current system.
Torbay has for many years received one of the lowest amounts of funding per pupil in the country and the new formula would, overall, see an increase in funding for our schools. The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing on the proposed formula which you can read by clicking here. The new formula would come into effect in 2018-19, subject to the current consultation.
In terms of the proposals I welcome the fact that many primary schools across the bay and Paignton Academy will see a rise in funding to meet the needs they are serving. Yet it is concerning to see other schools including TBGS, TGGS, Torquay Academy and two primary academies serving some of our most deprived communities have a cut proposed despite being (like all Torbay Schools) some of the lowest funded nationally for many years.
The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, has agreed to meet me on Wednesday to discuss this and I understand from speaking with colleagues in Parliament that Torbay’s Grammars are not unique in their plight given the areas many of them serve. I therefore hope the Minister will be open to the suggestions I plan to put forward, which the schools have proposed, as to how this issue can be resolved.
Save Our Trains Update,
I am continuing the campaign to save the direct Crosscountry train services to Manchester and Birmingham from the bay and on Monday I will be meeting the Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, to again press our case.
The final decision on the proposals will be taken by him in the near future and I want to ensure that he is aware of the strength of feeling on this issue. I will report back on the meeting in next week’s update.
Northern Ireland Investigations,
During the “Troubles” many Soldiers and Policemen\Women, including some from the bay, put their lives on the line to defend the democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland to be part of the UK.
There are growing concerns that investigations into historical incidents have focused far too much on those who did their duty, ignoring the fact that the vast-majority of killings during that period were the responsibility of terrorist groups such as the IRA.I do not want to see those who own records would not bear any scrutiny allowed to rewrite history in a way that besmirches our security forces .
This week I asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a question about this situation. You can read my question and his response by clicking here.
PM’s Brexit Speech,
This week the Prime Minister set out further details of the Government’s plans to implement the outcome of the EU Referendum and negotiate for the UK to leave the EU.
Her speech was significant in that it set out twelve areas that were key to her approach to the negotiations that will take place with the EU. You can watch it or read it on the Number 10 website by clicking here.
Mayor’s Fund Open For Bids,
Torbay’s Elected Mayor, Gordon Oliver is once again making his annual pledge of giving half of his salary to charitable groups. In total, grants of over £165,000 have been handed out to local charities and organisations from the Mayor’s Fund.
Grants of up to £1,000 will be allocated to winning projects that will be progressed in the following 12 months, with priority going to organisations and individuals based and operating in Torbay.
Local charities, community and voluntary sector organisations or individuals who wish to apply need to complete an application form which can be downloaded from the Torbay Council website, along with the Grant Scheme Policy to check for eligibility, by clicking here. Alternatively, you can request a form by emailing email@example.com
Major Closure For Paignton Ring Road,
Investment to improve our road network is welcome, yet drivers on Paignton Ring road will have to put up with some significant inconvenience as a major project to improve a key stretch 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.
Campaign To Raise Tumour Awareness,
The family of a Paignton boy, who suffered with a brain tumour for over three-years before he was diagnosed, are now backing a campaign to help raise awareness of the disease.
Jude Ellis was just 6 years old when he had a seizure, and spent the following three-years suffering from headaches, tiredness and vomiting before he was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2013. His parents are now backing the Head Smart Campaign which aims to increase awareness of the condition.
You can read more about it on the Herald Express website by clicking here.
Torre Marine Update,
Over the last year I have been chasing up some long standing issues relating to Torre Marine, in particular the large area next to Newton Road.
Progress has been frustratingly slow, but this week I received an update from the Council containing the positive news that Barratt Homes and Torbay Council have now completed and agreed a design for the park at Torre Marine.
The key Council officers have recommended that the Planning permission is now signed off, Barratts have instructed a ground works company to start work as soon as possible (a fixed start date is expected very soon and we will brief all again once this date is known). Upon completion the park will be transferred to Torbay Council.
The next steps are to consult with the potential users of the space to design the play ground element which will be installed by the ‘to be appointed’ playground company. Torbay Council have the option to use various play ground suppliers which provide varying different ‘free play’ equipment. Torbay Council’s preferred consultation process for delivering a user friendly playground design is to utilise and build on the excellent work Play Torbay carry out. I am advised the Council are in the process of liaising directly with them to start this consultation process.
The UK Youth Parliament aims to provide a voice to those aged 11-18 and is the only group, other than MPs, allowed to use the chamber of the House of Commons for its debates.
I regularly meet with Torbay’s MYPs to discuss issues we can work on and the concerns being raised by those they represent. Yet the search is now on for new candidates to take up these roles and to seek election as an MYP.
The co-ordinator of the local Youth Parliament Group has sent me the application form and if you know someone who might be interested I would be happy to forward it to them. The form needs to be returned by 6th February.
Homeless By Law Proposal Dropped,
This week Torbay Council announced it was dropping plans for a consultation on a new By-Law in relation to rough sleepers.
The decision follows the Government awarding £400,000 of additional funding for projects to tackle rough sleeping and provide increased support services across the bay.
Kev’s Column: Sustainability For Social Care
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…..Former Gull Reaches Premier League.
Ending on a positive note today has shown that what some people may say is impossible for a person to achieve can happen and there has been a local example this week.
Just after I was elected in May 2015 I raised in parliament the proposed closure of Torquay United’s Youth Academy. Some queried why this was an issue I had wanted to pick up. My reason was that the loss of the Academy not only had an impact for TUFC in terms of future players, but may prevent some local youngsters from following their dreams.
One of the young players released when the Academy closed in 2015 was teenage striker Callum Morton. This week West Bromwich Albion signed Morton, 17, after the former Torquay Academy pupil starred for Yeovil Town against them in an FA Youth Cup upset last month. You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here.
It is always good to hear of someone following their dreams to success and I hope Callum’s story will inspire more of the next generation to follow theirs, whatever they may be.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.