Read my blog on the outcome of the vote here.
Play Torbay Art Competition
Play Torbay does fantastic work across the Bay helping to create and support spaces for children to enjoy active play. Play Torbay would like purpose built gates constructed to their Wild Fox Playground to allow easy access for the disabled and it was suggested that a good way to raise funds for this project would be an art competition including a voluntary donation for entries. The art competition has a theme of doors and gateways. Any additional money raised would go to help Play Torbay support children's play across the Bay.
I am delighted to be supporting their art competition and should you have any questions please do contact Carmen on 07775 830740 or email email@example.com Full details, and terms and conditions can be found on their website.
So do get crafting and help to support children's active play.
Environment Agency repairs at Torcross
The Environment Agency is currently exploring options to repair the sea defence at Torcross and have written to local residents with details of their preferred repair option, and inviting them to meet with the EA in the Parish Hall at Stokenham on 13 June.
The EA contractors were on-site in Torcross during February and March. They investigated the state of the current defence and presented the EA with 5 technically feasible repair options to stabilise the wall. These options were reviewed against government appraisal and funding guidance, as well as the feedback received from residents and partners.
It was concluded that constructing a new steel sheet piled wall (option 3) is the EA's preferred solution. They propose to drive a new piled wall approximately 1 metre in front of existing defence to a greater depth than the existing piling, along the full length of the existing defence. This will prevent further movement of the defence so that it continues to protect properties, with the greater stability of deeper sheet piles. This option provides the best cost/benefit ratio in order to provide stability to the existing defence. The funding available only allows the EA to make the defence stable and not to improve the current standard of protection. Wave and spray over the top of the defence will not be addressed as part of this solution, although they will work to reduce this as part of the detailed design as much as possible.
The EA recognise from the feedback received on the 5 options that some residents would prefer a full rock revetment solution (Option 1), or some beach management (Options 4 or 5). These options were carefully considered. Unfortunately they do not provide a cost beneficial repair solution. These options cost between £2m to £6m more than a sheet piled wall with additional ongoing management/maintenance costs. These additional costs would need to be made up from partnership funding. The EA are aware the Slapton Line Partnership are currently looking at updating their Beach Management Plan, which should consider if any further enhancements to the beach at Torcross will be made.
The EA are happy to talk about the preferred option and how they have come to this decision and will be holding a drop-in surgery on 13 June 2016 from 2.30-6pm at Stokenham Parish Hall, Carehouse Cross, Stokenham, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 2SJ. The EA will now progress with creating a detailed design of this option as quickly as possible. Updates will be published through the Slapton Line Partnership website as project milestones are met.
From the 9th May the penalties for fly-tipping were increased. It is now a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates' Court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court.
There are also a range of other possible penalties including fixed penalty notices and local authorities can now issue fixed penalty notices between £150 to £400 for small-scale fly-tipping.
As well as spoiling the countryside, fly-tipping is illegal, bad for the environment and often a health hazard to people and animals. Household waste, including DIY material and electrical goods such as fridges, accounts for half of all fly tipped rubbish. Councils encourage householders to dispose of waste responsibly through reducing, reusing, recycling and composting waste, where possible.
You can dispose of your waste in a number of ways:
- 'Normal' household refuse and recycling should be placed out for collection the evening before, or by 7 a.m. on the morning of, your collection.
- 'Bulky' items and larger items of household waste can be disposed of in several ways:- Take these items to your closest household waste recycling centre.
In the South Hams these are run by Devon County Council. For further information contact DCC on 0345 1551010; or look at the website
Information about Torbay recycling centre can be found here
- Arrange for a bulky household waste collection. This service is operated by the Councils and a small charge is made. Please visit the appropriate Council's website for further details. SHDC or Torbay
- Take glass bottles and jars to your closest recycling bank. You can find recycling banks through the following links South Hams District Council or Torbay Council
Some residents call on contractors for removal of larger waste items. If you choose this option, please follow these simple checks to make sure your waste is disposed of correctly and not fly tipped out of sight.
- Check that the contractor has a waste carrier's licence. You can do this on the Environment Agency website
- Ask where they are going to take your waste.
- Pay on presentation of an invoice which shows the waste carrier's licence number and details where your waste was disposed.
- Ask for a receipt and keep it safe.
Unfortunately, if a fly tip includes items tracked back to yourself, you may be liable for legal action being taken against you and you could be fined. Make sure that doesn't happen with these simple checks.
Help us to protect the environment and to keep our beautiful district perfect.
ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards
The ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards celebrate outstanding civil engineering achievement, innovation and ingenuity around the South West. There are two projects significant to the Totnes Constituency up for the ICE South West People's Choice Award. Voting closes on Friday 10 June 2016.
|A380 South Devon Highway
The successful delivery of the project was made possible through an effective joint partnership between Devon County and Torbay Councils and a long term commitment to the scheme. The Councils, working with Parsons Brinckerhoff, progressed the design and business case for the scheme and took a proactive, opportunistic approach to secure Government funding at a time when major scheme funding was being withdrawn.
Find out more about the project
| ATMOS Totnes
ATMOS Totnes is a project to reinvigorate a former creamery for the benefit of the Community of Totnes. The site has a long history of positive contribution to the Town's economy having provided employment to several generations of the people of Totnes. Its closure in 2007 resulted in the loss of 160 jobs. Quickly, the community formulated a desire to bring the land back into productive use, to provide uses tailored to the needs of the community, as a community owned asset.
Find out more about the project
JAZZ CRUISE ON THE RIVER DART
Saturday 25th June to celebrate 25 years of fund raising on behalf of Children's Hospice South West, Torbay, Newton Abbot and District Friends Group invite you to join them on a Jazz Cruise aboard the Cardiff Castle on the River Dart.
Leaving Steamer Quay, Totnes prompt at 19.30 pm
Tickets are £25 (£10 for under 16s)
Will include music from "High Society" plus a Supper Box and glass of wine or juice
Covered seating if wet, licensed bar and a Raffle
For tickets and information
Barbara Cavanna 01803 329009
Rosa Marshall 01803 298496
Dawn Shute 01803 872736
Chris Wright 01803 872552
Coastal Communities Fund in England
£36 million is available in the fourth round of the Coastal Communities Fund for the period 2017-2019.
The aims of the fund are to support the economic development of UK coastal communities to award funding to deliver sustainable growth and jobs. The Big Lottery Fund is helping to deliver the latest bidding round on behalf of the Government. Full details of eligibility and how to apply for a grant for Round 4 are now available through the following link.
The closing date for submitting expressions of interest is 30th June 2016. For enquiries, applicants should contact the Big Lottery Fund Advice line on 0845 410 2030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Voting on June 23rd in the EU Referendum
With the EU referendum fast approaching, do make sure you are registered to vote. If you are already registered then you don't have to complete the process again.
An information booklet from the Electoral Commission will be delivered to every household in the UK in the coming weeks. It contains important information for voters on the referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union; how to register to vote and how to cast your vote on Thursday 23 June 2016.
The deadline to register is Tuesday 7 June.
It's easy to register and only takes a few minutes online – just head to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote .
If you are already registered to vote there is no need to register again for the EU referendum. You can find out if you are registered by contacting your Council's Elections team.
If you pay your council tax to South Hams District Council, you may wish to wait until May 27th before making enquiries as the poll cards are being sent out by 2nd class post on May 20th. After that the number to ring is 01803 861434.
If you pay your council tax to Torbay Council, you can check if you are on the register by telephoning 01803 208008 or email email@example.com
If you're likely to be away on the day and will be unable to get to the polling station then you can look at options for postal or proxy votes, once again this is through you corresponding Council and click the following links for further information;
More information for voters is available at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk
EU talk Friday 20th May Brixham Conservative Club
Debate on the EU referendum is already emotive and passionate but more than anything else, people in this constituency tell me that they would like balanced information and the opportunity to debate the issues in the run up to the referendum. I will be at the Brixham Conservative Club, New Road, Brixham located near Brixham Museum this Friday at 6.30pm to discuss all points of view so please come to share yours. Everyone is welcome.
A page on my website provides links to organisations campaigning on both sides of the debate and setting out whether that information comes from a pro leave or remain perspective, or from a neutral source.
The Peninsula Rail Task Force
The Peninsula Rail Task Force is consulting on the first draft of the 20-year plan for the South West rail network. Responses need to be received by 27th May and where appropriate, feedback will be incorporated into the final document, which will be submitted to government in July.
To read the consultation and to comment, use the following link.
Slow and Wide
I met with a constituent who came to see me about Debbie Smith's petition and campaign that was started in September 2015 about the dangers horse riders face on the roads.
Riders have as much right to be on a pubic highway as anyone else, but they get verbal abuse, beeping of horns and revving of engines, cars speeding past so close their stirrups get hit.
The petition is seeking to change the law to make it a legal requirement to have to slow, and pass a horse wide, and abide rider's hand signals to stop and slow to reinforce this. Riders feel there is a need to be riding with head cameras to gather the evidence to give to the police. As it stands, action can only be taken if riders can prove careless driving but by that time it is generally too late and the accident between the car, horse and rider has already happened; riders need to be able to ask a car to stop to prevent an accident happening, if caught on camera they will get fined and charged. The statistics of accidents and deaths has risen highly in the last 10 years, this needs to decline.
If you would like to join the pass wide and slow campaign you can sign the petition via the following link
Totnes Community Development Society
Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS), has been awarded as runner-up in the Cabinet Office National Social Investment Awards run in partnership with Nat West. TCDS were jointly shortlisted with UK social investor CAF Venturesome that has invested finance in the pre-development process taking place at the community-led development facilitated by TCDS, Atmos Totnes.
Together TCDS and CAF Venturesome were shortlisted for the Institutional Social Investment Award, which show-cases institutional investment deals or products that have created demonstrable social impact at scale.
Marcelino Castrillo, Managing Director of Business Banking at NatWest, joined the Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson in congratulating all shortlisted organisations at a ceremony at RBS head office in London last week.
Atmos Totnes is currently one of the first developments in the UK progressing through a Community Right to Build Order. The scheme seeks to develop and bring into community ownership the former Dairy Crest milk processing plant next to Totnes train station. Sixty-two affordable residences are currently planned on the Atmos Totnes site as well as substantial amounts of community and enterprise space.
I was interviewed by John Ashmore for The House Magazine and you may be interested to read the article
Photo by Jack Lawson
Are we ageing well in Totnes and Dartington?
If you were inspired by Angela Rippon on the BBC programme 'How to Stay Young' to discover ways to stay young and healthy for longer, the Functional Fitness MOT events, new to Totnes and Dartington could be just the ticket.
The Functional Fitness MOT is a series of free events for people over 60 taking place in Totnes and Dartington in May and June 2016. These events give participants the opportunity to test their fitness and aim to promote discussion around activity levels and to promote active ageing.
The Functional Fitness MOT tests elements of active ageing such as flexibility, muscle power, motor ability, balance, aerobic endurance, current activity levels and personal goals and participants will have the opportunity to discuss their strengths and weaknesses with a qualified physiotherapist who will signpost participants to local activities and exercise groups. The tests are fun and performed in a supportive, non-judgemental environment. For the more competitive you are welcome to bring your friends and compare results.
Event dates, times and venues are as follows:
- Rushbrook Centre, Totnes; Wednesday 8th June 2016, Drop in between 9.30am – 12.30pm
- Dartington Village Hall, Dartington; Friday 17th June 2016, Drop in between 9.30am – 12.30pm
For further information please contact Pauline by email firstname.lastname@example.org or give her a call on 07975708130.
Flooding in Totnes
The Environment Agency have announced a new initiative to reduce the risk of flooding in Totnes. Since the original flood defences were built in the 1980s there have been at least two separate occasions where some properties in Totnes have come close to flooding.
For more information you can contact the Environment Agency by email or write to them at The Environment Agency, Manley House, Kestrel Way, Exeter, Devon, EX2 7LQ. Or you can visit their website using the following link
In addition to the Environment Agency's new initiative, the government has recently launched FLOODre. This is a new national scheme designed to help provide better access to affordable home insurance. More about FLOODre can be found at www.floodre.co.uk or you can watch their informative video.
Petitions to Torbay Council
Petitions are often used to allow communities to raise awareness and participate in local affairs. If a petition has 25 or more valid signatures it will be seen at Council and the petitioner will have the opportunity to speak on the matter. The petition will then be referred to the decision-maker for a decision.
Petitions with 1,000 or more valid signatures can be presented to Council for full debate and decision. However, for a petition to be approved it must follow Torbay Council's Petition Scheme or it will unfortunately be refused.
Recently a number of petitions have been refused for the following reasons:
• The petition did not have accompanying signatures with full addresses (including post codes).
• The petition did not clearly stating the action it wishes the council to take.
• The petition did not have clear headings on each page to inform the signatories what they are signing.
Addresses must be clear and include the correct post code to ensure they have been signed by people who live, work or study in Torbay.
If you are thinking of submitting a petition please contact the Governance Support Team on (01803) 207087 or email email@example.com before you start so that they can assist you and ensure your petition meets the requirements of the scheme.
To help you decide what to include please find details of petitions received by the council and the outcomes on the website
The petition scheme and a template is available here
Together, We can tackle Child Abuse
The Department for Education is funding an important communications campaign to encourage members of the public to report child abuse and neglect. We all want to ensure children who are at risk of abuse or neglect are identified quickly to stop situations escalating.
In 2014/15 there were 632,400 referrals into children's social care, with 9.7% of these coming from members of the public. This figure can be improved upon and that is why this campaign aims to get as many people as possible to be more alert to the protection of children in their communities.
Campaigns have already been launched across the country with the government funding out-of-home advertising on billboards and bus stops along with digital and radio advertisements to get the message across.
We all have a role to play in protecting children and young people from child abuse and neglect and I am pleased that the campaign has received welcome support from local authorities, the police and health officials.
For more information on the campaign, and advice on how to protect children from abuse or neglect please visit the following links:
- Working Together to Safeguard Children
- Information Sharing Advice
- What to do if you're worried a child is being abused
- Keeping children safe in Education
WW1 Commemoration Funding
2016 marks the centenary of some of the most bloody and significant battles of the First World War, including Verdun, Jutland, the Dublin Easter Rising and of course, the Somme. A number of sources of funding are available to help explore and commemorate the events of WW1. These are:
- The Heritage Lottery Fund, which is providing grants of £3,000-£10,000 to mark the centenary of WW1. Details of this can be accessed here.
- The War Memorial Trust, which provides grants of up to £30,000 to help conserve and restore local war memorials. Details can be found here.
- Historic England has launched a programme, financed by the Government, to add 2,500 war memorials to the National Heritage List. Details of this project, including how to register a war memorial, can be found here.
A first for community-led development in South Hams
South Hams District Council has received its first Community Right to Build Order for the proposed Atmos Totnes development on the former Diary Crest site. This is one of the first in the country to use this new route to planning which increases the amount of consultation and involvement by the local community within a planning process.
Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS) have been working with the community for the last 18 months to prepare plans for a mixed development on the site. Before Christmas TCDS held Pre-submission Consultation (Regulation 14 of Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012), which is a formal part of the Community Right to Build Order process.
Following the most recent consultation with both the community and statutory organisations, there have been some changes to the Order and associated plans. Please do have a look at the revised Order available through South Hams District Council, which includes all associated plans, designs, and supporting technical information for Atmos Totnes. This period of Consultation (Regulation 16 of the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012) will end on the 8th April.
You can submit comments and objections to the submission for Atmos Totnes via the South Hams District Council website, email or the office address: http://www.southhams.gov.uk/atmos
Torcross Update from the Environment Agency (22.04.16)
Our project board met this week to review the repair options for Torcross. We are confident that our consultants have provided robust solutions for the stability of the defence at Torcross. As promised we're sharing with you an overview of the options being considered.
What repair options are technically feasible?
1. Full rock revetment in front of the whole length of defence – this option is likely to result in full loss of the beach (similar to Beesands). We are concerned about the impact of this option on the community in Torcross.
2. Concrete Armour in front of the whole length of defence - this option is likely to result in loss of the beach, although less than with option 1. We are concerned about the impact of this option on the community in Torcross.
3. New steel sheet piled wall – this option would involve driving a new piled wall approximately 1 metre in front of existing defence to a greater depth than the existing piling, to provide greater protection to the structure from reduced beach levels. This wall could be either along the full length of defence or just in front of the damaged areas, with or without rock in front.
4. Beach management – this option would involve recharging the beach in front of the existing defence. Any recharge will need to take into account 2015 experiences and the potential for ongoing management.
5. Combination of Option 3 and 4 – this option would involve a combination of new steel sheet piled wall and recharging the beach. This option would help increase the lifespan of the new sheet piled wall.
What repair options are economically feasible?
When investing tax payer's money, government requires us to follow appraisal and funding guidance to ensure we are providing a cost effective solution over the life of the defence and ensure value for money. The preferred option will be the one that has the highest benefit to cost ratio (i.e. the one which gives the best value comparing the cost with the damage avoided) provided the solution is technically feasible.
Tell us what you think
As well as choosing a technically and economically feasible option, we also want to endeavour to choose a solution that enables residents to continue to enjoy Torcross. This means we need to know more about what you think of the options presented above.
Please send any feedback on the options above through to your community representative, Bill Fletcher-Neal by the 6th May 2016 to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01548 581 036. Bill has kindly agreed to collate these comments for us. We will also hold a drop in to answer any questions individual residents and businesses have about the options if you think this would be useful.
All your comments will be taken to the project board in May to make a decision about which option is preferred
All enquiries about this project should be sent to email@example.com. If you need to report an emergency incident at Torcross please call our 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
For all updates please look at the Slapton Line Partnership website
Picture by kind permission of Pat Nettleton
Torcross is open for business.
The recent weather has damaged the A379, temporarily closing the southern end of the Slapton line but thanks to a rapid response, it is hoped that this will reopen to light traffic by the weekend or early next week.
Devon County Council are also funding a temporary shuttle bus service between Kingsbridge bus station and Torcross to replace the suspended Stagecoach bus route.
The car park at the War Memorial is open so please take the opportunity to enjoy one of our best sea views and nature reserves with a stunning walk along the coast path. The wonderful Start Bay Inn is also very much open for business.
Thank you to local residents, Mike Williams and his Environment Agency team, Peter Brunt from DCC Highways, South Hams District Council, local councillors and the Slapton Line Partnership for coming to today's emergency meeting at Torcross. This was an opportunity to inspect the sea defences and raise questions about the scale of the damage both to the sea wall protecting Torcross as well as to the A379. This vital road link has been closed at the Torcross end of the Slapton Line as a result of damage to the sea wall.
Despite all three main agencies, SHDC, EA and DCC working together to rapidly agree remedial work to the sea wall protecting the road, further bad weather over the weekend has caused further damage and forced a complete closure. It was explained that work to drive metal sheeting to protect the road could not start last week because of the essential requirement to first carry out checks for unexploded ordnance. The EA confirmed that the main sea wall at Torcross is their responsibility as a flood defence barrier and that the section to the north, protecting the road, is the responsibility of SHDC. The road itself is however, the responsibility of DCC whilst the land on which the road runs along the Slapton line is owned by the Whitney Trust. The urgency of the task ahead to protect both the community and vital road link was clear to everyone. It was reassuring to see work in progress to create extra protection for the road as well as the equipment arriving on site to construct a temporary diversion through the car park to allow the passage of light traffic and hopefully also to local buses.
The EA have now awarded the contract for an urgent survey to assess the condition of defences beneath the main sea wall protecting Torcross and, in the meantime, plan to start emergency work bringing in rock armour to place in front of the wall.
For local residents worried about the structural safety of their homes, the advice was to call 01626 215793 to discuss this with Building Control if not already covered by home insurance.
The need for a future single communication hub for all agencies to update the community was agreed and thank you to the Slapton Line Partnership for agreeing to host updates on their website.
I will continue to work with the community and all the agencies to try to get the work completed as soon as possible and to safeguard the future of Torcross and the A379. These plans must also consider the defences and communities of Beesands and North Hallsands.
Drink Wise, Age Well in Devon
Drink Wise Age Well are a fantastic organisation who provide expert advice on healthier drinking for the over 50s.
They provide friendly and community led activities and the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. They run both group and individual sessions and can help with information on looking after your health and wellbeing, family relationships and healthier drinking.
To find out more phone 0800 304 7034 or visit their website
Breaking Free Online
It is very easy to follow and completely confidential, providing a wide choice of coping strategies. You build up a helpful toolkit of recovery resources and get a certificate showing your achievements.
Breaking Free Online helps you identify what is keeping your drink or drug use going and sets you personal goals to track your progress.
You can find out more via their website
A379 At Torcross
I was sorry to hear the news this morning that the A379 at Torcross has had to be closed, due to the failure of the seawall during this morning's high tide. The sea wall that has failed is the one starting at the slip way supporting the highway.
This is clearly a worrying situation and I have recently held meetings with the Environment Agency, South Hams District Council and Devon County Council to discuss prioritising of repairs and plans for a long term solution. Devon County Council are currently trying to get an 18 tonne excavator down there to see what they can do as a temporary measure to prevent any further loss of material supporting the highway over the next few days, before they start work on Monday to do something more permanent.
Picture by kind permission of South Hams Newspapers
Totnes and Dartmouth Ring and Ride Service urgently needs funds.
This valuable service is at risk of being lost to the community. It needs a minimum of £10,000 by the end of February to see it through to the next financial year when it is hoped to access grant funding for a restructured operation. The Ring and Ride Service were delighted to hear that last year they had been awarded money to provide a new specially adapted bus, this will allow them to hand back a 15 seater bus they are currently leasing from Devon County Council and thereby help their running costs.
The Ring and Ride Service is aimed at some of the most vulnerable in the area and with their specially adapted vehicles, assist the elderly, frail and disabled. Often this group do not have access to other forms of transport and some of the users have already stated that if the service closes they will have to remain in their homes.
There are less than 28 days for the Ring and Ride Service to order their new bus but if they do not receive funds of £10,000 within the next couple of weeks, the service will have to close their doors.
If you are able to help please do get in contact with Ring and Ride Chairman, Judy Westacott on 01803 863043.
The Local Government Boundary Commission
The Local Government Boundary Commission is carrying out an electoral review of Devon County Council.
The aim of the electoral review is to recommend electoral division boundaries that mean each county councillor represents approximately the same number of voters. The aim is to ensure that the pattern of divisions reflects the interests and identities of local communities as well as promoting effective local government. In order to achieve these aims, division boundaries are being re-drawn across the county.
The Points of Light Award
The Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.
Every week day the Prime Minister recognises an inspirational volunteer with the Daily Point of Light award.
First established by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, over 5,000 US Points of Light have been recognised in the USA. UK Points of Light was developed in partnership with the US programme and launched in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street in April 2014.
Since then hundreds of people have been named Points of Light by the Prime Minister, highlighting an enormous array of innovative and inspirational volunteering across the length and breadth of Britain.
Doing everything from tackling knife crime, to supporting families of dementia patients, our UK Points of Light are fundraising, awareness raising, problem solving heroes who all had an idea they decided to make a reality. Their actions have changed lives and their stories are can inspire thousands more to get involved or start their own initiatives.
Find out more about our UK Points of Light.
Feeling inspired? Discover volunteering opportunities near you.
Tell No 10 your inspirational volunteering stories.
Superfast Broadband in Thurlestone
Connecting Devon and Somerset have connected Thurlestone to superfast broadband through the Sutton Cross 4 cab. The future for superfast broad in the constituency is looking positive with 89% of properties in the constituency having superfast broadband by the end of this year. Whilst the remaining 11% will be connected in the near future. To register your interest in superfast broadband or to find out more about Connecting Devon and Somerset you can simply use the following link. Remember if more of us register an interest in superfast broadband the more likely it is, the roll out will be faster and more encompassing.
Photo by kind permission of Marcus Faye
The latest figures show that unemployment in the Totnes constituency, and across the country, continues to fall.
Those benefitting most from the employment figures are women and the long term unemployed. Since 2010 there are a million more women in work and this is likely to be helped further with our guarantee of 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds.
The number of people who have had to cope with long-term unemployment has fallen by a quarter since 2010 and that needs to fall further if everyone is to have the same opportunity to benefit from having a job.
Of course, it is not just work itself that matters, but the quality of that work and training opportunities. People were rightly concerned about some companies' abuse of zero-hours contracts. Businesses, small and large, are the lifeblood of the UK economy, but they rely of millions of individuals who deserve fair pay. It's for this reason that it was so important to have banned 'exclusivity clauses' in contracts, preventing companies from locking-in employees on unfair hours whilst preventing them from working elsewhere. The latest ONS Labour force survey estimates that just 2.4% of the workforce now work zero hours contracts http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/mro/news-release/zero-hours-contract-in-main-job-now-reported-by-744-000-people/zhc0915.html
It is also welcome news that wages continue to outstrip inflation and that is before a welcome boost from the National Living Wage. The fall in petrol prices has been particularly good news for businesses and commuters alike in this area where people are more likely to need to drive longer distances.
There is no room for complacency as, compared with the rest of the country, local people are paid lower wages yet face higher housing costs and, as a nation, we still have a long way to go to close the gap between what we earn and what we spend.
The Government has set out plans in the bid to tackle the scourge of nuisance calls.
Direct marketing companies will have to legally display their telephone number on caller ID, helping consumers report unsolicited calls to the regulators.
Unsolicited direct marketing calls can cause significant stress and anxiety, particularly to those people who rely on the telephone as their main means of keeping in touch with friends and loved ones. At best these calls are a source of irritation and at worst they can lead to people falling foul of scammers.
The proposal to make it a requirement for direct marketing callers to provide valid Calling Line Identification (CLI) will help:
- Make it easier for people to refuse and report unwanted marketing calls;
- Make it easier for the ICO to investigate and take enforcement action against callers that persistently and deliberately break the rules.
There is a six-week consultation which closes on 23 February 2016 and following this, the Government plans to bring the measure into force in spring 2016.
Paying your tax online
The Government has set out the details of its plan, first announced in the 2015 Budget, to replace the annual tax return with an online payment system which will be available to all individuals and businesses by 2020. Businesses and individuals will be able to record their income and costs directly to a secure digital tax account online and this will cut out the need to fill in a complex annual tax return form. Online records need to be updated at least quarterly, in a process which aims to be quicker and simpler than filling in the current tax return.
It is hoped this will make it easier for businesses to track how much tax will be due, helping them to plan for the future. The smallest businesses won't have to pay for the software, to help them make the transition. Other ways of paying tax, such as telephone filing, will continue to be available for those who are unable to use this system. For more details on the replacement of tax returns click here.
Our Plan; The South Hams Newsletter
Click on this link to read Our Plan; The South Hams Newsletter for an update on the progress of the development plan, it covers changes nationally and locally, along with calls for new sites across the District.
Looking for local funding?
Local groups and organisations with great ideas to make their communities even better places to live are now invited to apply for funding to turn their ideas into reality.
Using money raised by HealthContact society lottery through The Health Lottery, People's Health Trust has opened Active Communities in Devon and Torbay.
Active Communities is a funding programme for community groups and not-for-profit organisations, with an income of less than £350,000 a year or an average of £350,000 over two years, seeking investment of between £5,000 and £50,000 for projects lasting up to two years. They are looking for small and local projects, genuinely designed and run by local people. By small, they mean just a small group of people on an estate, in a few streets or villages.
They are also looking for great ideas from communities of interest. By this they mean a group of people who have things in common and wish to come together to address something that is important to them. These ideas could be based in one neighbourhood, or cover a wider area.
They run a two stage application process over a four week period that begins with a short online form. There's step by step guidance to help you along the way but if you need any support, please call them on 020 7697 4021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline for applications is 1pm on Wednesday 3 February 2016.
Share shop in Totnes
Network Of Wellbeing is planning to open a Share shop in Totnes and would welcome your views and help. The Share shop is a library of things, instead of books people can borrow things- this could be garden tools, a sewing machine, camping or leisure equipment or even a chocolate fountain. Things we don't need every day, which we could share. We hope that this would have benefits of building community, allowing people to uses things they may not be able to afford and helping people de-clutter their garages of what they no longer want to keep without things going into landfill. At this early stage we are wanting to gather ideas on a suitable venue for such a shop, ideas for fundraising and inviting people to fill out this link http://www.tinyurl.com/nj9nad8 which takes a few minutes to share your views on such a shop.
'Defra Guidance and Data Reforms: Cost, Benefits and Early Feedback' Consultation
On the 17th December, Defra launched a consultation 'Defra Guidance and Data Reforms: Cost, Benefits and Early Feedback', which will run until the 10th February 2016. The consultation is being conducted as an online survey. The online survey and supporting information may be found at https://consult.defra.gov.uk/better-regulations/defra-guidance-data-reforms.
As part of the Red Tape Challenge, Defra committed itself to a fundamental overhaul of its guidance and information requests to make them simpler, quicker and clearer to use. The purpose of this consultation is to invite views from stakeholders on the assumptions, key sensitivities and risks that underpin the estimates of costs and benefits to business contained in the Consultation Impact Assessment. Take this opportunity to have your say.
New South Devon Highway Opens To Traffic!
Last night (14.12.15) after more than 60 years in the planning, the South Devon Highway opened to traffic. In an overnight operation which took several hours to complete the last works to the main road were carried out on the construction project. In a joint effort with Devon and Cornwall Police, the project team opened the road, with the first vehicles travelling north on the new 5.5km road. The operation took place overnight to ensure it was safely managed and this morning commuters will find themselves travelling on a new dual carriageway which has taken just over three years to construct.
To help motorists understand the new junctions, diagrams are available through the following link.
Just before the new road was opened, a video flythrough was filmed. The video was produced by Matt Cranfield of Skyflicks. It contains a series of blends showing how the road has transformed over the last eight months.
Great News for Shoalstone Pool
I am so delighted that Shoalstone Pool in Brixham is to receive a grant of £49,500 for repairs and renovation as part of £3m of funding from the government for projects in seaside towns. I know it has been a long fight and a lot of hard work from the community to keep the pool open and this money will ensure the future of the pool is secured. The hope is that this funding will allow for new life to be breathed in to the pool, allowing it to be retained as a top class destination for both locals and tourists.
The purpose of the Coastal Revival Fund, where the money is coming from, is to help kick start the revival of at risk heritage sites, which have the potential to create opportunities for new businesses and jobs. In total there are 77 Coastal Revival Fund awards being made and the grant will go directly to the local authority. More good news is that another £1m of funding will be available in 2016/17 for projects that narrowly missed out on being selected.
Care Quality Commission Listening Event
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced a listening event for the public to share their experience of the service and care provided in the last year by Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.
These listening events are a great opportunity for the people who use the services of the hospital trust to contribute to the inspection process and share their experience of care, which can help inspectors identify particular issues to pay attention to during inspections, and ultimately improve the service provided.
The event will take place on the 20th of January at Paignton Library and Information Centre from 10.00 am until 1.00 pm and I would encourage people to go along and share their views.
Floods and Insurance.
This weekend, the weather has served as a reminder of the danger flooding poses in the UK.
The Association of British Insurers have written a guide explaining how insurance companies will respond in an emergency situation where homes or businesses have been flooded and sets out the support that can be expected from an insurance provider in the days, weeks and months following a major flood.
Indeed, I hope this information is not needed, but just in case, you can view through the following link.
The Community Potlucks are regular events, hosted by the Network Of Wellbeing, which provide the local community in Totnes with an opportunity to come together and share a meal, with everyone contributing a delicious dish. These are family friendly events and all are welcome.
For more information, email email@example.com or telephone 01803 849107
Parliamentarian of the Year.
The Political Studies Association awarded Sarah, Parliamentarian of the Year. The judges said that she was a worthy winner as someone who has developed a "reputation for independence of opinion and approach, using her knowledge of the health service to raise concerns over planned health reforms".
Sarah was also commended for:
"making best use of parliamentary scrutiny and use of her role as Chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee to impressive effect. Her work proves that the independent voice still plays an active role in UK politics."
This week I met up with representatives from Connect