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

Employment Figures

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.

Nuisance Calls

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 apply@peopleshealthtrust.org.uk

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.


Community Potluck

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 info@networkofwellbeing.org 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 Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – the organisation responsible for the roll-out of superfast broadband in our area – for an update on their progress.

In the Totnes constituency, there are already 8,273 properties connected to superfast broadband with an additional 2,034 coming online shortly. I was pleased to hear that areas connected to exchanges in Bigbury, Blackawton, Dittisham, Dartmouth, Kingswear, Paignton, Salcombe, South Brent, Staverton, Stoke Fleming and Stoke Gabriel will be connecting to superfast soon and that the infrastructure for those areas has now been put in place.

By the end of 'Phase One' of the rollout in 2016, CDS estimates that 89% of properties will be connected to superfast. The remaining 11% will be delivered through 'Phase Two' and discussions are ongoing ahead of the process to decide which provider will be awarded the contract to deliver this. CDS are currently negotiating an agreement for State Aid Notification with the European Commission, which is necessary before the tender process can begin and it is hoped that this will be concluded by February. The contract will then go out to tender for 12-16 weeks before a provider will be decided and work on connecting the final 11% will begin.

Residents can check whether their property can receive superfast broadband or see when their area will go online via the following link


Fair School Funding

As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, it was great to see a commitment to introduce fairer system for school funding. The current arrangement, which has lasted for decades, has led to a situation where the ten best funded areas in England receive over £2,000 per pupil more than the ten worst funded areas. In Devon, schools currently receive over £1,000 less per pupil than schools in the best funded area.

The new funding formula will set a national rate that every school will receive for each pupil, with additional funding for those with extra needs. Crucially, from 2017-18 the resources that schools and local authorities receive will be based on pupil characteristics rather than historic political calculations. MPs representing the F40 group of underfunded schools have been asking for this for many years and I'm delighted that the Department for Education will now consult on the detail in early 2016 and I look forward to seeing the full proposals.


Torbay gets UNESCO status!

In its 70th anniversary year and 40 years after the creation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Science Commission of UNESCO (United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture) at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris today has approved the statutes of the new "International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme" which will allow for the creation of the new site designation of "UNESCO Global Geoparks" and the re-designation of all 120 existing Global Geoparks, including Torbay, as new UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Previously operating with the informal support of UNESCO, the status of UNESCO Global Geoparks has been recognised under the new programme. The English Riviera, which includes the three towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, and covers the entire Torbay area, became a Global Geopark in 2007 and, against competition from China and Europe, won the bid to host the 7th International Conference on Global Geoparks in September 2016 when delegates from around the world will attend what will now be the first UNESCO Global Geoparks conference.

The English Riviera Global Geopark was an initiative that came from the Torbay Heritage Forum 11 years ago and led to the development of a grass-roots initiative, championed by the Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust, supported by Torbay Council under the direction of Nick Powe, director of Kents Cavern. It is now a partner-led organisation coordinating Geopark activities and assuring adherence to a pragmatic code of conduct mandated by the Global Geoparks Network and UNESCO.


EU dairy support payments come early for UK farmers

I met with a group of farmers last week to discuss their concerns and was pleased to hear from the Chancellor that two weeks ahead of schedule EU support payments to help hard-pressed UK dairy farmers manage cash flow problems will start arriving in bank accounts

The first payments have been made to over 10,000 farmers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – three-quarters of all eligible farmers and amounting to almost £19.2 million. Payments will continue through November and December. I hope this emergency payment will help ease some of the immediate cash flow problems that many people are facing.


Major boost to Devon NHS Perinatal Service; Chancellor waives VAT for Wembley gig

The Chancellor has announced that all VAT will be waived on ticket sales for the sold out performance by "Above and Beyond" at Wembley Arena in the memory of Charlotte Morley, the sister of sister of band member Jono Grant, with an estimated £80,000 going to the Devon NHS Perinatal unit. All proceeds from the event are being donated to the 'Little Something Fund'

Charlotte, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away earlier this year at the age of 42. She was a well-respected member of the Perinatal Mental Health Service provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust.

A wife and mother herself, Charlotte worked with a lot of women from South Devon who had babies at either Torbay Hospital or the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and was passionate about family wellbeing.


Do you know what to do in a flood?

There is a tendency for us all to think that "flooding will never happen to me". The fact is - it could.
Almost 5 million people in England are at risk of flooding and this is only going to increase with a changing climate.
The Environment Agency is running a flood campaign in early November to encourage you to act now to prepare for a flood.
Have you ever checked to see if your home or business are at risk from flooding?
Would you know what to do in a flood?
What could you do now to save you time, money and worry if it happened tomorrow?

Visit www.gov.uk/floodsdestroy to take the following simple steps to help protect you, your family and home from flooding.

Take these small steps now and help save you time, money and distress in a flood


Dartmouth: a 'Rising Star' in the Great British High Street Competition!

The awards were set up to recognise and champion local areas working to develop their high streets. This year, a record-breaking 230 applications were received and 21 finalists were chosen and are now fighting it out to win the public vote. However a further ten applications which impressed the judging panel with their commitment to working together to rejuvenate their high streets, were recognised with a 'Rising Star' award. These areas are considered to be strong competitors for a finalist's spot next year.

Dartmouth will receive £1000 in recognition of their hard work for introducing a new high-quality tourism campaign.


Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner

Have your say in the selection of the next Conservative candidate for the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner elections in May 2016. Anyone, registered to vote in the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority area can register to attend and vote at the two primary meetings being held. They are on the evening of 30th October in Mid Cornwall and on the morning of 31st October in the Exeter Area. Full details will be sent to those who register to attend. To register, For the Mid-Cornwall meeting email kate.mulvey@conservatives.com  and for the Exeter Area meeting email agent@tivertonhonitonconservatives.org.uk Or phone: 01626 331795 between 9am and 5 pm. Please apply by 6pm on Thursday 29th October.


Have you trouble cancelling or terminating a broadband, phone or TV contract?  Ofcom want to hear about it.

Ofcom is looking to hear from consumers about their experiences of cancelling or terminating phone, broadband or pay TV contracts.

Earlier this year, Ofcom launched a monitoring and enforcement programme to look closely at the cancellation and termination arrangements of different providers, identifying where they seem to be making it difficult for customers to leave.

Although Ofcom cannot handle individual complaints, they want to make sure they fully understand the difficulties consumers are facing and use it to inform their wider monitoring and enforcement work. So if you have recently tried to or succeeded in terminating your phone, broadband or pay TV contract, please tell Ofcom about your experience by filling out a short questionnaire.


Keeping Children Safe Online

New technologies inspire children to be creative, communicate and learn. However, while the internet is a wonderful resource, it is important that children and teenagers are protected from the risks they may encounter. This is where Parent Info comes in. Parent Info is produced by The Parent Zone, which has been working with parents for over a decade. This organisation has the support of numerous organisations that make up the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and is also backed by the government.

The service they provide is relatively new and gives information to parents on a range of issues affected by the internet. It also offers the most up to date and expert advice from a wide range of sources to help parents understand and support their children's digital activity, to help their children grow up confident and creative online.

On the Parent Info website their articles cover everything from internet gaming, cyberbullying and mobile phone apps. There is also information for parents with older children on sex and relationships. A vast amount of information is covered to help to put parents' minds at ease.


An opportunity to apply for a free defibrillator and training for your community!

The British Heart Foundation and the Department for Health have launched a joint partnership, with an investment of £1 million from the government, to improve public access to defibrillators.

Each year, nearly 30,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest out of hospital, with less than one in ten surviving. However a bystander providing immediate CPR and defibrillation can significantly increase the chances of survival. Unfortunately at present only 38% of the public are aware that they can use public access defibrillators in an emergency, and only 22% are confident that they would know how to do so. This is an opportunity to apply for the following three packages for your area.

  • A free public access defibrillatorCPR training kit and a cabinet
  • A free public access defibrillator and CPR training kit
  • A cabinet to improve accessibility to a current defibrillator

Successful applications must demonstrate:

That the defibrillator will be accessible to the public, preferably 24/7
A commitment to train the local community in CPR
A clear need for the device, such as high footfall or a rural location

For more detailed information click here Applications close in March 2016



A number of people have contacted me about how they can help to support the refugees being welcomed into Britain. Depending on what you can offer, the agency you will need to contact will vary.

Locally The Dartington Hall Trust is already putting together a fantastic offer, talking to local groups and like-minded organisations on how they can work together on a useful and effective response to the refugee crisis and more information can be found on their website.

For more detailed information and contact details of the many agencies involved locally and regionally please click on the following link


Totnes, a Caring Town with a Compassionate Response

Concerns have been raised about beggars in Totnes. Some people have been asking what they can do to help. Based on experience and evidence from many other places, it has been found that giving money directly to beggars doesn't always help, especially when there are other routes that can have more lasting benefits.

Below is information about the support networks in Totnes that work long term with the homeless and practical ways in which you can help.

  • The Drop In Centre on Burke Road—first right after South Devon house on the Industrial Estate. This has links with South Hams and Leatside Surgery and provides, food, clothing, washing facilities professional advice and help with housing. In bad weather it operates as a Night Shelter. The Drop is open Monday to Friday 9.30—12.30 Sunday at 12.30 for lunch Closed Saturday
  • Emergency Food Parcels—these can be collected from the Market Place Ministries building opposite the Drop In

Who can you telephone?

  • Emergency Food Parcels: 01803 840354
  • South Hams Rough Sleeper 24 hour hotline: 0800 151 3441
  • South Hams Housing and Benefits: 01803 861234

How can you give money which will help add to the current support?

If you wish to give money to help those who are homeless, on the streets or in food poverty, several of our cafes and restaurants operate the Giving Back Scheme where you can donate the price of a cup of coffee or meal to help fund the support networks

The Drop In and Giving Back Scheme are run by volunteers and so 100% of any donation goes directly to support the homeless and those in need.


I support the campaign organised by the cycling charity Sustrans, for the November spending review to guarantee that 5% of all transport spending be reserved for cycling and walking. If we are going to make a serious difference to the number of people who walk or cycle to work or to school, then we have to build safer infrastructure in order to build confidence and improve safety. Encouraging cycling and walking will also help the UK to meet our legally binding commitment to cut carbon emissions.

If you agree that the Government should be doing more to promote cycling and walking then please support Sustrans' campaign via a dedicated Sustrans campaign webpage, which can be accessed here.


Attention all MIU nurses!

If you would like to join the team at Dartmouth Community Hospital or visit our town, this beautiful job advert is not to be missed!






A New Strategy for Sport

A public consultation has been launched on a new strategy for sport. The benefits of sport are clear, both physically and mentally. We know that keeping active adds years to our lives and life to our years. We need to keep up the momentum from the London Olympics to create a long term sporting legacy for everyone, and not just for our elite athletes. We know the greatest health benefits will be in making activity and sport appeal to those who take no exercise at all, so please send your views about what would help the most to get Britain active.

The consultation is open until the 2nd of October and you can access it here.


 Coerced consent is not consent and would threaten us all.


Torbay CAB

Torbay Citizens Advice Bureau is launching a new initiative aimed at people in Torbay facing poverty and hardship.

Weekly drop in sessions are going to be held at The Edge, Bolton Street, Brixham on Thursdays between 1-4pm

The drop in sessions provide a whole range of services that offer information on a variety of different issues such as: benefits, budgeting, debt, housing, employment, family and personal issues.

Advisors can also offer further support on issues such as food banks and crisis support.

A similar initiative has been launched in Paignton at the Centre Peace, 56 Palace Avenue on Tuesdays between 1-4pm starting from July 28th and in Torquay at The Living Room, St Mary Magdalene Church, Union Street on Wednesdays and Fridays between 11am – 2pm



This week, Parliament has launched a new way for the public to create and sign online petitions. Petitions can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government.

Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated.

All petitions which are accepted will also be examined by the Petitions Committee – a cross-party group of MPs – to look at the issue in greater detail and see whether there are also other ways to take the matter forward. This could include pressing the Government for action or asking a parliamentary committee to look into the topic raised by the petition.

You can sign current petitions or create a new one at https://petition.parliament.uk/

Information about how the petitions system works and what can be included in one can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/help



Poverty; why measurement matters

There has been some controversy over the proposed changes to the way that we record poverty. We currently use relative poverty, defined as earning below 60% of median income. This means however, that the income below which people are classified as living in poverty is constantly changing, in line with changes to levels and distribution of wealth. To read more on this issue please click here



Broadband Update

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – the organisation tasked with delivering superfast broadband to hard-to-reach rural areas – have announced that they will not be awarding BT one of the two contracts which make up 'Phase Two' of broadband rollout across Devon. This phase aims to have 95% coverage across Devon by the end of 2017 and BT had bid for a £35m contract to target the hardest-to-reach areas. It was judged that they would not be capable of achieving this important target.

Separately, CDS announced that the second 'Phase Two' contract, to cover hard to reach areas of Dartmoor will be awarded to wireless broadband specialists, Airband. The £4.6m contract will allow the company to lead on the use of wireless technologies to overcome the challenges of providing superfast connections on the moor. The technology passes a broadband signal from a transmitter to a radio attached to the property – allowing the user a high speed connection to the internet.

While BT will continue to work under its existing contract to deliver 90% coverage across Devon and Somerset by the end of 2016, the contract for the next phase of delivery has been put out to tender again to finding a provider who can meet the Government's new 95% targets for superfast broadband delivery.

While I am pleased that Airband has signed the contract to begin work on Dartmoor, the situation with the other contract is clearly a setback and Devon MPs are working together to press for further broadband rollout to rural areas to be prioritised before increasing speeds within large metropolitan centres.


Great Western Mainline

The Managing Director of First Great Western, Mark Hopwood, has confirmed "work is progressing well and, subject to DfT agreement, remains on track for the new trains to be rolled out on the network from summer 2018." This will be the biggest fleet upgrade in a generation, with new or more modern trains across the whole network delivering faster, more frequent journeys and millions more seats per year.

Reassuringly, the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has stated "electrification of the Great Western line is a top priority and I want Network Rail to concentrate its efforts on getting that right."

These upgrades in both the line and rolling stock are essential to improving the transport links to the South West.


Bob the Bus has begun weekly trips to Dartmoor National Park.

Moorland Bob takes passengers to some of the most popular areas of outstanding natural beauty that the moors have to offer giving you the chance to visit and explore the ancient clapper bridge at Dartmeet, go for some truly beautiful walks and have lunch or picnics at the very heart of the ancient moorlands.

This exciting development gives people the chance to explore the unspoilt wildlife and landscape of the moors. Such as the famous Dartmoor Pony and Dartmoor's most famous landmark, Haytor or visit the truly lovely village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Take a picnic or visit the local pub, the Rugglestone Inn, which offers a cosy traditional atmosphere for any weary traveller.

Bob the Bus is available every Sunday from Totnes and tickets are available for booking from Totnes Tourist Information Centre or on the Bus itself.

Click here to find out more about Bob the Bus, his journeys and ticket prices.


The Daisy Garland

I met Sara and David Garland to hear about the inspirational charity, The Daisy Garland, started by them in memory of their daughter Daisy who died in her sleep at the age of 6 from SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients). The Daisy Garland work tirelessly, offering help and support some of the 18,000 children in the UK who suffer from drug resistant epilepsy.

In the last 11 years they have funded 13 specialist Daisy Garland ketogenic dietitians to work within NHS hospitals countrywide, successfully treating children with difficult to control epilepsy. Each full-time dietitian costs c.£46,000 p.a. to fund.

In the addition to the above they also provide grants for night-time breathing (SATs/epilepsy) monitors for use in the home, reducing the risk of SUDEP. Each SATs monitor retails at £880 and they have provided over 243 monitors, keeping children safe at night while they sleep.

For further information about The Daisy Garland and the important work they do for children with drug resistant epilepsy, please contact Sara Garland on 01803 847999 or at thedaisygarland@btinternet.com  www.thedaisygarland.org.uk



Britain's passion for cycling is growing; more than 5.1 million people in England cycle at least once a week and Government road traffic estimates suggest that in 2013 the distance travelled by bike was 12% greater than the 2005–2009 average. Unfortunately, this is still far lower than many other European countries. In the Netherlands, 27% of journeys are made by bike, followed by Denmark on 19% and Germany managing 10%. Britain languishes behind, with less than 2%.

Some British cities are performing well. Having put cycling closer to the heart of transport policy for decades, Oxford and Cambridge boast continental levels of journeys made by bike (17% and 30% respectively). Across the country some local authorities are showing that by working with communities, real improvements can be made and substantial benefits delivered to cyclists and non-cyclists alike. In 2009, the six cycling demonstration towns, including Exeter and Darlington, recorded an increase in cycling of almost a third.

The potential benefits are tremendous. Keeping active through cycling improves the chances of living longer and increases well-being.

We know however, that the single greatest deterrent for those considering cycling to work or school is the fear of collisions.

Following the tragic death of Ying Tao in central London this week, the risk from HGVs especially to women cyclists, is back under the spotlight. Of the 33 women cyclists killed on London's roads since 2009, 27 have been killed by lorries. Cycling to work in Westminster I know that riding more slowly and politely makes me more vulnerable to left-turning HGVs at busy junctions. I also know that I cannot compete with the Lycra racers who push past to the front of the queue. To encourage more people to ride to work or school, metropolitan areas could look at excluding HGVs during rush hour or to giving cyclists a safer head start with phased lighting at high risk junctions. Better still we need to move further on creating segregated cycle lanes or quiet routes within our towns and cities.

Per mile cycled, rural A roads still pose the greatest danger as a result of the speed of collisions and we need to further increase the network of reduced speed routes and off road segregated cycle paths.

Transforming lives with continental levels of cycling however, takes continental levels of investment of at least £10 per head per year as part of a coordinated and prioritised cycling and walking strategy. This would still be a drop in the ocean compared to the overall level of investment in our roads.

Getting more people out of their cars and onto bikes benefits all road users, but Government needs to do more to make it as safe as possible.

The following link</

I have received a number of emails about the amendment tabled by John Mann to the Serious Crime Act.

First and foremost, it is of the utmost importance that the government protects children from abuse and addresses concerns that public bodies and other institutions may have failed to act to protect children in the past or deliberately covered up abuse. These must be fully investigated without any fear that anyone could be deterred from giving evidence as a result of the Official Secrets Act

The government has made it clear that John Mann's amendment was not necessary as the Official Secrets Act does not prevent disclosures about abuse being made, this point being clarified by the Home Secretary in the Commons & by the following statement by the Home Office:

The Official Secrets Act is intended to protect certain classes of particularly sensitive information such as security and intelligence matters, and it provides for a number of offences that prevent current or former Crown servants or Government contractors from disclosing certain information without lawful authority. It does not prevent protected information from being disclosed to an officer of an official investigation or inquiry into historical child abuse. In particular, information may be disclosed where the disclosure is made in accordance with that person's official duty or is otherwise authorised. Departments and Ministers can permit current and former civil servants and Government contractors to share knowledge and documentation with an inquiry.

For example, in the case of the Kincora investigation - the Hart Inquiry in Northern Ireland - it has been made absolutely clear by the Attorney-General that prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act will not take place where people are giving evidence of child abuse to the inquiry. The Home Secretary has made it clear that official authorisation would be given for the Goddard Inquiry if a request were made, in a manner similar to that for the Hart Inquiry, and has written to Justice Goddard to suggest that she make such a request to the Attorney General.

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29 JAN 2016

Tor Cross and Slapton

On my visit to Torcross and Slapton today it was worrying to see these breaches in the sea defences.

29 JAN 2016

Slapton Ley Field Centre

I visited Slapton Ley Field Centre today and met with Andy Pratt and MaryAnn where I heard about The Year of Fieldwork and how out-of-classroom learning experiences are increasingly being recognised across the curriculum as a tool in raising standards and skills in participants of all...

22 JAN 2016

Totnes Advice Surgery

I held an Advice Surgery at my office in Totnes today. If you are a constituent and would like to discuss concerns you may have, please do make an appointment to meet with me, either by telephoning 01803 868378 or emailing

11 FEB 2016

Junior Doctors Contracts

Sarah Wollaston Totnes I know colleagues across the House will want to join me in thanking junior doctors for the valuable work they do for patients across the NHS. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I hope that they will look very carefully at the improvements in the offer, with a 13.5% increase in...

10 FEB 2016

Human Papillomavirus: Vaccination

Sarah Wollaston Totnes    Written Answer To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether he has received requests to expedite the timetable of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for a decision on HPV vaccination for boys; and whether he plans to review that timetable. Jane...

10 FEB 2016

Police Grant Report: Local Government Finance

Sarah Wollaston Totnes Is it not true that the long-standing unfairness has been the penalty against rural areas? Areas such as Devon have a low-wage economy, but the highest council taxes. This settlement addresses that imbalance without penalising areas such as Torbay. I therefore congratulate my...

09 FEB 2016


Oral Answers to Questions Sarah Wollaston Totnes In asking a question about mental health, may I remind the House that I am married to an NHS forensic psychiatrist, who is also registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists? Have the Government looked carefully at today's report from the...

08 FEB 2016

Great Western Railway Routes

Sarah Wollaston Totnes In highlighting the beauty of the line to Exeter, may I encourage the right hon. Gentleman to stay on the train and see how even more beautiful the line gets once it passes along the coast? It is not just about the beauty of the line, which I hope everyone will experience,...

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Sarah's Personal Blog

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Why, as a Europhile, I'm heading towards the Brexit Door

I have always been a Europhile and before becoming an MP would not have imagined voting to leave the European Union. So why am I heading towards the door? I am in love with the possibilities of the EU but can no longer ignore the grinding reality of the institution.

The Prime Minister has set out the terms of his provisional deal with the leaders of our EU partners and it is a threadbare offering. What use are 'emergency breaks' when the driver has no control or 'red cards' that have no credible chance of being deployed? Apart from a small concession on sham marriages, the truth is that the proposals will have no significant impact on our ability to limit inward migration from the EU. They will however, usher in rafts of bureaucratic cost and complexity with sliding scales for length of residency and nationality for child benefit. Click here to read the full blog


It's time for a bold and brave strategy on childhood obesity (21.01.16)Written for PoliticsHome.

On the morning of the 2012 track cycling Olympics, the architect of Team GB's victory, Sir David Brailsford, attributed their success to the relentless pursuit of 'marginal gains'. He looked at absolutely everything that goes into riding a bike, from the rider and their bike to the environment around them. It was by improving every aspect, even if that was by a small margin, that the sum total struck gold.

There is no single easy solution to the crisis of obesity which is blighting the lives of our nation's children and I hope that David Cameron will look at the success of team GB and apply the same principle of marginal gains.

Some firmly believe that tackling obesity is all about education and information, others that exercise is the answer. Some will focus on the role of marketing and promotions, tackling super-sizing and reducing the levels of sugar in food or the role of taxation.

The fact is that we need all of the above, and far more. We need a bold and brave obesity strategy because of the sheer scale of the problem and the implications both for individual children, their families and wider society.

Click here to read the full blog


It is time for bold and brave action to tackle childhood obesity (30.11.15)

There is a single fact which demonstrates the compelling case for bold and brave action on childhood obesity. A quarter of the most disadvantaged children in England are now obese by the time they leave primary school. This is double the rate among the most advantaged children, setting out in stark terms the scale of the health inequality from obesity – and that has profound implications for children's health and wellbeing both now and in the future.

Obese children are at greater risk of bullying and of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and joint problems later in life. The cost to the NHS of obesity is estimated to be £5.1bn annually, and treating diabetes accounts for about 10% of its entire budget. Prevention is a central theme of the NHS's own long-term plan, yet there has been a further cut in the resources for public health under the November spending review. This places an even greater responsibility on the prime minister to make sure the policies in his obesity strategy can make a lasting difference to children's wellbeing and life chances. This cannot be stuck in the "too difficult" box just because effective action requires politically difficult decisions.
To read the full blog click here

I opposed Syria bombing in 2013, but now David Cameron has my support (27.11.15)
This article appeared in today's Telegraph

Two years ago, I voted to oppose military action against the Assad regime in Syria. If David Cameron returns to the Commons next week, I will be voting to stand with our allies in extending air strikes against Isil, wherever they hide. It has not been an easy decision because, whatever the accuracy of our weaponry, the innocent are likely to be among the victims of future bombing. Right now, however, countless thousands across Syria and the wider region living under Isil barbarity are subject to systematic enslavement, rape, torture, murder and genocide. Isil cannot be reasoned with and it shows no shred of humanity or mercy to those under its barbarous control.
To read the full blog and leave comments click here

Social Care and Public Health are Essential for Individuals and the Future of our NHS (25.11.15)
This article appeared in today's Telegraph

Britain spends 8.5% of GDP on health care, just below average among the OECD group of rich nations. But while our spending on health has been virtually static in real terms since 2009, the same is not true of demand, which has risen inexorably. Anyone listening to those on front line will hear the unequivocal message that our NHS is under unprecedented strain from the increase in the number of patients with complex long-term conditions, and the shortage in staff and funding to cope. Hospital trusts are heading for a record end of year deficit of around £2bn.

George Osborne faces enormous pressures as he tries to balance the books but he is right to commit an additional £3.8bn to the NHS next year, bringing forward a significant down payment on the £8bn promised by 2020. No one should be under any illusion, however, that this £3.8bn will solve the financial challenges facing our health service.
To read the full blog and leave comments click here

Tampon Tax

Many people have contacted me about VAT on sanitary products. Of course I am opposed to VAT being placed on these essential items but I did not support Paula Sherriff MP's amendment on this topic to the Finance Bill as this matter is entirely devolved to the EU and it would have been entirely misleading to pretend otherwise.

Unfortunately, we are in this situation as VAT replaced the UK scheme when we joined the then European Economic Community. Anything we already had as zero rated tax was allowed to remain that way but the EU have not allowed the UK to add new categories for zero rating since then. I am pleased that the European Commission has now stated that a review of VAT rules will take place next year, which is the realistic opportunity we have to tackle this issue and I would urge those who have concerns to contact our MEPs to ask them to lobby for sanitary products to be zero rated for VAT and you can do so via the following link. To leave comments on this blog click here

Half-Baked and Reheated, the Medical Anecdote Bill Returns to the Commons Today (16.10.15)
This article appeared first on Huffington Post

We all want to be able to access effective treatments as quickly and safely as possible. Why then do the overwhelming majority of research and medical bodies alongside the Patients Association and Action against Medical Accidents so firmly oppose the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill?

In a nutshell because it will do nothing for genuine innovation or to improve access to treatments but it will confuse the legislation, remove important protections for patients from reckless practitioners and undermine research.

This bill is a reheated version of the half-baked Medical Innovation Bill which was thrown out in the last Parliament. If it was a turkey pie, you wouldn't touch it. To read the blog in full click here

Sugar Tax Report

I wrote the following article for the Telegraph that appeared this morning:

Sitting on the desk of Jeremy Hunt is a detailed and impartial review of the international evidence on measures which could reduce our consumption of sugar.

But the Secretary of State for Health is refusing to publish this study - compiled by Public Health England (PHE) - despite repeated requests to make it available to the public.

This matters because the public health community and campaign groups need to be able to access unbiased evidence to fully contribute to the Government's forthcoming childhood obesity strategy before the ink is dry on the paper.

It also matters because an important principle is at stake around the transparency of evidence and data.

To read the article in full please click here


We can and should do more to help the humanitarian disaster at our door

Aylan Kurdi is not the first child to drown in the Mediterranean Sea or to suffocate in an airless lorry at the hands of people traffickers but his image burns into our humanity. As we witness the scenes of refugees desperate to reach the sanctuary of our shores the question is whether Britain could and should do more to help and if so in what way?

A mass movement of people is underway, not only of those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa but of others trying to escape from conditions of grinding poverty. Children just like Aylan die every day from malnutrition and disease but we cannot provide a home for everyone. (Click here for the full blog)

Care Cost Lottery

For anyone hit with a debilitating illness, it comes as a huge shock to find that there is no entitlement whatever to receive help with the costs of social care if their assets are worth more than £23,250.

Through no fault of their own, around one in 10 people aged over 65, many of whom have saved all their lives, face catastrophic costs especially if they need long-term residential care. This was not an issue at the general election in May because, during the last Parliament, the Government responded to the Dilnot Commission and passed ground-breaking legislation through the Care Act to place a cap on the total amount that anyone would have to pay, alongside a major increase in the asset threshold. (Click here for the full blog)

Coerced Consent is no Consent

There is a dark question at the heart of Professor Black's call for evidence on the work challenges facing benefit claimants who are struggling with addiction and obesity and it should worry us all. She asks, 'What are the legal, ethical and other implications of linking benefit entitlements to take up of appropriate treatment or support?

The inclusion of this question calls into doubt the independence of her review as Professor Black cannot be in any doubt about the fundamental principles of medical consent; that it must be freely given and informed. There are only a few strictly limited circumstances, covered by the Mental Health Act, when people may receive medical treatment against their wishes. It would be abhorrent for the State to extend that to others in order to tackle a perceived reluctance to accept help for conditions of which society disapproves.

A threat to remove benefits unless a claimant accepts treatment, would represent coerced consent to that treatment and that is no consent at all because it would not be freely given. Treating a patient without valid consent would put any clinician in breach of their duty as a doctor let alone in breach of the law.

Any proposal to change the law to allow such coerced consent would be a seismic change and threaten us all. Where would it stop?

It would also be completely pointless. The roots of addiction are complex and treatment is far more likely to be successful when the person affected is actively seeking help. We would also end up depriving or delaying access to the people who want to benefit in favour of those who are not yet ready or willing to change. It would be a criminal waste of time and resources to fill NHS clinics with addicts reluctantly gaming the system or issuing prescriptions for discarded medicines.

Professor Black's call for evidence also misses an important opportunity to comment on the clear evidence base for prevention of alcohol harm. There is still time to follow Scotland's lead in implementing a minimum price for alcohol. It would be perverse indeed for government to be coercing people into treatments from which they are unlikely to benefit at the same time as failing to act on the saturation access to and promotion of ultra cheap booze which fuels their addiction.


Time to consign hunting to history

Rural voters deserve better than to be typecast as pro blood sports by the hunting lobby. It is clear to me that most people, living in both rural and urban areas of the Totnes Constituency, would prefer to see the hunting of foxes by packs of hounds consigned to the history books. There is no clamour from the countryside to relax the ban, rather a plea for government to focus on the issues which would really make a difference to their lives, like improving infrastructure and addressing the inequality of rural funding for schools and healthcare. This week's vote on relaxing the ban will, if passed by the Commons, cast a shadow over the reputation of the Conservative Party. MPs voting in favour will have failed to listen to the majority on an ethical issue about which public opinion could not be clearer. Few people go to the polls with hunting uppermost in their minds but reputation matters. I hope my colleagues will reject the shallow narrative from the hunting lobby that the proposals are a necessary measure for the countryside; they are not.

A free vote was promised in our manifesto. I hope that Conservative MPs will use it to send a clear message that the Party has moved on from hunting and instead signal our intention to focus on the real issues facing rural Britain.

Tunisian Tragedy

30 of our citizens are amongst the dead in Tunisia and we can only imagine the grief of their families. Once again, ISIL has waged its cowardly war against the softest of targets. In times of war we should stop helping their propaganda machine to act as a gruesome recruiting sergeant.

Instead of publicising the names and smirking faces of terrorists or their sympathisers, let's see and hear the personal stories of the courageous Tunisians who formed a human shield on the beach; theirs is the true face of Islam. As David Cameron announces his resolve to end the online grooming through social media, isn't it time for the print and broadcast media to question their own editorial policies? The killers crave publicity for their crimes not just for their own vanity but because they know that this draws others to follow their example. We rightly criminalise child pornography but allow links to horrific snuff videos which are the oldest weapon in history; to terrorise and undermine the enemy.

Whilst we grieve with the families of our own dead we should counter ISIL's message of twisted grievance against the West by being clear that overwhelmingly it is Muslims who are being slaughtered by ISIL.


Why I will not be voting to undermine the Abortion Act

There is no room for complacency in the UK and we need to remain vigilant.

The Department of Health has updated their analysis of male to female birth rates with data from 2008-2012 and this now includes ethnicity. Without exception, birth ratios were within the expected range for all UK communities, including analysis by ethnicity and birth order.

There may be individual cases but it would be entirely wrong to stigmatise entire communities in Britain by suggesting that this is in any way a common or systematic practice here ...it is not.........To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

Remember The Real Victims of IS

Several press reports describe the latest trio of teenagers as 'jihadi brides' fleeing the country for Syria. In what sense can their actions be described as 'fleeing' when that is defined as running away from a place or situation of danger? There are risks in glamourising these girls by describing them as 'A-grade' students yet in the same paragraph portraying them as if they are merely passive victims of social media grooming.......To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

HSC's Complaints and Concerns Inquiry

Most people experience really great care in the NHS but sometimes things can go wrong. Most of those who complain about NHS services do not seek financial redress. They do so because they wish to have their concerns and experiences understood and for any failings to be acknowledged and put right so that others do not suffer the same avoidable harm....To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

We owe a debt of gratitude to returning aid workers, subjecting them all to compulsory quarantine would be counterproductive and unnecessary 2nd January 2015

As the nurse Pauline Cafferkey fights her own battle with Ebola at an isolation unit in London, questions have been raised not only about why she was allowed to board a flight from Heathrow to Glasgow, but also about whether all returning aid workers should be placed in quarantine..... To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

Childhood Obesity

Almost one in five children are obese before they leave primary school. 85% will go on to become obese as adults with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Do you feel that we should do more to help them?

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