The real meaning of "Community Immunity"
This compelling piece comes from a local Totnes parent, it sets out the real meaning of "community immunity"
What the MMR means to me:-
As the controversial topic of vaccination hits the news once more I wanted to offer a personal perspective as to why immunising your child doesn't just affect you and your child, it has an effect on the whole community.
When someone says 'measles' a shiver goes down my spine. For our three year old son, Nathaniel, coming into contact with the measles is life threatening. When Nathaniel was a baby, he was diagnosed with a rare and life threatening liver disease called Biliary Atresia, and after many agonising months at Birmingham Children's Hospital he had a liver transplant. The medication that he takes to keep his new liver healthy has the side effect of suppressing his immune system, making him extremely vulnerable to viruses and infections and he is unable to have vaccinations such as the MMR.
Measles is a particularly serious and virulent virus, and is potentially fatal for healthy children, never mind children like Nathaniel who are immunosuppressed. Measles is not something to be ignored or taken lightly, with potential complications and effects including meningitis, swelling of the brain, blindness and deafness.
In our town 30% of children have not had the MMR vaccine, which is one of the highest rates in the country. This makes the children of Totnes vulnerable. It is a very alarming and frightening situation for our family who are relying on the community to help us keep our son healthy. Our community needs to reach a level where 95% of children have been vaccinated to stop a potential measles epidemic within the area.
Don't just think of our son, make sure your child is protected by giving them the MMR, and by doing so you will also help to protect my vulnerable child. Leatside surgery and Catherine House Surgery are offering special MMR clinics during half term for children who have not yet been vaccinated, so please, please spare five minutes to make sure your family is protected. Let's learn the lessons of the measles epidemic in Swansea.
Open access MMR clinics where no appointment is necessary for children including those 10 to 16 year olds who are most likely to be unimmunised are:-
Leatside Tuesday 28th May - Friday 31st May 10am to 1pm
Catherine House Tuesday 28th May - Friday 31st May 8.30 am -11.30 am
Both surgeries will happily offer other times by appointment
Brixfest 25th-29th May
Do come along and enjoy the fun and variety of attractions of the extremely successful Brixfest!
Saturday the 25th May at 11.00am sees the official opening and a hive of activities will take place at venues throughout Brixham. There is something for everyone. There will be food (lots of it!), music, crabbing, fireworks and of course the magnificent Trawler Regatta. Do check their website for details of all events taking place, just too many to mention on this page!
I recently met with a number of local business owners who are concerned that the footfall to their premises has significantly reduced since the reversal of traffic flow through the town. Four businesses reported that unless this improves they could be forced out of business altogether.
Trade had only picked up slightly since the end of the gas works. Further concerns were expressed at the speed of traffic, so whilst there were fewer cars, businesses reported they were travelling faster down Fore Street. This is a contentious issue as I also hear from people who would like me to join the campaign to make the town centre car-free.
There is no doubt that businesses benefit from income that comes via passing trade from people who drive and want to pop into the shops having parked. I may be a keen walker and cyclist myself but the reality is that some people simply will not shop unless they can park very close by and this is often because of restricted mobility. Rather than driving their custom elsewhere and reducing the income for local businesses, we should in my view, carefully review the impact on their trade and of course on pedestrian safety over the coming months.
There may be a period of adjustment whilst visitors get used to the new layout but it would be dreadful to lose more businesses from Fore Street by not responding to evidence at a time when conditions are already challenging. I will be meeting businesses again to monitor the effects and calling on Devon County Council to do likewise.
In the meantime I am backing the call from Transition Town Totnes to shop locally as much as possible to support our High Street and keep money within our local economy. I am also keen to hear the views of residents and visitors on this matter, however I must recommend businesses to contact the Chamber of Commerce also as they are best placed to help them be heard on this matter, they can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org .
You can also submit your views on this matter to Devon County Council via the following link.
How badge wearing women have changed the world!
Glasgow Women's Library has received Heritage Lottery funding for a new programme of work, "Badges of Honour". This exciting project aims, through the medium of badges, to capture a wealth of stories and memories of women's involvement in and witnessing of activism and campaigns. The Library hopes to show through the badges and the testimonies they are gathering, how badges helped to mark the significant episodes in the historic growth of feminism. The project aims to involve women locally, nationally and internationally in creating badges which reflect issues of importance to women today, and how past campaigns have changed the world.
Glasgow Women's Library is interested in receiving your badges; from women's sporting events, women artists, women's rights, through to peace campaigns and leisure activities.
If you would like more information about this project and how to offer your badges, please contact 0141 248 9969 or Email: email@example.com
I have received a deluge of letters from constituents concerned about the recent incidents of polyisobutene (PIB) pollution and the tragic effects they have had on our guillemots, razorbills, puffins, ganets and gulls, amongst others. Many images have been circulating of birds covered in PIB, a sticky substance which is used by ships to thicken industrial lubricant oil and such exposure leaves the birds in terrible danger of immobilisation and hypothermia.
This has affected a huge amount of birds, with over a thousand already washed up dead or dying on the beaches of the South West. Even worse is the fact that we will never truly know how many birds this has affected as many will have died at sea. I believe that something must be done about this, as two horrible pollution incidents in such a short space of time is unacceptable and this problem cannot be ignored.
I have taken this matter up with Stephen Hammond MP, the Minister at the Department for Transport responsible for shipping, as it appears that it is not illegal to discharge these pollutants at sea, albeit under controlled conditions. I think that we need to be able to track when discharges are made because if this was done under legal conditions, they clearly need to be reviewed and amended. I will be meeting with Stephen soon and intend to press him on this point.
I have also been speaking with the Chief Executive of the Devon Wildlife Trust who informs me that they, along with their sister Trusts in Cornwall and Dorset, the RSPB and the RSPCA have all been involved in rescuing birds affects by PIB and counting the dead. He also informed me that, though it is too early to be sure, it is possible that entire breeding colonies of some species have been wiped out by these disasters.
I know that the trust have been asking for volunteers to help count the affected birds and I would like to thank all of those who have responded to this request. The South Devon Seabird Trust have also been doing invaluable work caring for affected birds. You can find out more about their work on this matter here. They are very concerned that the birds they rehabilitated and released after the first pollution incident may have been saved only to be affected by the second one.
The RSPCA is urging anyone who finds an affected bird to contact them, rather than trying to help any injured or distressed birds themselves. Dog walkers have also been warned to keep their pets away from dead or injured birds. The RSPCA can be contacted on the following number: 0300 1234 999.
How do we "Get Britain Cycling"
Thirty years ago I fell in love on a tandem. I may never be the fastest or the most stylish but I'm often at my happiest on a bike. I would like to see cycling become as normal a choice in Britain as it is in Denmark because that can bring benefits for everyone, even those who are not cyclists.
The influential All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) has completed a four month inquiry, 'Get Britain Cycling'. Our report, launched today, sets out what needs to happen to make sure that many more people can enjoy cycling in safety. We heard evidence from individuals and organisations, including representation from Totnes and Devon County Council. If you would like the recommendations of the report to come to fruition, you can help by signing this e-petition. For more information read my blog
The Case for Community Immunity
Totnes is at risk if measles comes to town. It is not 'just another childhood illness' and I would urge anyone who is unsure whether they or their children are fully protected to contact their surgery. The virus is sweeping through South Wales because over 10% of children were unprotected but here in Totnes that figure is 30%.For more information read my blog
The Low Pay Commission recently published its annual report concerning the national minimum wage and recommended that the adult hourly rate should be increase by 12 pence to £6.31. Unfortunately however there are still legal but unfair ways to pay adults below the minimum wage and I believe the government should address these discrepancies.
An example of this is that of payment by commission, such as is often used by estate agents who may pay their employees below the minimum wage but with a commission when a sale takes place. However, if no sale is made that month, the employer increases the employees wage packet up to the national minimum but when they make a sale the next month the so called 'extra pay' is taken back. This is clearly unfair and leaves those working on commission with volatile wages that will make budgeting for their outgoings difficult.
However, one of the worst illustrations of exploitation is that of the abuse of internships. With a large amount of university graduates competing to enter the professional workplace many young people are finding that a long term internship is their best shot at employment. The Trade Unions Congress recently reported that work experience and internships remain the fastest growing source of abuse under the minimum wage. The Low Pay Commission highlighted these problems in their report and there are several campaign groups that are vocal on this matter.
I should be clear that there is a difference between work experience, such as gaining some experience whilst on the summer break from university and the long term but unpaid employment that is often offered to graduates. There are too many cases of young people having their labour and willingness abused rather than being trained and gaining valuable experience.
Unpaid internships can also be discriminatory as often those from poorer backgrounds are excluded as their families are not able to provide them with the financial support necessary for them to work for free. This is surely not something to be encouraged in a country this is supposed to facilitate social mobility.
I would be interested to hear from any constituents who have experience of internships and their views on them. Many are suggesting that interns should be paid if they work somewhere for more than a month and if you can sign the petition which calls for a clear threshold to be created for when an intern should be paid, via the following link
I am saddened by the death of Baroness Thatcher. Whatever anyone feels about her legacy, she was a remarkable person who cared deeply about our country. Politicians are sometimes derided for indecision but Margaret Thatcher personified courage and conviction. She also showed a generation of women that anything was possible. In 1979 Britain was in a mess and we could not have continued as we were. Baroness Thatcher undoubtedly made difficult decisions which impacted communities but the following email from one constituent David Arnold, sums up the feelings of many.
I have been a little sickened by the ill informed comments of many people regarding Margaret Thatcher. She was far from perfect but she was a towering figure in 20th century politics and people should show more respect at such a time. It was interesting to see all the lefties accusing her of having destroyed communities etc etc but then Neil Kinnock of all people put the blame for the miner's strike and all that ensued fairly and squarely at the door of Arthur Scargill. Lord Young also made the point very well that it wasn't Margaret Thatcher who destroyed British industry, it was British industry with poor management and outmoded working practices that destroyed it. Who wanted to buy a British made car back then?! I think she was a quite remarkable person, probably not likeable but then the task she faced, as a woman in a man's world, was challenging beyond belief. She had courage and conviction, the like of which we may never see again!
She was right about Europe and, having rolled back the size of the State at home, she recognised the danger of that being unaccountably extended across Europe. No leader can get it right on every issue but she cared deeply for our National interest both at home and abroad. We should all be proud of our Iron Lady!
Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Exercise Tiger
Friday 26th, Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th April 2013
In late 1943 30,000 acres of farm land, villages and hamlets involving 3,000 civilians were evacuated around Slapton Sands in South Devon so that US armed forces could practice in anticipation of D-Day.
These live fire practices involving Landing Ship Tanks (LST's) and thousands of American servicemen and all their landing equipment had code names.
Tragically in the early hours of the 28th April 1944, a convoy of 8 LST's code named Exercise Tiger were attacked by a German E-boat patrol that just happened to be off our coast. As a result 749 young American lives were lost, two LST's sunk, one badly damaged. In other practice landings more American servicemen died as a result of friendly fire, the final death toll around 1,000.
The 70th Anniversary year at Slapton Sands will be commemorated with a weekend of events concluding with memorial service at 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon.
For more information please contact Alice Edmonds: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2013 Budget headlines
The 2013 Budget aims to help those who work hard and want to get on. It is particularly encouraging to hear that the Government has now cut the deficit not by a quarter, but by a third.
Many of you have written to me about Equitable Life. I am particularly delighted that the Government will make ex-gratia payments of £5,000 to Equitable Life policyholders who bought their annuity before 1992. The Government will also make an extra £5,000 available to those on the lowest incomes who are on pension credit.
Below are further details of the Budget and how the Budget will help you:
Fuel duty has again been frozen making this the longest freeze for over 20 years. Pump prices will leave the average motorist with £170 more in their pocket.
From 2015, the Government will be offering tax-free childcare. The Government will pay 20% of a working family's childcare bills every year – up to £1,200 per child. A family with two children will be up to £2,400 a year better off.
This Government has already helped create one and a quarter million private sector jobs – but we will go further. Next April the Government will cut the National Insurance bill of every business by up to £2000. Businesses will be able to hire one extra person on £22,400 pa, or four people working full time on the minimum wage, without paying any National Insurance. And it means 450,000 small businesses, one third of all employers, will pay no jobs tax at all.
- Backing Britain's hard-workers
This Budget raises the personal tax allowance to £10,000 from April 2014. This is a tax cut for 24 million people. As a result individuals will pay £700 less in income tax than they did in 2010. And 2.7 million will have been taken out of tax altogether.
- Small businesses
Businesses are competing in a global race for wealth, work and opportunity. Today we give them a big boost in that race: we are cutting corporation tax to 20% by 2015. That will be the lowest rate in the G20 – 20 of the world's major economies.
- Backing home-buyers
We want to help more people on to and up the housing ladder – and in this Budget the Government put forward £3.5 billion to do just that, giving people equity loans of up to 20% to support them buy newly built houses.
House prices in the South West have increased three times faster than incomes over the past 10 years. The average home in rural parts of the region now costs nearly 13 times the average local income, compared to nearly 11 times in more urban areas. Also 16,100 new homes were built in the South West in 2011/12, but more than 27,000 new households formed. The South West is building less than 60% of the new homes it needs.
- Beer Duty
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has scrapped Labour's plans to increase beer duty in today's Budget, and instead cut it by a penny, meaning beer will be 1p per pint cheaper after Sunday night. This won't support pubs however unless we combine this with a minimum price.
For full details follow the link to the Treasury summary and a copy of the Chancellors speech can be viewed here. If you have any queries about how the budget will affect you, there is information on the BBC website.
Life-changing Lotto £50K is up for grabs!
The People's Millions launches today, with £50,000 available to improve the lives of people in the local community. The Peoples Millions is an annual TV competition run by Big Lottery Fund and ITV which awards Lottery funding to community projects that will improve the lives of local people. This year there are four awards of up to £50,000 on offer in each of the 19 ITV regional news areas across the UK.
Anything from youth and environmental projects to schemes that improve employment prospects or help people in need are in with a chance of bagging the Big Lottery Fund cash, provided that entrants can convince their community through a broadcast on ITV regional news that their idea is worthy of the prize.
The competition opens today for entries from voluntary and community groups; local authorities; schools; statutory health bodies and branches of organisations or partnerships. More information and entry packs are available on The People's Millions website.
International Women's Day
Around the world two thirds of the world's work is carried out by women but they earn just 10% of the income and own 1% of the property.
This week I was honoured to meet two remarkable women who are among the first ever to sit on the Saudi Shura. They face abuse from some of their colleagues but were impressive in their dignified determination to bring their talents to the body which advises the King. It was an opportunity to discuss a range of issues including health and wellbeing and the status of women.
I am also in touch with Wajeha Al-Huwaider who sends the following message on International Women's Day. I know she would appreciate messages of support which I will compile and send to her on your behalf. Watch her You Tube clip here
Five years since I drove my car on Women's Day
We were five women who launched a campaign for women's driving in KSA. We were able to collect around 3,000 signatures for a petition which was sent to King Abdullah Bin Abulaziz. Around 80% of those who signed the petition were women.
On Women's Day, March 8th, 2008 I drove my car and made a video clip to support the driving campaign which was released on youtube. That video clip ensured that the driving campaign became known around the world. I thought at the time that it would be a matter of a few months before the KSA authorities let women drive cars.
Five years later, there are no indications that this right will be granted to women. So, the fact is women might have to wait for years to gain the right to drive cars. Moreover, the situation is getting worse for women now. The Saudi authorities have limited the number of countries whose citizens can work as private drivers for Saudi families. This has raised the cost of hiring drivers.
Women suffer every day in order to get basic things done, like going to work or buying groceries. Also, many can't work because they can't find a driver at an affordable price.
Under these circumstances, we are demanding a transportation allowance from the Saudi government until they provide reliable public transportation in every Saudi city. The Saudi government has plenty of money and they can easily afford it. The government is preventing women from driving, so they should pay us so that we can survive...
The Arctic Star
At long last, those who braved the Arctic Convoys and Bomber Command will be recognised with medals. The Arctic Star and Bomber Command clasps will be awarded to those who served in the convoys or North of the Arctic Circle or to those who flew at least one operational sortie with Bomber Command. Next of kin will also be eligible to apply.
Details and an application form can be found at www.veterans-uk.info or by telephoning 08457 800 900 (local rate).
Congratulations to South Devon College!
Many congratulations to Principal Stephen Criddle and his colleagues at South Devon College for scooping two prestigious Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards for Sport in the Curriculum and for the Effective Use of Technology.
South Devon College, who came top out of more than 20 applications for the Sport Award, won for its approach to provide high quality teaching and learning through a distinctive, inclusive and comprehensive sport curriculum that has inspired the local community through sport. The College has established extensive partnerships with local and national agencies, which ensure that students have access to a wide range of activities to enhance their learning experience.
South Devon College won its second award for the implementation of a College-wide tutorial system, known as LEAP (Learner Engagement And Progression), which has allowed staff to access information about every learner and maintain regular updates of how they're doing so they can be properly supported throughout their time at college.
The College has also established the use of Independent Learning Officers, or ILOs, who support learners at Level 3 in the development of research and study skills. This approach has freed up the subject staff to return to their specialism.
These two approaches combined have lead to a significant improvement in success rates for the students and very strong all round support for students as they progress.
Richard Benyon Visits the Totnes Constituency
I was very pleased to welcome Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to the constituency. Richard leads on issues such as the natural environment, water and rural affairs and his portfolio includes biodiversity, land and wildlife management, flooding, coastal erosion and fisheries.
Richard held an open meeting in the D'Oyley Carte University Centre at South Devon College on February 4th and the meeting was well attended. For an overview of the meeting please click here
All Party Cycling Group
I am delighted to be on the committee for the All Party Cycling Group's Inquiry into how we get Britain cycling.
We held our first evidence session on the 23rd January. There will be six altogether with a panel of MPs and Peers who will take verbal evidence from experts and enthusiasts. The last session will be on the 6th March.
The inquiry will examine the barriers which are preventing more people from cycling in the UK. Cycling makes up 2% of all journeys in the UK, compared with 27% in the Netherlands and 18% in Denmark. Some European towns support more than 50% of all journeys to be made by bike.
Our first session examined the aspirations for cycling in the UK. The Inquiry – which is backed by the major cycling organisations and the Times campaign – will seek the views and experiences of organisations and individuals on how the government can help get more people cycling by making it safer and easier.
I was particularly keen that the Inquiry should not be too city focused and I'm delighted that barriers to rural cycling will be examined. Local cycling campaigner Matt Criddle has been invited to give evidence on the 13th February. He will be able to present the barriers that have been obstructing the Littlehempston cycle path campaign, which seeks to open the final link in National Cycling Network 2 allowing a safe route to run all the way from Kent to Cornwall. We should all be able to walk and cycle safely between Totnes and the villages to its north and that should be along a route that people will actually use, not via a detour that will deter users and prevent an increase in cycling to school or work.
You can follow the campaign on twitter via #getbritaincycling or online
David Cameron's EU Speech
This was the speech on the EU that many of us were hoping David Cameron would deliver. He sets out a clear vision of how Europe could function so much better for all its people and how that would make us happier partners. Whatever your view on the EU, Cameron has pledged an in/out referendum on the results of that negotiation if we have a Conservative victory at the next election. It is time we were asked. The full text of his written speech is here.
South West Water
I know that many households in Devon struggle with water bills as the South West has by far the highest in the country. I am so glad that the Government has confirmed that South West Water will be able to cut bills by £50 a year for all household customers.
The payments will start from April 2013 will continue annually until at least 2020. I am so pleased that action has been taken to address the historic imbalance between water bills in the South west and the rest of the country. This was caused by the EU directive on bathing water quality and the costs of the clean-up of our coastline falling on our relatively small population. This rebate is a positive announcement for all hard pressed households and great news that this is not a one off payment but will continue for so many years to come.
The Energy Bill
The Energy Bill will set out the way in which Britain will meet its energy needs in the future and will establish a framework for securing affordable and low carbon energy. One fifth of our current electricity generating capacity will need to be decommissioned over the next decade and this bill will allow us to get on with building our new power supplies as well as bring a boost to renewables and low carbon generation.
The following are just some of the initiatives the bill will introduce: We will see the creation of a body that will regulate the nuclear power industry, the introduction of a new statement setting out the priorities for the energy sector and reform in the electricity market.
The Prime Minister will also deliver on his promise to help those struggling with their energy costs by incorporating legislation into the bill that ensures people will get the lowest tariffs. Currently, there are 410 tariffs but the bill will limit energy tariffs to four core tariffs per payment type, this will make it much easier to compare deals.
I am also pleased that the bill will ban poor value 'dead' tariffs, meaning that more expensive tariffs will be banned, bringing immediate benefit to many across the country.
I know that many people would have preferred to see a commitment to total decarbonisation of our electricity supply but that has to be balanced against the impact on household energy bills and businesses. For more information click here
Devon & Cornwall's First Police & Crime Commissioner
Congratulations to Tony Hogg, the winner of the Police and Crime Commissioner Election for Devon and Cornwall. The result was declared late last night after originally being expected at about 8.00pm, this was because none of the candidates received more than 50% of the vote; a second round vote had to be added.
In the first round, Tony Hogg received 55,257 votes. In the second round, he received, 69, 419 votes, 35.24 per cent of the vote after second preferences were added. The Independent candidate Brian Greenslade came second with 37,243 votes after second preferences were added.
The aim of the new role, which replaces the current Devon and Cornwall Police Authority, is to make the South West's police force more accountable. Tony Hogg, the new commissioner will also determine the force's budget and the priorities of local police forces. Tony Hogg begins his new role next week and in his victory speech, he said that he thought the Devon and Cornwall Police had a very fine force, but that by working together it can be made better.
Homeless in Totnes
It is a great tragedy that three of South Hams' homeless community have died in the past year. Today there was a meeting at Follaton House to discuss what can be done to help the 17 people who face sleeping rough as the weather deteriorates.
Totnes is a very generous town and I am proud to represent a community that will not ignore those in need. However, for people's kindness to be most effective it would be a great help if donations could go directly to those helping the homeless to turn their lives around.
I truly believe that the best way to achieve these aims is not to give to the person on the street. It has been the case, that in the past, this has indirectly contributed to individuals not wanting to take up accommodation offered in neighbouring communities. I would ask instead that you direct your generosity towards the Revival Life Ministries who do everything they can to help the homeless in Totnes. Revival Life Ministries is based on the Industrial Estate at 15-20 Burke Road, Totnes,TQ9 5XL or if you are unable to visit their headquarters, donations for the homeless can be dropped into my Constituency Office at Station Road, Totnes, TQ9 5HW and I will ensure they are passed directly to Revival Life Ministries.
Our homeless community need our understanding and support and that includes provision of services to help in the right place, not located many miles away in Newton Abbot. I will be doing what I can over the coming months to campaign for a drug and alcohol outreach team in Town and I'm interested to hear from anyone who uses the service and would like to comment on their own experience.
South Hams is committed to the No Second Night Out model, which aims to ensure that no one will have the need to sleep rough. When the local authority is made aware of someone rough sleeping they will try to contact them and invite them to see a member of the Housing Options Team who will explore options for alternative accommodation and support which can be provided. South Hams District Council is looking into the possibility finding a permanent home for the Drop In Centre and sourcing emergency accommodation for those rough sleepers within the district.
Members of the public are urged to contact 24 hour Devon and Cornwall referral on 0800 1513441 if they know of anyone rough sleeping. All efforts will be made to contact these people and bring them in from the cold, thus hopefully avoiding further tragedies.
I was pleased to hear that the Department of Transport has awarded the DVLA's Front Office Counter Services to the Post Office Ltd. The contract award not only means that motorists will continue to be able to access DVLA services locally to tax their cars and apply for driving licences, but also that the taxpayer will be better off to the tune of13m-15m per year.
The scope of the contract is for all existing DVLA-related Post Office services, such as applying for tax discs and driving licences, as well as some new services currently offered through DVLA local offices, such as the provision of duplicate licences and licensing of Heavy Goods Vehicles. These additional services will shortly be available at the Post Office's network, giving better accessibility to DVLA's services to motorists.
In addition to DVLA services, the contract also gives scope for the winning bidder to provide services to the public for other Government departments. The new seven year contract, with an option to extend for a further three years, will come into effect on 1 April 2013.
Totnes has a long tradition of providing support to the homeless, many of whom are sleeping rough and at even greater risk as winter approaches.
Revival Life Ministries helps many of those without a home in the area and they desperately need people to donate tents and sleeping bags.
If you have any which you could donate they would be very welcome.
The Ministry is based at 15-20 Burke Road, Totnes, TQ9 5XL and donations can be dropped off there. Alternatively sleeping bags can be dropped off in my constituency office above Totnes Conservative Club in Station Road, Totnes and I will ensure they reach their destination.
The re-use facility at Totnes is sadly missed but I understand that Devon County Council is working within a set of limitations. It means unfortunately that many items are going to waste.
There are many other options rather than taking things straight to the recycling centre and most of them are just as easy!
First of all there is Freecycle, this is an entirely non profit, on line organisation with local groups which helps match people who have things they wish to get rid of, with people who can use them. Freecycle is a grassroots movement of people who are giving and receiving items for free in their own towns. Registration is free and you can specify collection from your home, an easy method to keep usable items out of landfill.
Then there are certain charities that will often take unwanted furniture and electrical items and often offer free collection or a house clearing service. Should items not be suitable for resale many charities will also endeavour to ensure that goods are recycled. Just some of the charities worth contacting are, The British Heart Foundation, The Rowcroft Hospice and Scope.
The above are some of the charities that will take furniture and do not overlook all of the charity shops in our High Streets, they are dependent on your donations; it is also worth noting that charities can now reclaim an extra 25% of your donated goods value if you're a UK taxpayer. All you have to do is fill in a Gift Aid form when you leave your goods, so it's a great way of giving extra help to charities with no cost to you!
If you are able to search the web, there are so many alternative destinations for your unwanted items; the Samaritans take empty print cartridges and old mobile telephones and transform them into cash; Vision Aid Overseas will take your old glasses. There are many options!
There is understandable controversy over the proposed turbines at Luscombe Cross. I know that even those who are broadly in agreement with wind being part of the mix of renewable energy have some concerns about the potential impact of this scheme. In order for a fair assessment of their height to be made before people make up their minds I have asked Tresoc on a number of occasions if they would send up a balloon. I do not believe that a kite can adequately reflect the height of these turbines for the simple reason that if it is a calm day a kite will not fly and if it is windy it will not be flying vertically at the correct height. I am very pleased that SHDC have agreed to back this request so that everyone can make a proper judgement about the potential visual impact of the turbines before the planners make their decision. Many constituents have expressed concern that the brochure may not accurately reflect the scale and it is only right that a balloon should be sent up at the site to allow this important issue to be properly assessed.
I was recently contacted by a constituent who was provided with a range of mobility aids after an operation. Not requiring several of the items she attempted to return them to the chemists only to be told that they would not take them back as they had been 'used'.
My constituent was surprised by this answer and concerned about the level of wastage that must arise from such a policy. I made some enquiries on this topic and was informed by the Department of Health that many NHS Trusts choose to treat medical aids as single use devices as they are relatively cheap to produce.
I realise that it is not practical for all medical aids to be reused. Indeed there would be costs involved in trying to do so; collection, storage, sorting and sterilizing them would all add up. However, I do feel that where possible and cost effective, medical aids should be reused. It is surely just common sense that a pair of crutches that have been used for half a day remain suitable for another future user.
I would be interested to hear people's views on this matter and any other stories where medical aids have tried to be returned, with or without success!
I have now heard of a company that will recycle medical aids WEEsortIT 01803 577408
I am delighted that Chris Rogers, Managing Director of Costa, came to visit Totnes to see the vibrancy of our independent coffee shops and the strength of our Transition Town ethos. Totnes wants to support local food networks and is proud of its long tradition of independents, we have one of the lowest percentages of branded stores of any town of our size in the UK.
Costa have considered all the issues and decided that they will not come to Totnes.
I welcome that decision and want to thank Costa for being prepared to listen to those concerns. I also recognise that this is a successful British business playing fair by paying its full share of tax, sourcing much of its milk from Devon and engaging too on the important issue of fairness to farmers.
Please come and visit Totnes to see our wonderful town and thriving market for yourself!
See Press release
A farmer in the South Hams has sent me the following: He does not wish to be named as, like all the farmers I meet or visit who are suffering the devastating effects of bovine TB, he fears the consequences for speaking out.
'This calf was 11 days old when its mother was slaughtered due to TB. The calf was then hand reared which was extremely difficult due to the distress caused by it continuously calling for its absent mother. The additional work this created and the misery this has caused us as a family, watching an animal go through this and the TB situation in general, is heartbreaking.'
We all love badgers but there are other sentient mammals already being culled in their thousands. Anyone who has spent time around our beautiful South Devon cattle will know and understand the distress. Nearly 6000 were culled last year in Devon alone as a direct result of TB. We all want a debate on the best way to tackle the disease but that should never involve the bullying or intimidation of farming families.
Proposed Constituency Boundary Changes
The Boundary Commission for England is currently conducting the 2013 Review and has now published their revised proposals. The consultation on the revised proposals is now open and you can have your say on them until 10 December 2012.
The review has introduced substantial changes reducing the number of constituencies in England from 533 to 502; and if Parliament approves the changes would ensure that each constituency contains a similar number of electors; 73,354 in South Devon.
I was pleased to see that Marldon and Blatchcombe would remain in the larger renamed South Devon Constituency. The change of name would also reflect the wider geography of the Country's most beautiful constituency which would stretch from Holne on Dartmoor to Southern Torbay and the entire South Hams.
You can find out more about the proposed boundary changes by looking at the revised proposals which were published on 16 October 2012
Super Fast Broadband 'Goes Live' in Dartmouth
I am so pleased that BT announced today that High –speed fibre broadband is now available to the first homes and businesses in Dartmouth. Roughly 3,000 households and firms will be joining the revolution that is high-speed broadband and Paignton, Brixham, Totnes and Churston are all expected to be upgraded by the end of 2013.
This is such fantastic news for Dartmouth. High speed digital connectivity will be a defining factor in our long term success and it is expected that the BT investment in Dartmouth will be beneficial for the local economy. Super-fast broadband allows new opportunities and growth to be created, anything you can think of doing online you can do better with fibre optic broadband!
A Landscape for Success
'A Landscape for Success' Torbay Council's new plan is set to provide guidance on development and conservation in the area for the next twenty years. The Local Plan will affect all those who live in, work in or even just visit Torbay and all are welcome to share their views on it.
A consultation on the first draft version of the plan is being held by the council until the 9th of November. Once adopted, the plan will form the overarching vision for Torbay providing guidance on how new jobs and houses will be created, the regeneration of the town centre and approaches to a multitude of issues such as transport, heritage and retail.
Further information on the Local Plan can be viewed at Roebuck House, local libraries and at the Connections Offices in Torbay or via the following link:
I strongly recommend that you take the time to share your views on the plan. It is integral to the consultation process that the views of local people are communicated and I do not want people to miss their chance to share theirs.
In the same vein, a new planning system is being introduced as part of the government's Localism Act; this means that more powers will be devolved to councils and neighbourhoods. Communities will now have the opportunity to draw up ideas for development at a local level, in the form of Neighbourhood Plans.
I know that Brixham, Paignton and Torquay are preparing Neighbourhood Plans and once they are adopted they will form part of the Development Plan for Torbay, along with the new Local Plan! Further information on this is available via the following link:
Banking at Post Offices
All nine million HSBC and First Direct personal current account customers will be able to withdraw cash, check their balances and deposit cash and cheques at the Post Office by Spring 2013. The new partnership is great news for the Post Office and customers and means that 95% of all UK debit cardholders will have access to their money at our branches - providing unrivalled access in communities across the UK. This is something that Gary Deere, subpostmaster from Galmpton has been campaigning for but we now need the 5% who bank with Santander. There is an anomaly with this bank following their take over of Abbey and Alliance & Leicester. All ex A & L account holders who were previously able to use Post Offices were allowed to continue to do so after the takeover, while ex Abbey customers represent the 5% who can't. Therefore we have the daft situation occuring where some villagers with the same Santander debit card can access their money while others are unable. I have written to Santander to ask them to make sure their customers and post offices are treated fairly
South Devon Link Road
I was delighted to attend the turf cutting for the Kingskerswell Bypass this morning. This exciting project will bring much needed economic growth to the area.
The advance works are already underway as Devon County Council and Torbay Council ensure that everything is ready before the main construction work begins. Site clearance and utility diversions in the Penn Inn area are expected shortly, with work then progressing in the Penn Inn to Aller Quarries area. Construction is then due to increase between January and March 2013. The main works are due to be completed by December 2015. Congratulations to all those who have been involved in the long campaign to improve the vital road link toTorbay.
Fortunately this picture is not current, but from our washout July. However, as I am sure you have all noticed, heavy rainfall is again sweeping the South West. Since the early hours of Monday morning the heavens have opened and there is no sign of them closing soon. The Environment Agency is anticipating flooding across the region. There has already been disruption to train travel and issues on some roads. Fortunately the Environment Agency are continuing to check flood defences, clear river blockages and monitor river levels. The following links will provide you with the latest information on the risk of flooding in your area:
The latest flood warnings can be found by clicking here
A three day forecast can be found here
Updates are also available from the Environment Agency's South West Twitter Account
I can only recommend carrying an umbrella at all times and if the weather does not improve I shall build an ark for all my constituents!
Community hospitals deserve our support; they provide the right care at the right time in the right place.
I was delighted to lead a debate in Parliament to highlight the need to safeguard our community hospitals and to put a series of questions and suggestions to the new Health Team. 70% of all health and social care spending is on long term conditions and we are set to double the number of people over 85 in the next 20 years. As the disease burden has shifted from acute illnesses to long term conditions, Community Hospitals could and should be at the heart of how we organise care close to home to help people to live independently. These hospitals are so much more than just inpatient units. They provide clinics, minor injuries units, diagnostics and therapies and even complex treatments like chemotherapy. They have the potential to do even more, expanding their role in palliative care alongside organisations like Rowcroft and working with volunteers such as the Triangle Centre for cancer patients and their families. None of this would be possible without our Leagues of Friends and the millions they raise, not just for luxuries but for the absolute essentials including major building work and equipment.
If you value your community hospital, make sure that your GPs are committed to supporting it. Commissioners, Healthwatch and Health and Wellbeing Boards all need to know how much our community hospitals matter!
If you would like to read further please click the link to my NHS page
Devon Rape Crisis Service
My name is Kate and I am passionate about volunteering with Devon Rape Crisis Service; we are a feminist organisation based in Exeter, run by women for women, offering a high standard and confidential service for women who have experienced rape and sexual violence. All who I work with, from the trustees, employees and volunteers are extremely compassionate, inclusive and informed on this topic, and have passed their OCN Level 2 training in Understanding Rape and Sexual Violence.
My area for face-to-face meetings is in the Totnes area and the undisclosed location where I work from has been voluntarily offered by a non-related organization that have generously provided us with a warm space where we can meet and women can have their story heard in the spirit of belief, non-judgment and confidentiality. There are many myths about rape out there; Totnes is a small market town and in the 6 months I have been active in face-to-face meetings, I have seen more survivors than people would have imagined. I meet courageous women who have had traumatic experiences and I'm encouraged by spending time with them, and together finding her unique way of moving through her experience so she can arrive at a place where she is a healed and empowered survivor.
What I would like to say to women out there is no matter what the circumstances were; please do not be inhibited by feeling responsible for it; if you didn't consent, its rape! If it doesn't fall into society's current 'classification' of rape no matter - if you didn't consent, it's rape! Your experience is valid and worth looking at with s