The Rural Oscars
The 11th annual Countryside Alliance Awards, aka The Rural Oscars, have opened to nominations. The Awards honour rural businesses through the characters who work so hard to make our countryside tick.
The Awards are public-nomination led, so your support is vitally important if you want your favourite local business to take top honours.
There are four categories:-
- Local Food
- Village Shop/ Post Office
- Rural Tourism (new to 2015)
Nominations close on the 2nd November. Please note that you can vote as often as you like and for as many rural businesses as you choose. It is important to give as much information as possible about your chosen business - it's up to you to catch the judges' eyes and propel the business into the national spotlight.
A maximum of five businesses will be shortlisted in each category. These businesses will then be visited and judged and will be invited to the Parliamentary finals in April 2016
Torbay Council Parking Services Review
A Consultation is underway to gather the views and opinions of residents, visitors, businesses and communities The review covers everything from the price of parking and conditions of car parks to parking issues within communities. The Council also wants to hear what people think about parking in Torbay compared with other places and their views on whether new technology could improve the parking services on offer.
The survey is available online and paper copies are available at the libraries, Connections and each of the harbour offices. The consultation will close on Friday 13 November 2015.
Executive Lead for Community Safety, Councillor Robert Excell, said: "If you have concerns it is really important that you give feedback via the survey as soon as possible. Don't wait until we've got a new strategy – speak up now!"
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.
Desert Island Books
Friday 25th September I will be at Totnes Library from 5.45-6.45 pm when I will be discussing my favourite books and poems.
There is a suggested £3 voluntary donation with all proceeds for the benefit of Totnes Library.
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.
Licensing Policy Public Consultation
South Hams District Council is inviting residents and businesses to have their say on the new Alcohol and Entertainments Licensing policy. The consultation runs until 6 November.
The renewed policy will determine how the council makes decisions on alcohol and entertainment licensing issues over the next five years. The policy will also be used by local residents and businesses preparing licensing applications and making representations.
The new version of the policy includes updates to the local licensing strategy and reference to numerous recent changes to legislation, including the Live Music Act. The policy also has a new recommendation for organisers of outdoor public events to contact South Hams District Council SAG (Safety Advisory Group) for advice and support before planning an event.
All comments received will be considered once the consultation has closed. The policy will then be published, detailing how the council intends to operate and promote licensing in the area.
To read the new policy visit http://www.southhams.gov.uk/shconsultations
Comments can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to Licensing Department, South Hams District Council, Follaton House, Plymouth Road, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5NE
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.
Meeting with the Devon Wildlife Trust and the RSPB
Thanks to Paul and Harry from the Devon Wildlife Trust and RSPB South West for coming to meet with me, for everything they do and for the 'Big Wild Sleep Out' they are holding. The idea is to encourage families to go and experience the natural world at night with some organised events or just in your own garden!
You can find out more about this here.
Coerced consent is not consent and would threaten us all.
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 starting from Thursday August 6th.
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 starting from August 12th.
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
Summer Budget 2015
Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented his post-election Budget to the House of Commons – setting out taxation and spending plans including the introduction of a compulsory National Living Wage for those aged over 25. Starting at £7.20 an hour from next April, it is expected to reach £9 an hour by 2020 – meaning that someone working full time on minimum wage today will earn an extra £5,000 a year by the end of the decade.
I know that some small business owners will have concerns about the impact that this increase will have on their businesses. I was pleased to see that the Chancellor set out measures to offset the increased costs, by announcing further cuts in Corporation Tax and an increase in the NIC Employment Allowance. The increase to £3000 per year means businesses will be able to take on up to 4 employees without paying any national insurance contributions.
Tax cuts were also announced, with the Chancellor confirming that the personal tax allowance will increase to £11,000 from April 2016 – meaning that the typical taxpayer will be paying £905 less tax each year than they would have been in 2010. The higher rate of tax was designed to target only the richest in society and it is wrong that people like nurses and policemen have been dragged into that tax band over the past two decades. It is therefore right that the Chancellor announced an increase in the higher rate tax threshold to £43,000 from 2016. These two measures will mean that in the Totnes constituency, 40,452 people will be better off and 778 of the lowest paid will be taken out of paying tax entirely.
In addition, the effective inheritance tax threshold for most couples will be raised to £1m, meaning that the vast majority of family homes can be passed on tax-free to your family.
I was pleased to see that my concerns about housing support being removed from young people who were unable to move back home were addressed. The Chancellor announced that there will be exemptions from the under-21 housing benefit changes for vulnerable young people and those who cannot return to live with their parents. I was also pleased to see that this will not apply to 21-25 year olds.
The Chancellor also provided an update on the state of the country's economy – confirming that Britain is grew faster than any other advanced economy last year and is forecast to do so again this year. The deficit has been cut by more than half since 2010 and is forecast to fall to 3.7% of GDP this year before being eliminated completely by 2019/20.
I know that many people will also be pleased to see a firm commitment to our NATO pledge to spend 2% of our national income on defence.
The Chancellor also reaffirmed his important commitment to invest £7.2bn in the South West's transport infrastructure over the next 5 years as well as his clear commitment to fund the NHS's own long term plan.
You can read the Summer Budget Red Book which sets out the full details
Harberton Dog Show August 16th
After last year's success, you are all invited to the second Harberton Dog Show! The show is on the 16th August at Harberton Village Playing Field. Registration starts at 11am and should finish around 4pm. There will be a variety of categories from best puppy through to best veteran, along with funny categories too. There will also be stallholders, a beer tent, cake and tea tents, bacon sandwiches and a BBQ later on.
To find out more about the Dog Show visit their Facebook page
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
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.
Great British High Street Awards 2015.
The Great British High Street Awards 2015 celebrate local groups working together to support their high streets and make them even better places to shop and socialise.
This is the second year that the competition has been running and will now include a special recognition award for a person or project that has made a particularly special or unique difference to their high street and a 'Rising Star' award.
Entries are open until September 1st
For further details and how to nominate one of our local High Street heroes click here
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 email@example.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 will provide further information on cycling and the other recommendations from the All Party Parliamentary Cycle Group's report Get Britain Cycling
On average, the South West has the lowest broadband speeds in England. This matters because it is holding back new and established business alike, especially in rural areas. Sluggish connections are also hugely frustrating for individuals and families wanting to benefit from the kind of access taken for granted elsewhere.
Figures published last year show that the UK comes out top for superfast, standard and mobile broadband coverage, with 83 households per 100 broadband connected. These figures also showed that (as of March 2014) superfast broadband coverage had increased with 70-75% of households covered. This means that the UK now has the highest level of coverage amongst the EU5: Germany (65-70% of households covered), Spain (60-65%), France (20-25%) and Italy (10-15%).
This is all good news but we are leaving England's rural communities further behind their urban competitors. Currently £1.7 billion is being invested in extending superfast broadband provision across the UK, with the aim that by 2017 95% of the country should be connected. We need this to be fairly spread so that before government commits to yet higher speeds in towns, they make sure that everyone in rural Britain can benefit from a decent connection.
The Government wants rural Britain to have "near universal" superfast broadband by the end of this Parliament but local families and businesses know that there is a long way to go to realise the estimated potential to boost rural economies across the country by £275 million every month or around £9 million every day by 2024.
I am grateful to everyone for keeping me updated on actual speeds across the patch and for pointing out practical issues such as the shortcomings of satellite connections because of its inherent latency. This information is very helpful when pressing for improvements.
This link will provide further information on broadband in our area.
Education and Adoptions Bill
This week, the Education and Adoptions Bill was passed by the House of Commons on its second reading,
To read more about this Bill click here
Dr Sarah Wollaston is elected Chair of the Health Select Committee 18th June 2015
I am delighted to have been elected by Parliament to Chair the Health Committee for the next five years. Throughout the recent general election campaign it was clear how much people care about the quality and future of our NHS and care services. I do too, and I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves on behalf of the public to hold to account, not only the government but those who commission, deliver and regulate those services.
AmnesTEA, Dartington 5th July 2015
On Sunday 5 July 2015 from 11.00-4.00pm at the East Wing Lounge, Dartington Hall the South Devon Amnesty Group will be hosting their annual fund-raising tea-and-cakes-day.
Come and have a sociable time, talk to members and have a cup of tea with homemade biscuits, buns and cakes
Free entry, tea and cakes by donation.
I am delighted that the government has made an early start on one of its election promises. A key subsidy scheme that has fuelled the spread of wind turbines, the Renewables Obligation, will end a year earlier than originally planned. Energy firms had been facing an end to the subsidy on the 1st April 2017 but now this will be cancelled on the 1st April 2016.
Currently there are 5,061 onshore wind turbines in the United Kingdom, producing 18,000 gigawatt hours of electricity which is enough to power 5.5million homes. This is an industry that is now capable of moving forward without financial support from the government but in my view it must do more to seek the support of local communities perhaps by offering them more of a share in the profits. We know that roof top solar continued to thrive even when subsidy levels were adjusted as costs came down.
My colleague Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary, announced on the evening of the 17th June that "it was time to shift subsidies from onshore wind to other technologies that needed it more."
In 2014 the British government supplied £800million worth of subsidies to the onshore wind turbine industry which produced 5% of Britain's energy needs. From April 2016 these changes will free up resources to other green energy projects and I would like to see more support for community energy schemes and marine renewables.
To find out more information about the cancellation of the Renewables Obligation please visit the following link
Who should vote in the referendum on our membership of the EU?
The European Union Referendum Bill has cleared its first hurdle through the House of Commons and this week will continue its progress as MPs debate a series of proposed amendments. There is now little disagreement on the principle that we hold a binding in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership and the debate now moves to issues such as whether the government or their agencies should be able to send out literature in the month before the referendum and who should have the right to vote. The Bill also sets out much of the detail for the referendum and finalises the referendum question, which will be 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?'
The negotiations with our European partners have begun with the aim of securing a better deal not only for Britain but for the whole EU. Opening up our trade and allowing a greater say for national parliaments is in all our interests. It is clear that the majority of British people have no interest in an 'ever closer union', as set out in the Treaty of Rome, and don't believe EU migrants should have full access to welfare until they've paid their way for a number of years. As other nations do move to greater union however, it is vital that protections are in place for those such as Britain, which do not. I'm proud to be supporting the Bill, as I have always believed that it should be the wider electorate, rather than politicians, deciding on the final settlement. Some of my colleagues have already made up their minds how they will be campaigning but I would prefer to wait until I know the outcome of those negotiations.
I do however, feel that the vote should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds. Having watched the energy, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of their involvement in the Scottish referendum campaign I would find it impossible to argue that 16 and 17 year olds should be denied the opportunity to have their say. This decision will have the greatest impact on their generation and they will be living with the consequences for far longer. I have no doubt that they have the capacity to weigh the arguments on the EU and I also feel that this is an important opportunity to reverse young people's disengagement with politics. Debate on the issues around our EU membership need not bring divisive Party politics into our schools but giving 16 and 17 year olds both a voice and a vote would help to make sure that young people's perspective is taken into account.
For additional information on the European Union Referendum Bill please click here:
For additional information on the passage of the European Union Referendum Bill through Parliament please click here:
May 2015 Election
I am delighted to have been re elected as the MP for the Totnes constituency. Thank you so much to every one of the 24,941 people who supported me to return to Parliament having more than tripled the majority from 2010.
However you voted, I am keen to listen and learn from your experience in order to represent our wonderful area of South Devon.
My email now returns to the following contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The full results of the national and local elections can be found on the following link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies/E1400100
Sea vs Land Tandem Challenge!
Congratulations to the amazing
on their extraordinary achievement
Thank you to everyone for joining us at Oxen Cove, Brixham on Good Friday for the start of the Sea vs Land Tandem TopGear style challenge across the Bay.
Andy and Chris Lang raced across the Bay on their Sea Tandem to Torquay Harbour whilst Adrian and I took the hilly 21 mile inland route via Totnes on our land tandem.
Congratulations to Andyand Chris for raising £2500 all in aid of the RNLI.
This week, the Government announced that £60m will be used to bring forward a number of flood prevention programmes, including a number of projects in South Devon. These works are part of the Government's £2.3bn national Flood Risk Management programme and this latest announcement will mean that protection for over 2,000 homes in the South-West will be accelerated.
Projects being brought forward include the Brixham Flood Alleviation Scheme, which will be brought forward by a year, the Salcombe Town Tidal Gates project and the Victoria Stream defence improvements in Dartmouth.