Nadhim Zahawi Visits Totnes
I was pleased to welcome Nadhim Zahawi MP to Totnes on Friday the 4th of April for a meeting followed by a Q&A session with a range of local businesses at the Royal Seven Stars Hotel. One of Nadhim's responsibilities is to make sure businesses have the chance to feed back in to the policy making process, he is especially suited to this as someone who has experience of setting up his own successful business,YouGov.
I would like to thank everyone who attended; it was good to have so many representatives from across the business community. As Nadhim acknowledged, whilst tourism, food and drink dominate our local economy we also have manufacturers producing parts for sectors as diverse as satellites to racing cars and lorries and vibrant small and micro businesses.
The meeting was a lively but balanced event. Nadhim acknowledged that for the most part what businesses really want is for government to stay out of their way and to reduce bureaucracy and costs.
Many topics were discussed, Nadhim heard about the ongoing issues with access to funding and finance and talked about regional banks and crowd finance as well as the need for better access to clear advice on sources of the funding opportunities.
It was useful to hear Nadhim highlight the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and the importance of working with them especially as they have people with real business experience running them. Locally our LEP has played a key role in the negotiations keeping valued science jobs at the AstraZeneca site.
The issue of correctly labelling ethical and locally sourced products was raised and Nadhim heard from businesses in the constituency how hard it can be to produce entirely British products. He agreed the merit in producing entirely British products and spoke of his concern about misleading labelling.
I was very pleased to hear Nadim's unequivocal support for shared parental leave and measures to ensure that women have equal access to the business and wider employment opportunities. By far the biggest single issue raised was that of business rates. He spoke of the BIS Select Committee Inquiry into this issue due to report shortly and we all hope that government will take note of its findings. It is good news that small business rate reliefs have been extended and that businesses can now pay in 12 monthly rather than 10 instalments but overall the message was clear, that business rates remaIn a serious drain on local businesses.
There was a clear message that the pressure from business rates is contributing to the creation of identical chain high streets across the country.
Creating a business is a tough but vital role and Nadhim has long advocated that when anyone registers a new business they should get a thank you letter from the Chancellor. I agree.
Frogmore Post Office
The Post Office is currently looking to restore services at Frogmore. The proposal is to introduce a Hosted Outreach service which will operate from The Bakery. A consultation is now running on this proposal and it will close on the 16th of May. The Post Office wish to have your comments on the following:
- How suitable you think the new location and premises are?
- Do you have any comments on the proposed days and opening hours?
- How easy is it to get there?
- Are the new premises easy for you to get into and is the inside easily accessible?
- Do you have any concerns about the new location?
- If so, do you have any suggestions that could help us make it better for you?
- Are there any local community issues which you think could be affected by the proposed move?
- Is there anything you particularly like about the proposed change?
You can send your views to email@example.com
In addition you can post them to: FREEPOST PO Consultation
I do hope as many of you as possible take the time to share your views.
Postcard from Devon Competition
Here are just a selection of pictures that children are sending in to show that Devon is a fantastic place to work and visit.
If any primary school children from the Totnes constituency want to get involved, please send in an A5 sized drawing (with their name, school and a few words about the place they have drawn) to:
Postcard from Devon Competition, Norman Shaw North 1/20, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
"Dartmoor, it is just so beautiful and the place to go to when the water is really warm"
"The River Dart in Totnes, for great canoeing"
"Bayards Cove, Dartmouth, because of the wonderful view"
Brixham Town Council
Many people have contacted me frustrated that Torbay Council is withholding funds from Brixham Town Council. I do understand the concern on this matter and I have raised it in person with Mayor Gordon Oliver but he is adamant that they will not pass on this money to Brixham. I have also pressed for at least a compromise position, especially given previous commitments and the strain this unexpected shortfall will bring on Brixham Town Council. I am yet to receive a formal response.
Whilst no one doubts the strains on local government finances, the distribution of funding is entirely devolved to local government level and in a letter from Brandon Lewis, dated 21st February to Leaders of Local Authorities, he makes it clear,
"that the Government's intention was that part of the funding provided to local authorities in respect of the localised council tax support should be passed down to parish and town councils.
I am disappointed to learn from the National Association of Local Councils that a number of authorities are refusing to pass down such funding. Without this funding, parishes will be under pressure to increase their council tax precept in order to fill the void or to scale back on the services they provide. In the spirit of localism I would therefore encourage you to pass down funding to avoid indirectly putting pressure on your council taxpayers. However if an authority does insist on not passing down funding I would expect the authority to justify to their council tax payer as to the reasons why."
I am disappointed with this decision which leaves Brixham at a disadvantage and particularly short of funds.
Malborough Scarecrow Trail
Spring Bank Holiday Weekend May 24-26th is Malborough's Scarecrow Trail. There is fun for all the family and the theme this year is historical characters. On the Saturday and Monday there will be Ploughmans / Sandwiches / Cream Teas available in the Village Hall. On the Sunday there will be a BBQ as well as Sandwiches and Cream Teas.
On the Saturday evening there will be a Family Barn Dance in the Village Hall.
To download instructions on how to make your Scarecrow click here
Dog walkers are being urged to be cautious when taking their pets to the beach as palm oil has been washed up on several beaches in the area. Palm oil is not thought to be toxic but has proven to be fatal to dogs in some cases and can cause blockages if they consume it.
Palm oil is a waxy, white substance that looks like Styrofoam but has a chemical smell and if you think your dog has ingested any; do take them to the vets immediately. It is recommended to keep your dog on a lead if you are on the beach!
There have been sightings of washed up palm oil on beaches in the South Hams and Torbay, including at Elberry Cove, at South Sands, North Sands and Millbay Beach.
Help shape your local services; following extensive public engagement, Devon County Council's has a proposal for a new model for the Youth Service.
The proposal is that Devon County Council's Youth Service moves from being an open access, universal facility to become a service providing targeted support for those young people most in need. This would mean that DCC would no longer need to manage and run any of the current local youth centres.
Under this model a number of highly-skilled youth service workers would be redeployed to a new role which would involve targeted work with young people most in need of support across a range of early help services such as mentoring, assessment, intervention and relationship-building.
As part of this consultation DCC is also inviting proposals for alternative models of support. There are opportunities for local community groups, charities and private sector providers to develop activities and support for young people in their area. DCC will work with organisations who express an interest to look at options for co-designing services. There will be a meeting at Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6EL on Wed 2nd April 2014, from 7pm-9pm. If you wish to attend, you will need to let the Councill know by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
To have your say, please submit your views to the consultation that closes on the 27th April.
Friday 28th March Wear A Hat Day
WearAHatDay is the UK's largest and most famous national brain tumour awareness and fundraising campaign, created by Brain Tumour Research. WearAHatDay is an awareness raising campaign that supports a deadly serious issue: Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40. Getting involved in WearAHatDay is easy, and anyone and everyone can join in - from schools, colleges and universities to shops, offices and clubs, young or old, baby or pensioner, no one is excluded! The more people wearing hats, the greater the awareness and the bigger the fundraising achievement will be!
This week's Budget sets out some welcome support for businesses, pensioners, savers and working people. Wages in South Devon are lower than the national average and the Chancellor's decision to further increase the personal tax allowance to £10,500 will help to put more money in people's pockets.
Since George Osborne's first budget in 2010, the amount of income tax paid by someone working full-time on National Minimum Wage has been cut in half. By April 2015, a typical basic-rate taxpayer will be paying £805 less in tax than they were in 2010 whilst the corresponding reduction for a higher-rate taxpayer will be £646.
In the Totnes constituency, unemployment has dropped by over a quarter since this time last year but more needs to be done, in particular to tackle youth unemployment. Extending the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme will help to encourage jobs and training opportunities for young people in South Devon.
I was delighted to see our air ambulance recognised with grants to refund the VAT that they pay on fuel. A consultation will now take place to extend that to safety boats.
The bad news is that next year our public sector net debt will reach a staggering 77% of GDP despite the welcome and continuing shrinkage of the deficit. With such a heavy burden of ongoing debt, austerity is here to stay.
The full budget documents, surprisingly readable with sobering graphics, can be accessed here: but these points in particular caught my eye from local assessments of their impact:
- The increase in the personal tax allowance to £10,500 from April 2015, means that in the Totnes constituency 460 people will no longer pay any income tax and 35,067 people will see their income tax cut.
- The threshold at which taxpayers start to pay the 40% rate will rise from £41,450 at present to £41,865 next month and £42,285 in April 2015.
- Confirmation that the adult rate of National Minimum Wage will see an above-inflation increase to £6.50 from October 2014.
- Families earning under £150,000 a year will be eligible for Tax Free Childcare – where the Government will pay for 20% of childcare costs up to £10,000 per year. This will save families £2,000 per child per year
- An extension in the freeze to Fuel Duty. By 2015-16, this will save the average motorist £11 every time they fill up.
- £200m has been made available for councils to repair potholes.
- Extra support for regional airports, which could help flights from Exeter to new routes.
- Doubling the Annual Investment Allowance for businesses to £500,000 until the end of 2015
- Doubling the amount of export financing available and cutting the interest rates by a third to help local manufacturers export their products abroad.
- Providing extra funding for the Apprenticeships Grants for Employers scheme to help provide an additional 100,000 apprenticeship opportunities for young people.
- Increasing the annual ISA limit to £15,000 for shares, cash or a combination of both for the 648,000 ISA holders in the South-West.
- Savings income up to £5,000 which is currently subject to a 10p tax rate will no longer be taxed.
- The introduction of the new Pensioner Bond, offering higher interest rates than anything available on the market with a three-year bond paying a 4% return.
- Changes to the tax rules from April 2015 to allow people to access their defined contribution pension savings as they wish from the point of retirement: No-one will be forced to buy an annuity and the tax on withdrawing pension above the 25% tax-free amount will be slashed from 55% to the marginal rate of tax.
- Guaranteed free, impartial and face-to-face advice on pension choices for everyone upon retirement.
- The Help to Buy home loan scheme will be extended until 2020.
- An extra £140m will be made available to repair damaged flood defences
Holne and Scoriton Affordable Housing Project
This is an article written by Gill Gray that describes the journey from conception to completion of the affordable housing project at Holne.
Any local community which has been involved with an affordable housing project will know just how long a process it can be. With the demise of local authority housing and the escalating prices of open market housing and the cost of private rented properties, Holne and Scoriton set upon their quest to provide affordable housing for local people – this was thirteen years ago.
It has been a somewhat tortuous journey – all those involved were volunteers, took no recompense for their work and spent hours of their time ensuring that they knew the procedures and the hoops that had to be jumped through to achieve their goal. They worked tirelessly with the Dartmoor National Park, South Hams District Council and the Devon Rural Housing Enabler. Countless meetings were held, numerous visits to other affordable housing projects, seminars etc were attended. Contact was made with all members of the DNPA, district and county councils, the NFU and other relevant organisations and support was forthcoming from everyone.
To read the full article click here
Fairer Schools Funding
There is widespread recognition that our school funding system is unfair and outdated so I'm delighted with the news that the Government proposes to increase funding for schools in Devon. Our local Devon schools are set to receive a £16.2m increase in funding in 2015-16, which is an extra £189 per pupil.
I strongly welcome this 4.5% increase, which is one of the largest in the country. Devon has historically been one the 62 most underfunded local authorities.
In November, I presented a petition in the House of Commons from supporters of the Rural Fair Share Campaign, calling on the Government to address the disparity between the funding of local authorities in rural and urban areas. I'm also grateful to the governors and head teachers representing small rural schools in this constituency who came with me to make the case for change to David Laws.
While I strongly welcome today's announcement from the Department for Education in helping to address the unfairness in schools funding, I will continue to campaign for a fairer overall funding settlement in Devon for health and social care.
What do you think of health and care services in Devon? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Whatever your views, Healthwatch Devon wants to hear from you.
Healthwatch Devon is the consumer champion for users of health and social care services. They are interested in everything from GP's to hospitals to care homes and more. They want to know how changes to some of these services are affecting local people.
Healthwatch Devon recently took action on NHS England's plans to merge all patient medical records into a single national database - in spite of public worries about the safety of the data. They thought that patients should be able to exercise an informed choice about how their records are stored and used. Now, pressure from Healthwatch at the national level has led to a decision to defer implementation of the scheme until the autumn.
Just before Christmas, the South West Ambulance Service was criticised for failing to meet targets for response times to emergency calls. Their next newsletter will feature a former ambulance service staff member explaining some of the hard realities of working on the front line.
What do you think about these sorts of things? Are there health or social care issues in Devon that you think Healthwatch should know about? If so, contact: email@example.com , 0800 520 0640.
The Government has announced measures to support fishermen who have lost equipment in the winter storms. £11m has been made available for the cost of replacing lost or damaged equipment under the Storm Damage Gear Replacement Scheme. The fund will be managed by the Marine Management Organisation and applications must be made by 6 June 2014.
For any queries about applications, the Marine Management Organisation can be contacted directly on 01913 762 676.
The Government has also announced flexibility on quota allocations to allow fishermen to make up for lost income when weather conditions return to normal. The Marine Management Organisation is looking to raise catch limits where possible during the remainder of 2014 to provide fisheries with the best chance to catch a full quota for this year. Further information is available through the organisation's Business Support Team on 01913 762 694.
Planning exemptions in National Parks and AONBs
I was really delighted that the government listened to concerns about the unintended consequences of a proposal to allow permitted development rights to convert agricultural buildings across our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty. Unfortunately this would have led to a reduction rather than an increase in affordable housing and severely affected our most beautiful rural landscape.
On Dartmoor alone there are many thousands of outbuildings that would have been at risk of conversion. I believe we must do more to support affordable housing for local people and I am glad that the government has listened to concerns.
Click here to read the Minister's written statement announcing the exemption of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty from the proposals.
"Can do" Guide
Voluntary and community events are an important part of everyday life that strengthens communities and encourage people to play a more active part in society.
A lack of clear guidance has often meant that people organising events focus on what they cannot do rather than on what they can do. Now, new guidance has been published to provide a central source for people planning community led events. It also signposts people to relevant specialist advice such as DCLG's guidance on organising street parties.
Tootles Troop Totnes
If you are battling with dementia or care for someone suffering with dementia, join the Tootles Troop Totnes for Music Memories on the 22nd March from 2.00-4.00pm at the Kingsbridge Inn Totnes. Admission is free!
There is also a Purple Party is being held on Saturday the 26th of April by the Tootles Troop Totnes to raise funds for Young Dementia UK. The party starts at 7.30 pm and is at the Kingsbridge Inn on Leechwell Street.
Tickets cost £15.00 per person and you can get them from the Kingsbridge Inn or by emailing Kirsty-Ann Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org A buffet and entertainment is included and you must wear something purple!
Proposed Changes to Devon Youth Service
Devon County Council is proposing to deliver a reshaped youth service and a 12 week public consultation was launched on the 3rd February and can be accessed via the following link.
There will now be a consultation on these proposals and a public consultation event will be held on Wednesday the 2nd of April at Dartington Hall from 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm. I would strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in this area attends.
Sport England's £5 National Lottery Sport Flood Relief Fund
Sport England is today announcing a special £5 million flood relief fund to help restore pitches and repair sports facilities damaged by the recent floods and storms.
£5 million of National Lottery funding will be made available to sports clubs, local authorities and other community organisations for emergency repairs to damaged facilities such as football, rugby and cricket pitches, water sports centres, pavilions, changing rooms and floodlights.
Sport England want to play apart in helping communities get back to normal, and theywill consult both locally and with the affected sports about the best way to achieve that.
Early indicators suggest that the biggest impact of the bad weather has been on sports such as hockey, rugby and football because of flooded and waterlogged pitches, and water sports where many clubs are on riverbanks or in coastal areas.
Sport England's first priority is to assess the full extent of the damage and consult with the worst affected areas and sports to set the priorities for the new Fund.
From today, clubs, charities and similar organisations that will need help in restoring facilities are being encouraged to contact Sport England at www.sportengland.org/floodfund to register their interest.
Those needing funding to clean up and get up and running quickly can request up to £2,000 of emergency funding which could be awarded within three weeks. Those with more extensive damage which will take longer to repair will be invited to apply to the fund when it opens on 24th March.
Organisations that do not qualify for the Flood Relief Fund will be given advice about other sources of funding that could help.
The new £5 million National Lottery fund has been created specifically to help with the damage caused by the exceptional weather, and is in addition to Sport England's other grant programmes which will continue to operate as normal. The fund will remain open until the autumn to ensure that those who are currently unable to assess the damage will not lose out.
Health Unlocked is a healthy evidence forum that has been launched by Sense about Science and NHS Choices Behind Headlines. It is a great way to challenge the evidence behind bogus health claims from any organisation.
Which? Birth Choice and Which ? Elderly Care
I was pleased to meet in Westminster recently with Which? and they informed me that they have now launched Which? Birth Choice aimed at helping you decide where you want to give birth and understanding your birth options.
They have also launched Which? Elderly Care providing advice about caring for older people; there is advice about housing options (care in the home and care home providers) and tips on finance options including governance benefits.
Kingsbridge mooring project gets underway ...
Work on providing bespoke step-on step-off pontoon facilities with easy bridge access from the Quay, for Kingsbridge boating enthusiasts – is now well underway.
Contractors started work on February 13 and brought in a large crane to lower the pontoon sections into the estuary ready for the arrival of the piling barge next week which will drive in the securing risers that will keep the pontoons in position.
The project follows extensive public consultation by Harbourmaster Commander Ian Gibson and his team on Salcombe Harbour Authority when agreement was reached on a bespoke 222 metre long pontoon with finger berths for 132 boats – two more than could be catered for by the old moorings. Work is likely to take four to five weeks.
I was glad to meet this morning with Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, the Managing Director of First Great Western and Route MD of Network Rail.
South Devon MPs impressed upon them that it is absolutely essential to the South Devon economy to maintain the main line through Totnes and Newton Abbot and also welcomed the fast tracking of their study into adding resilience across the network.
I would like to thank all the staff who are working in awful conditions to restore our link and I was pleased to receive the following statement from Patrick Hallgate of Network Rail:-
Dawlish, western resilience and route study options
Thank you for attending the meeting we held in Parliament this morning.
It was useful to have the opportunity to discuss the issues we've faced at Dawlish, our response, improving flood resilience and our route option study. The slides that we used are attached. We will also send a refreshed briefing on the top 10 resilience schemes in the next few days.
As we discussed, we are not currently able to give a precise date when the railway through Dawlish will be restored. The first 10 days of work on site are crucial to prevent further damage to the sea wall and to assess the scale of the repairs required. We expect to be able to let you know more definite timings on Wednesday 19 February. The Department for Transport is planning to arrange a conference call on that day for us to provide you with more information.
We have also drafted statements, seen by DfT and First Great Western, to clarify our positions on the route options study and the flooding resilience work we're undertaking.
South West route option study
We are accelerating the study of future lines and investment in the South West, which was already underway. It will consider all reasonable options in light of the storm damage at Dawlish and wider disruption on the rail network. Alternative diversionary routes will be explored as part of this study.
Without preempting the outcome of the study, we recognise the importance of the Dawlish rail route and the socio-economic benefits that the railway brings to the wider community. It is important that we get the views of a wide range of stakeholders, as well as explore the individual engineering challenges in detail, which we will do over the period of the next nine months.
Our immediate priority remains to the get the existing railway at Dawlish and routes into the south west back in place as soon as possible.
Network Rail's flooding resilience work
We are pleased with the Government's statement on the £31m for railway resilience from flooding in Western route. We have already undertaken work on Cowley Bridge, Whiteball tunnel, Chipping Sodbury and better flood prediction systems on the Exe and Culm catchments.
We identified how we might best mitigate flooding at ten of the most disrupted sites after extreme weather in winter 2012/13. The interventions we proposed have clear time frames associated with them between 2013 and 2016, all of which we are on course to meet.
We were always expecting this funding to be confirmed and to have it announced before the end of the financial year is a welcome boost.
These schemes will help mitigate the worst impacts of flooding and allow us to restore the operational railway more quickly when there are problems. Although clearly there are long-term national challenges to resolve with flooding that, given the scale of relentless wet weather, go beyond the railway.
Tourism Award for Dartmouth Tourist Information Centre
Dartmouth's self-funded Tourist Information Centre has won a Silver South West Tourism Excellence Award, highlighting the excellent service it provides visitors to the town and port.
The South West Tourism awards were announced last week (30 January 2014) at Plymouth's Holiday Inn, where 66 different awards were given out following a rigorous judging process in which a record 350 entries were considered from across the South West region which covers Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the Scilly Isles. The team received a handmade engraved glass trophy.
The centre was also recognised in the Devon Tourism Excellence Awards last November, receiving a Silver Award. The centre is staffed by eleven volunteers, three un-paid directors, one full-time member of staff and three part-time staff all of whom were praised for being "charming, professional and knowledgeable".
In the past year the Information Centre has helped over 114,535 visitors, dispensing 22,600 attraction leaflets, booking accommodation, tours and selling thousands of tickets and programmes for Dartmouth's many festivals and events.
The team are thrilled to receive such a prestigious Award. They have worked extremely hard to make the Information Centre a success and Dartmouth is now reaping the rewards of their outstanding commitment.
In the photograph; Left to right: Sponsored by Quality in Tourism, Director Angela Cairns-Sharp, Manager Lesley Turner, Travel writer Sally Shalam, Manager Sue Stone , Director Nigel Way and Volunteer Jean Boyacigiller
Dartmoor National Park
The following article has been written by Bill Hitchins, Chairman, Dartmoor National Park Authority
National Parks, like Dartmoor, have stood the test of time. They were designated as part of the far reaching reforms aimed at 'building a land fit for heros' which also saw the establishment of the National Health Service.
National Parks were given two statutory functions: to conserve their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and to promote public understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. National Park Authorities are the planning authorities for their areas. They do not have any more powers than other planning authorities but operate slightly more restrictive planning policies. In following national policy they seek to ensure that development does not damage the special qualities of the National Park.
Current proposals to relax planning rules and allow the conversion of agricultural barns to open market housing could threaten the very landscape that millions cherish whilst not doing anything to help provide affordable housing or sustain rural communities. Whilst recognising the need for our National Parks to be living landscapes we must ensure that the Authorities charged with overseeing their conservation have the necessary tools to do the job. Creating permitted development rights for agricultural buildings to be converted into open market housing would remove a key tool for conservation. We need to ensure that development is good for our National Parks. The planning system exists to protect that public interest and in the large part has achieved that goal. Relaxing these planning rules could lead to the suburbanisation of the countryside – it is not just the conversion of the buildings but the tracks, driveways, services, gardens, sheds etc that go with this development. Dartmoor National Park Authority estimate that there are approximately 4,000 buildings that could potentially be developed if these changes go through. Our National Parks are an economic and social asset, as well as an environmental resource, we must not lose sight of their intrinsic beauty and importance in the pursuit of economic growth. They are the crown jewels in our 'green and pleasant land' and deserve to be cherished not overdeveloped.
Devon Partnership NHS Trust to hold a series of listening events
England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals is urging people in Devon to tell his inspectors what they think of the services provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust. Their views and experiences will help inspectors decide what to look at when they inspect.
Devon Partnership is one of the first five mental health trusts to be inspected under radical changes being introduced by the Care Quality Commission. The formal inspection by a team including clinical experts and people who have experience of using mental health services, will start on Monday 3 February.
In the first wave of pilot inspections, CQC has given priority to organisations including Devon Partnership that are aspiring to be foundation trusts.
To ensure that the views of people using mental health services are properly represented, inspectors will be on hand to meet people at three events which have been organised by Be Involved Devon the mental health engagement strand of Healthwatch Devon, who help people with mental health issues to have a say.
• Exeter, East and Mid Devon: Thursday 23 January, Exeter CVS, Wat Tyler House, King William Street, Exeter, EX4 6PD
• North Devon and Torridge: Tuesday 28 January, Alexandra Road Resource Centre, 19c Alexandra Road, Barnstaple EX32 8BA
• Teignbridge, South Hams and West Devon: Friday 31 January 2014, Totnes Work Hub, South Devon Rural Housing Association, South Devon House, Babbage Road, Totnes, TQ9 5JA
All meetings start at 1pm. CQC inspectors will be available from 3pm. Be Involved Devon contact details are as follows
Tel: 01392 201218, Email: email@example.com.
5th February National Voter Registration Day
5th February 2014 marked the UK's first National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) The aim of the day was simple - to empower future generations of young people to realise that they have a say and a stake in decisions affecting their future. If you are 16 years old or over you can register to vote even though the 5th February has passed!
Fishing is absolutely vital to our local economy. Brixham has the highest value catch in England, with £27 million worth of fish landed in 2012. In Brixham alone there are 25 beam trawlers and 40 day boats. Every job at sea generates a further 5 on land; the crabbing fleet alone supports 30 families.
There is however an ongoing disagreement over the level of quotas available to the Under-Ten and Over-Ten fleets. Both an integral and indispensable part in the UK fishing industry but there have been concerns over the relative share of Fixed Quota Allocations (FQA) to which each fleet have access.
FQAs, many awarded as compensation for decommissioning, are a tradable commodity with a monetary value, and as such have changed hands numerous times. It has become increasingly difficult to keep track of who holds FQAs so the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), in an effort to improve transparency and the management of the quota in general, has published an up to date register of FQAs.
This register however reveals that 95% of the quota is now controlled by 24 Fishing Organisations, while the Under-Ten fleet fish to a quota based on the remaining FQAs held by DEFRA.
The Under-Ten fleet want the distribution to be more equitable. This is of course a contentious issue and whilst the Under-Ten fleet are disadvantaged by the current arrangements, any change should be negotiated.
If you have any thoughts on the register and how this could be resolved, please send me your views.
The exceptional weather has brought the misery of flooding to many households and businesses across South Devon. Tidal surges and strong winds have added to the pressures and I want to thank the emergency services, the Environment Agency and local councils for their work. Many people have worked tirelessly and in dreadful conditions to avert further problems, including the team from Exjet Ltd, who worked through the night at North Sands and kept Salcombe's sewage system functioning to ensure that damage to property was kept to a minimum. Once the weather has stabilised and the water levels have receded, it will be time to look at what further work needs to be prioritised.
Access to flood insurance is essential. It has, however, become increasingly difficult for those in high risk areas to obtain affordable insurance. I have supported legislation which will remedy this by imposing a cap on the total cost insurers can charge for flood insurance. All householders will still be able to shop around for the best deals on the market, but 500,000 high risk households are expected to benefit by seeing their premiums come down when the scheme is implemented in summer 2015.
The scheme, known as Flood Re, operates by placing a levy on home insurance premiums (averaging at about £10.50 per annum) that is to be used to offset the increased losses insurers are expected to make due to the cost of flood damage. The level of the levy and cap will be linked to council tax banding - Bands A and B will be capped to £210 per annum, rising to £540 for properties in Band G. However, not all property will be included in the Flood Re scheme; in order to avoid incentivising building in high risk areas, houses built after 1 January 2009 will be excluded, along with houses in council tax Band H. Only those businesses based in properties that are primarily a residential property (and therefore pay council tax) are to be included.
Further details on Flood Re can be found in the following helpful links:
Those suffering from certain medical conditions may be interested in the UK Clinical Trials Gateway (UKCTG) where you can find out information about clinical research trials running across the country.
The UKCTG is designed to enable you and your clinician to locate and contact trials that may be of interest to you. Of course this should always be discussed with your doctor first. You can find out more about the UKTCG via the following website
Winter Fuel Payment
You could get between £100 and £300 tax-free to help pay your heating bills if you were born on or before 5 January 1952.
Click here to see if you qualify.
Most payments are made automatically between November and December, but only if you are in receipt of the State Pension or another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction or Child Benefit).
If you are eligible and do not get paid automatically, you will need to make a claim.
Frogmore Post Office
I was delighted to hear that the Post Office is now preparing to introduce a limited service post office counter back at Frogmore Bakery. Terms have been agreed with Monica Pound, who will be operating as a peripatetic postmistress, covering Frogmore, Slapton and possibly other rural locations, the counter will be available for 3 afternoons per week in Frogmore, Monday, Thursday and Friday, commencing in January 2014.
Paul and Fiona Brayton at the Bakery welcome the development and look forward to accommodating the service. But a word of caution; the Post Office reserve the right to cancel what they term 'outreach' services at short notice, so having fought for it, do ensure that the facility is used to its maximum!
Torbay Marine Conservation Zone
I received a letter from George Eustice MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for farming food and the marine environment at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, with regard to the Torbay Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).
I was pleased to receive reassurance from George that the designation of a MCZ does not mean an end to marine activities, but that restrictions vary according to the important eco systems that need protection.
You can read the letter about the Torbay MCZ by clicking the following link
Small Business Saturday
The 7th of December marks Small Business Saturday, an opportunity for us all to support the small businesses which give our constituency its personality. Starting in the USA, Small Business Saturday seeks to celebrate small businesses and encourage community support for them at a crucial time in the shopping calendar.
Totnes is blessed with a shop vacancy rate that is half the national average and I feel this vitality is down to the huge number of small businesses which have made Totnes their home, giving them a real stake in the local economy. Eight of ten businesses in Totnes are independent, a ratio which I applaud. However, these are tough times and I encourage people to observe Small Business Saturday, simply by shopping on your local High Street on the 7th of December, as I will be.
What goes for Totnes also goes for Kingsbridge, Brixham Dartmouth and right across the constituency; small businesses are at the very heart of our communities, often providing a social element in addition to their good value for money. I hope to see our High Streets as vibrant as ever on Small Business Saturday, but do remember that these businesses need our support and custom all year round. A small business is for life, not just for Christmas!
Help with fuel bills
Rising energy bills cause real harm to people in the constituency, which is why I am making sure that my constituents are aware of all the ways in which they can save on their energy bills. If you click on the following link, it will take you to a page on my website where there is more detailed information on this issue.
The History of Parliament. From the Grassroots.
An appeal for volunteers. A ground-breaking heritage project has been launched by The History of Parliament. 'From the Grassroots: An Oral History of Community Politics in Devon' is creating a sound archive of people involved in local politics within the county from the Second World War until the present day. The project will build a rounded picture of Devon's rich political heritage as told by the participants themselves, recording the memories of activists and campaigners, to discover why they became involved in political activism and what impact they had on the democratic process.
Volunteers will be at the hub of the project, and they will have the opportunity to learn new skills in areas such as oral history, writing research articles and digital storytelling. If you want to gain new skills and meet new friends by volunteering in 'From the Grassroots', then please get in touch.
They are also looking for people to take part in oral history recordings. Whether you are a current or retired party activist, local party officer, MP, councillor, a relative of someone involved in local politics, or you know of an ideal oral history candidate, the project team would be delighted to hear from you.
From the Grassroots has been made possible by the support Heritage Lottery Fund, which has awarded the project over £53,000. Over the next 18 months the project will be delivering a variety of outreach events with the aim of engaging people in the political history of Devon. Highlights will include a touring exhibition, website, schools programme, and a series of workshops and talks, so there are plenty of ways to get involved. The new archive of oral histories that volunteers help to record will remain in Devon as valuable research resource in political history for current and future generations.
The project is based at the Devon Heritage Centre, and also has the support of the Houses of Parliament's Public Engagement and Learning team, Devon County Council's Heritage Service, Plymouth University and Plymouth City Council's Arts and Heritage Service.
This Sunday I am honoured to be attending the Remembrance Day parade in Kingsbridge. Since becoming an MP it has been a privilege to meet and represent so many people who have fought on behalf of our country and who are still serving in our armed forces today. My thanks go to the Royal British Legion which continues to provide vital support to our ex-servicemen and their families.
Spectator Awards: Parliamentarians of the Year
I was delighted to be named as one of the joint winners of the Spectator's Parliamentarians of the Year Award
No 10 Policy Board for Businesses
I was recently contacted by Nadhim Zahawi MP who has recently been appointed to the Number 10 Policy Board, with a focus on economic affairs and the Business, Innovation and Skills brief.
Nadhim is an award winning businessman and is aware that the issues businesses face vary enormously. As such, Nadhim is keen to hear directly from businesses to ensure they have the opportunity to feed in to the policy making process.
If any local business wishes to share their views with Nadhim they can do so via the following website
I received a letter this week from the Minister, Gregory Barker after voicing concerns surrounding planning and solar arrays. To read the contents of this letter please click on this link
Fashion with a Difference
On Thursday, the 7th of November, the Royal Seven Stars in Totnes is hosting Fashion with a Difference, a musical evening and fashion show featuring the renowned 'Rowcroft All Stars.'
The event starts at 7.00 pm and is in aid of two fantastic charities, Rowcroft Hospice and Anjara Children's Support Project. I am sure it will be a fantastic evening and to find out more or purchase a ticket please call 01803 210846 or 01803 863245.
Tickets cost £10.00 and this includes a glass of wine. Tickets can also be purchased from the Rowcroft Hospice Shop in Totnes or on the night.
A reminder to have your flu jab this winter!
Flu can be a very serious illness for certain groups of people. I would therefore encourage all those that are over the age of 65 or are in one of the 'at risk' groups to visit their surgeries and get vaccinated.
Help me to end Scam Mail.
We have all received those annoying letters through the post declaring that we have won millions, most people throw them away, however, there are some people who respond. There are thousands of people across the UK who have lost millions of pounds to these scammers, hoping that they will eventually receive the promised prize. Whenever someone responds to one of these scams not only are they losing money but their details are being sold on to other unscrupulous scammers. The problem often escalates.
I am working alongside a number of my Parliamentary colleagues to end this terrible situation.
I have placed a box in my constituency office (above the Totnes Conservative Club) Station Road, Totnes, TQ9 5HW) and I am asking you to bring in any examples that you receive so that we can illustrate quite how wide and far reaching this problem is.
If you are concerned about a friend or family member who has a problem with scam postal mail, please do not hesitate to get in touch.