Totnes Station

This week, I was pleased to welcome the announcement by the Department for Transport that Totnes Railway Station will receive a share of £60m funding to improve access for passengers.

The station will see improvements to accessibility into the station and between platforms – including the installation of lifts. This development will make a difference to those with limited mobility, parents with small children and passengers carrying heaving baggage and I am pleased to see that Totnes was one of the 26 stations selected to benefit.

 

Autumn Statement

On Wednesday, the Chancellor, George Osborne, delivered his Autumn Statement – updating the country on the progress of the economic recovery and setting out the measures which will help local people, families and businesses as well as a much needed £2bn boost for the NHS.

Following the encouraging news throughout the year on rising growth and falling unemployment, the Chancellor was able to report economic forecasts from the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR). When the Government came to office, it inherited the largest deficit on record since the Second World War – 10.2% of GDP; this has now fallen by more than half to 5%.

As a consequence of this, the OBR expect the British economy to grow by 3% this year, with unemployment dropping to 5.4% next year. Meanwhile, forecasts show that meaningful wage growth will pick up next year and grow above inflation for the next five years.

The growing economy means that the Government is able to do more to support families and working people. In April 2015, the tax-free personal allowance will increase to £10,600 – meaning that the average person will be paying £820 a year less in income tax than in 2010. As of 4th December, stamp duty will be reformed to remove the 'slab' system which raised duty on the whole value of the property once the price crossed a threshold by even £1 – this reform will cut stamp duty for 98% of homebuyers. Someone buying a house in Devon will pay £502 less stamp duty on the average home. Additionally, families will benefit from the abolition of Air Passenger Duty for under 12s from May 2015 and for under 16s from 2016 – cutting the price of a family holiday.

Students will also benefit from the Autumn Statement as the Chancellor announced that people under the age of 30 undertaking a postgraduate Masters Degree will be able to get a student loan of £10,000, backed by the government, for the first time.

There were also measures which will be welcomed by local businesses in the Statement. National Insurance Contributions will be abolished for business which employ an apprentice under the age of 25. Further support on business rates were announced – the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief will be extended while the inflation-linked increase in business rates will continue to be capped at 2%. It is terrific news that the £1,000 discount for shops and cafes on our high streets will increase to £1,500.

It is only because the economy is recovering strongly that the Government has been able to provide this further support alongside reducing the deficit and helping businesses to grow. Further tax cuts for families and investment in local services can only be guaranteed if we have a strong economy and I will continue to make the case for us to stick our economic plan.

AT A GLANCE

Support for families and working people

  •  An increase in the tax-free personal allowance to £10,600, meaning that the average person will be paying £820 a year less in income tax since 2010.
  •  From 4 December, stamp duty will be reformed to remove the slab system and cut the tax for 98% of homebuyers. Someone buying a house in Devon will pay £502 less stamp duty on average.
  •  From May, Air Passenger Duty with be abolished for under 12s and from 2016 it will be abolished for under 16s – cutting the price of a family holiday.
  •  People under the age of 30 undertaking a postgraduate masters degree will be able to get a student loan of £10,000 backed by the government, for the first time.

Support for local businesses

  •  National Insurance Contributions will be abolished for employers who employ an apprentice under the age of 25.
  •  The inflation-linked increase in business rates will continue to be capped at 2%.
  •  The doubling of Small Business Rate Relief will be extended.
  •  The £1,000 discount for shops and cafes on the high street will increase to £1,500.
  •  The R&D tax credit for SMEs will be increased to 230%.

 

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP Wins Backbencher of the Year at the Spectator Awards

I was delighted to be named Backbencher of the Year at the Spectator Awards. We need MPs with the vision and ambition to work in Government but we also need others to hold them to account. I am so proud to have received this accolade and I would like to thank all my constituents and colleagues who have supported me in chairing the Health Committee.

This was the 27th year of The Spectator's Awards and the event took place at the Savoy Hotel on Thursday 27th of November. You can find out more about the Spectator Awards here.

 

Government funding to support community transport services.

Community bus services are a vital part of our community, providing transport for people who do not have access to conventional public transport or who are unable to use it, for example for health or mobility reasons. The Department of Transport has announced that there will be £25 million of new support to provide hundreds of voluntary community transport providers with new minibuses and will give them the opportunity to get a new minibus to expand, or to replace an old one.

Any community transport provider will be able to bid for one vehicle, with smaller operators and those in rural or isolated areas favoured.

Further details on the bidding process and criteria for community transport operators will be made available on the Department for Transport's website shortly.

 

Berry Head Cliff Rescue Team

Many people across this community fought long and hard against the closure of Brixham Coastguard. I spoke in the Commons and held many meetings with the Transport Minister and Maritime and Coastguard Agency but sadly the reorganisation went ahead albeit with strong reassurances given about maintaining the level of service to protect coastal communities, our fishermen and visitors.

It was all the more shocking to hear of a proposal to relocate the Berry Head Cliff Rescue Team (CRT) to the Yalberton Industrial Estate and thank you to those of you who have contacted me with your concerns on this matter. I am totally opposed to such a move and have discussed this with the Director of Maritime Operations at the MCA. I am glad to say that he has confirmed that he will now ask the Regional Management Team to completely re-assess the options for the future location of the Berry Head CRT.

He has also confirmed that the team will remain in its current location until March 2015 and that this will properly take into account the need to maintain response times. The Chief Coastguard will be visiting to meet with representatives of the Berry Head CRT to discuss their concerns.

Please rest assured, that as your MP, I will continue to take a close interest in the revised proposals as they emerge. Thank you to all the CRT volunteers for their extraordinary work, often in treacherous conditions along one of the busiest stretches of our coast for rescue operations.

 

More funding for local charities

I was delighted to welcome the People's Health Trust to Parliament, to discuss their work allocating funding from the Health Lottery across South Devon. The Trust have funded several projects and grants. This year, they have made £35,000 available to support The Lupton Trust  for their 'Apple Soup' project, which is transforming an overgrown four-acre orchard into a community resource to help tackle social isolation, unemployment and support recovery from mental health issues. The Trust have also provided a grant of £44,000 for the 'Let's Get Cooking' project – teaching children to enjoy cooking skills in Paignton, Brixham and Ivybridge.

The grants provided by the Trust can make an immense difference in helping local charities to expand and maintain their services and I was keen to discuss how more charities in South Devon can benefit from this funding. The next round of applications for grants opens next month and I will publish more information on how to apply shortly.

 

Update on the Totnes area sending support to Sierra Leone: organization of shipment from Falmouth to Freetown.

324 boxes of hygiene and food supplies were delivered to the docks at Falmouth on Monday. (November 24th) People of all ages, families, workplaces, schools, businesses, churches, meditation centres, health practices got together to make up boxes of the urgently requested items. Donation stations at Morrisons and GreenLife brought a deluge of individual items, which were all packed and stacked – and then loaded by a human chain of volunteers into a large removal can. Friends' networks picked up the initiative and contributions came in as far away as Ivybridge, Saltash and Paignton.

With two local women as catalyst for the initiation and organization of the effort, and their links into organisations in Freetown in Sierra Leone, a fine web of words and caring radiated out, and many, many people were more than glad to do some small PRACTICAL thing to contribute to the lives of families weathering the realities of the ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. A&P Shipping welcomed and facilitated the loading of the some 2 tons of supplies onto the Gypsom Centennial cargo ship that sails to Freetown at the end of this week.

The goods will be distributed via churches mosques and local communities with particular need direct to families, particularly vulnerable people and orphan support locations. Kind cash donations that came in too supported extra boxes of supplies as well as enabling the possibility of giving financial support for vehicles and petrol in Freetown to facilitate effective distribution.

Continuing support is needed.

The third street collection for medical support – for the on-the-ground work of the health personnel of Médecins Sans Frontières will be held on market days in Totnes on December 4th and 5th. Please do all you can to support this. Every penny adds up significantly and is worth its weight in gold in the medical and protection support it can provide. For more information email Jill Lewis at jlewis@hampshire.edu or ring Jill 01803 862112 or Shirley Prendergast 01803 847633/ 07791276150

 

Parking in Torbay

Many may not know of the off peak parking permit that is valid from 3pm to 10am and covers use in all Torbay Council car parks except pay on exit, i.e. The Harbour and Lower Union Lane. This is only £50 per year! For more information click here

 

 

Torbay Tourism and Retail BID

There will be a special meeting hosted by Brixham Chamber at the Berry Head Hotel on Wed 19th November at 6.30pm to outline the proposed Torbay Tourism and Retail BID and provide an update on the process so far. This meeting is open to ALL businesses, Chamber members and non-chamber members.

Mo Aswat and Carolyn Custerson will make a full presentation with a question and answer session to follow.

If you are involved in the retail, hospitality, accommodation or any other tourist related sector, you should be at this meeting to find out how it may affect your business.

 

Good News- Unemployment Figures Dropping.

More people in the constituency are continuing to find work. Unemployment in the Totnes constituency is now down a fantastic 58% since the general election and youth unemployment has now dropped by an amazing 62%.  I am delighted that there is clear evidence that our growing economy is providing more jobs for local people.

 

Health Committee announce inquiry into end of life care

In June 2014 the Department of Health announced a new approach for those caring for dying people in England during the last days of their life. The approach focuses on achieving five Priorities of Care that should be applied whenever and wherever someone is dying, whether in hospital, a hospice, their own home or another location.

The Health Committee has decided to take a broader look at the issue of Palliative and End of Life Care. They will examine the way that health and social care services, and the voluntary and community sector, support people who are likely to die within 12 months, what opportunities exist for better integration and for improving care quality, and the experience of those caring for people at the end of life.

The Committee will also review the definitions of, and distinctions between, 'palliative' and 'end of life' care to examine how to provide more effective targeting of resources and management of interventions necessary to bring about service change.

The inquiry will examine palliative and end of life care for adults, including the frail elderly, and children and young people.

Deadline for submissions is 12 noon, Monday 15 December 2014. Submit written evidence to the inquiry via this link

 

National Adoption Week 3-9th November 2014

Since its launch in 1997, National Adoption Week has gone from strength to strength, reaching people across the UK raising awareness about adoption.

Children who often wait the longest to be adopted are sibling groups, children with disabilities, children aged 5 and over and children from some black and minority ethnic backgrounds and the purpose of the Adoption Week is to encourage people to think about, and hopefully come forward, to adopt these children and give them a loving home. It is also a chance to celebrate the work and dedication of adopters up and down the country who are transforming the lives of thousands of children for ever.

Some of the facts and myths about adoption can be found on the following website

 

Dartmouth's Great War Fallen

A new website has been launched commemorating the men of Dartmouth and surrounding areas who died serving their country in the First World War.

So far 196 men have been identified on the website. On the centenary of the death of each man, an article will be published setting out research on his life, his place in the community, his service, and the circumstances of his death. Over the next five years, this rolling programme of commemoration is intended to build a picture of the impact of the Great War on the community of Dartmouth, over the same timescale as the community of Dartmouth itself experienced the war.

By way of illustration, on the 1st November 1914 eight Dartmouth men were killed serving on HMS Monmouth in the Battle of Coronel. On the 1st November 2014 the website will publish the individual story of each of these eight men, together with a general article on the Battle of Coronel - the build-up, the action, and the aftermath - with special reference to the role played by HMS Monmouth.

 

Devon County Council's Social Care

Devon County Council is responsible for the provision of social care services for those who are eligible for them. Social care helps people who are in need of support due to illness, disability, age, or poverty. This could be additional help after an operation, assistance finding appropriate care, help for carers, helping children and families, amongst other services.

Care and support is something that nearly everyone will experience at some point in their lives. Even if you do not need care yourself, you will probably know a family member or friend who does. Many more of us will need care in the future and will need to seek information and advice, often at a time of crisis

To help Devon County Council support you in navigating these difficult times, or plan for the future, they want to design effective services to access information and advice, to keep up with current and future demands.

Devon County Council are asking people to fill in a questionnaire that will only take a few minutes to complete, and can be completed whether or not you currently use care services. The questionnaire is about your access to information and advice around care and support.

Healthwatch Devon can provide the survey in alternative formats.  The closing date for responses is 5 December

 

The TQ9 Rehab Group

The TQ9 Rehab Group in Totnes offers an exercise and  general support programme for patients of the Leatside and Catherine's House surgeries who are suffering from chronic respiratory problems. Those who would like to join the group should request their respective surgeries to give them the necessary contact details.

 

 

 

Any Questions

On Friday 10th October I was on the panel of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions along with Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey MP, Caroline Flint MP who holds the shadow Energy brief for Labour, Paul Nuttall MEP the Deputy Leader of UKIP. If you would like to listen to the programme, click here.

 

 

 

 

Devon County Council's Highways and Traffic Management service

 

 

 

Over the three years 2014 to 2017, Devon County Council's Highways and Traffic Management service needs to make large savings in its budget.

Around £18.5 million has already been cut from the highways revenue budget since 2009, but it is vitally important that they can find different, more cost-effective ways of doing things and that non-essential work is stopped so that they can maintain a safe and effective highway network.

To help meet their 2015/16 budget reduction target of £3.4 million they are considering a number of options which they hope will help them reach this target, while still allowing them to maintain and carry out the essential work required on Devon's road network. They will continue to reduce costs of management and support services, as well as raising fees and charges to reduce the impact on services.

A consultation begins on 3rd October 2014 to find out what the people of Devon and a range of stakeholders think about the range of proposals, what their impact might be and what DCC can do to reduce the impact. The consultation ends on 5th December 2014.

The proposals

  • Gritting and snow clearing fleet – To reduce the number of vehicles in the second fleet, which is used to respond to severe winter weather.
  • Gritting and snow clearing routes – To review the criteria determining which routes are treated with salt during close to or freezing conditions.
  • Grit bins – That Devon County Council no longer maintains or restocks grit bins.
  • Picnic sites – To close the four picnic sites on the A361/A39.
  • Grass cutting – To only fund grass cutting to maintain visibility at junctions and on the inside of bends.
  • Weed treatment – That the Council no longer fund the targeted weed spraying and treatment of noxious weeds.
  • Parish Lengthsmen Service – To reduce the number of Lengthsmen and make cleaning and drainage clearance their only duty.
  • Neighbourhood Highway Team – Reducing frontline staff by 20%

To contribute to the consultation please click here

 

Postal and Proxy Votes

The Party Conferences are coming to an end and everyone is starting to gear up towards the Election next May. Now is the time to ensure that you have registered for a postal or proxy vote and you can do this by downloading the appropriate form.

If you pay your council tax to South Hams District Council and want to apply for a postal or proxy vote click here

If you pay your council tax to the Torbay Council and want to apply for a postal or proxy vote click here

 

 

An Open Letter to Constituents (5th September 2014)

It is just over a year since I set out why I could not support military action against the Assad regime in Syria. I continue to feel that arming and intervening at that time on behalf of a divided opposition, also comprising extremist elements and without the support of regional powers, would have drawn us into a wider conflict viewed as Western aggressors. British arms would by now have been in the hands of the mass murderers of 'Islamic State'.Through the deliberate use of grotesque acts of barbarity and terror, they have advanced rapidly beyond Syria's borders, seeking to establish their dystopian vision of a 'caliphate' across the region.

The scale and savagery of their atrocities are profoundly disturbing and IS now directly threatens our own national security as well as key allies.

It is sickening that someone from Britain was responsible for the obscene and cowardly murders of two American hostages and that an estimated 500 more have been drawn to travel from this country to commit further horrific crimes. We cannot ignore the fact that this conflict is knocking at our own door.

In my view, the Prime Minister is right to focus on the threat those individuals and their vile ideology pose to all of us in Britain. 69 people have been arrested for terror offences since their return to the UK and the strongest possible action will be taken against anyone planning to join IS. The UK has also led efforts at the UN to block the flow of finance to IS and strongly opposed the ransom payments that lead only to more hostage taking and fund these murderers.

Our continuing focus is also on humanitarian aid, including 17 air drops by the Royal Air Force which have brought food, water and tents to desperate communities under siege and we have pledged £23 million of further assistance.

Inevitably the question arises as to whether we should take stronger action, including joining the US in direct military action such as air strikes. The Prime Minister has set out the clear conditions that would have to be met before any such action, including the involvement and support of other regional powers and a direct request from the legitimate government of Iraq as well as Kurdish leaders.

We are witnessing an unimaginable evil spreading rapidly across Northern Iraq; crucifixions, beheadings, grotesque levels of sexual violence, even evidence of women and children buried alive. If asked for my support for the Prime Minister to take further action to protect Christian, Yazidi and other minorities from genocide I believe it would be right to do so.

Dialogue and peaceful solutions are better than conflict but it is clear that there is no possibility of negotiation or dialogue with the warped and murderous leadership or ideals of IS, an organisation which now directly threatens our national interest and can only be confronted by decisive international force.

Whilst I plan to listen carefully to the Prime Minister's Statement and the debate following the NATO summit and to your views, I feel that there is a strong case to support air strikes if they are judged to be necessary in our national interest. I am interested to know whether you agree.

I realise this is a complex situation and a simple Yes or No response will not be appropriate, but I would ask that should you wish to make me aware of your views that you respond using the following links to indicate your overall position, with SUPPORT or UNDECIDED or OPPOSE in the subject line as this will enable me to gauge the strength of feeling on this issue.

Please do not forget to include your full address as I am only able to take into account views of my constituents. If you are not a constituent may I suggest that you contact your own Member of Parliament.

 

Childcare Expansion

I am delighted that more children will now be able to benefit from 15 hours per week of free early education. From this month the scheme has been extended to help two year olds from lower income families, with 2,700 children in Devon set to benefit.

We need to make sure that less advantaged children can benefit from early years education to give them the best start to school life.

To find out more about this and to see if you are entitled please visit the following website

Childcare costs are a real struggle when it comes to the cost of living and I am glad this has been recognised. The Government now meets up to 70% of childcare costs for low and middle income families via tax credits. I look forward to the introduction of tax free childcare from Autumn next year, which will see eligible families receive up to £2,000 towards each child's childcare costs.

To find out more information about help with childcare costs, either from your employer or while you study please visit the following website

 

South Hams District Council Mobile Website

South Hams District Council services are now available in the palm of your hand after the launch of a new mobile website

With a growing percentage of people choosing to access the council's website using their smartphone, the local authority designed a new mobile version to make it easier and quicker to find services.

You can now buy a parking ticket, report an incident of dog fouling or even take a photo and send it to them – all via your smartphone.

There is no app to download, simply visit www.southhams.gov.uk using a smartphone.

The design reflects the services used most frequently and includes apps which allow you to pay online or report information.

 

South West Coast Path Association

I am pleased to announce that the South West Coast Path Association has successfully secured a £1 million pound investment from the Coastal Communities Fund. After the storms at the beginning of 2014, 32 sections of the path need urgent repairs. Due to the charity's success in obtaining this money the repairs can be carried out, and around 790 jobs in the region will be created and protected.

Alistair Handyside, who leads the Coast Path management, spoke of how the Coast Path is our region's largest tourist attraction, attracting 8.6 million people a year. As the path has had to be diverted 50 times in the past year rather than the expected average of 5, the repairs will help to ensure the region continues to attract high levels of tourism, and some of the money secured will be used by the National Trust to deliver events that will enhance the way that people enjoy the coastline.

However, urgent repairs and improvements still need funding, especially between Bantham and Dartmouth. The South West Coast Path Association has a target of £20,000 to be raised from businesses and communities. If you want to get involved you can simply donate at www.justgiving.com/SouthHamsAppeal, or get involved with a fundraising event such as the Great South West Walks from the 20th - 28th September, or the Thurlestone Golf Day on the 3rd October.

 

Secretary of State decides not to call-in Solar Farm planning application at Coombeshead

I was very disappointed when I received the following correspondence from Kris Hopkins, Minister for Local Government to tell me that the Secretary of State has decided not to call in the Coombeshead Solar Farm application.

 

Thank you for your letter of 8 May requesting the Secretary of State to call in the above planning application.

We remain committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believe that planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible. The call-in policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.

In deciding whether to call in this application, I have considered my policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead me to conclude, in my opinion that the application should be called in. I am satisfied that the application should be determined at local level.

I appreciate that this is not the preferred outcome for you and your constituents. However, it is now for South Hams District Council to determine the application and a copy of our letter to the Council is attached for your information.

The following is a copy of the letter sent to South Hams District Council.

Town and Country Planning Act 1990

Application for the installation of up to 45,000 ground mounted solar pv panels, erection of ancillary buildings and structures and access tracks at Coombeshead Farm, Diptford, nr Totnes, Devon.

I refer to the above application.

The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against call-in policy, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement by Nick Boles on 26th October 2012. The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.

In deciding whether to call in this application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in. The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by South Hams District Council.

In considering whether to exercise the discretion to call in this application, the Secretary of State has not considered the matter of whether this application is EIA Development for the purpose of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. South Hams District Council is responsible for considering whether these Regulations apply to this proposed development and, if so, for ensuring that the requirements of the Regulations are complied with.

The Article 25 Direction issued pursuant to the Secretary of State's letter of 14th May 2014 is hereby withdrawn.


RideLondon

Storm Bertha forced Box and Leith Hills to be closed, so cycled 86 miles on the tandem for MIND charity in 5:39:43!!

A big "Thank You" to everyone who sponsored me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Helena Seager from South Brent (currently about to start her final year at University) has taken the brave decision to have her long hair cut off and her head completely shaved to raise funds for The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. This is a cause close to her heart having lost two grandparents to this terrible disease. If you would like to support this young person please visit her Just Giving page.

 

 

 

Simon Stevens visits Dartmouth

I was delighted to welcome the Chief Executive of NHS England, Mr Simon Stevens, to the constituency after inviting him to come to discuss the importance of community hospitals and the voluntary sector to the NHS.

I arranged for a number of meetings to be held at Dartmouth Community Hospital, hosted by Matron Nadine Brooks. The morning started with a tour of the hospital, followed by meetings with local Matrons, commissioners and representatives from Devon's Leagues of Friends about the value of community hospitals and how they could expand their role.

Mr Stevens heard how, in rural areas, community hospitals are key as long distances and weak transport links increase the need for people to be able to access excellent care as close to their own homes as possible.

Mr Stevens spoke about the need to use community hospitals fully and effectively and took away several concerns raised both locally and nationally around the issues of inpatient beds, increasing access to clinics and services such as investigations and minor injuries units, ownership and the difficulties with recruitment.

Powerful representations were made to Mr Stevens from voluntary groups representing a range of bodies supporting people across South Devon about the value they add to help keep vulnerable people living well at home. He also heard about the rising demand on their services and increasing complexity of issues at a time when access to long term funding is under great pressure.

This was an opportunity to discuss the challenges faced by local charities when applying for NHS and social care funding and the need for these processes to be simplified. For small local groups, Mr Stevens and local commissions from across health and social care heard that the pressure and complexity of repeated grant applications is becoming an intolerable burden with valuable volunteers' time taken up trying to compete with national organisations which may have no local presence in South Devon. The difficulty in quantifying the value added by volunteers was acknowledged as well as the impact that loss of voluntary sector partners would have not just on individuals but in adding costs to the wider NHS and social care.

Suggestions for different commissioning strategies for voluntary groups were discussed as well as the advantages of nurturing voluntary organisations and reducing bureaucracy and keeping them flexibility to meet local needs. Representatives from the Clinical Commissioning Groups stressed that they recognise the value of the voluntary sector and are trying to utilise their experience. Staff from the Care Trusts also noted that they could not do without the support from the various Leagues of Friends.

I am so pleased that Simon Stevens came to visit Dartmouth to hear about the importance of community hospitals and the voluntary sector to Devon. He heard a clear and consistent message about the importance of stable core funding for the work of the voluntary sector. NHS and social care commissioners need to make it easier for these vital groups to apply for grants so that the funds go to those who are actually delivering the services in our local communities. It is evident that a small amount of money in the voluntary sector goes a very long way. I would like to thank all our volunteers for the extraordinary service they give both to individuals and to our communities.

The following volunteers met with Mr Stevens and myself:

 

 

 

Consultation on the implementing of regulations for the Flood Re Scheme has been launched

These regulations will ensure that domestic property insurance continues to be widely available and affordable in areas of high flood risk without placing unsustainable costs on wider policy holders or the taxpayer. The Flood Reinsurance Scheme (Flood Re) will be established as a not for profit, industry run and managed scheme and will be directly accountable to Parliament for the day to day operation of the scheme

Flood Re will provide transitional support to households at flood risk over a 25 year period as part of a gradual transition towards more risk-reflective prices; this will provide time for choices to be made and risk management action to be taken.

Regulations are to be introduced to enable the insurance industry to implement Flood Re next year. The proposed regulations will cover the legal framework around the Flood Re Scheme, its funding and its administration.

Groups, individuals and businesses at flood risk, insurance industry participants and property and mortgage sector participants are advised to respond to this consultation.

 

1 World-Kids

1World-Kids.Com a children's guide to climate change and the world...

1World-Kids is a platform for social change and an opportunity to teach our kids more about the world and the impact our lives have upon it. With greater understanding children will have an opportunity to live lives where they respect people, place and planet.

You can sign up for their free monthly newsletter, look out for facts packs, competitions and more.

Become a 1World-Kids friend and donate and see your name on the friends pages, whatever you do, do something good.

Find out more by logging onto their website

 

 

Head Up, Heart Strong

One in five women experience mental health problems in their pregnancy and beyond. A small number of these will experience a mental health crisis.

Head Up Heart Strong is a film about recovery from perinatal mental health problems, starring 6 women from Devon and Torbay. From Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Head Up, Heart Strong captures the stories of six incredible women who have experienced the most extreme episodes of perinatal depression and post-partum psychosis and who have been supported by Perinatal Mental Health Service.

These stories have been told so that in sharing them people can gain a deeper understanding and bring hope to those who most need it.

 

Rotherfold

In 2011 a public meeting was held to discuss the possibility of improving the amenity, environment and facilities of the Rotherfold Square at the top end of Totnes for the benefit of the local community, local business and visitors and in approximately two weeks the work is due to start. The  image was used as a basis for the consultation with the local  community; do keep your eye out for the transformation!

 

 

European Health Insurance Cards.

The summer holidays are approaching and many of you will be preparing for holidays in Europe and applications for the European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) rise significantly.

Your EHIC should be free and if you are being asked to pay you are not on the official EHIC website. Further information, including how to apply can be found at www.gov.uk/european-health-insurance-card or by calling 0300 3301350

If you already been affected by this issue the government has set up a webpage so that you can report a misleading website www.gov.uk/misleadingwebsites

 

Check for signs of skin cancer - it is treatable if detected early on

Now the beautiful weather is with us, many take to the beaches and usually in our bags is a tube of sun screen, but care needs to be taken when working in the garden, cycling and whenever you are undertaking an outdoor activity.

There is a new campaign in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset that aims to raise awareness of skin cancer by being alert to changes in your skin in addition to changes in moles.

The key message is if you are not wearing sun protection while you are outside you are exposed and you increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

Spotting skin cancer early

  •  A new growth or sore that won't heal
  •  A spot mole or sore that itches or hurts
  •  A mole or growth that bleeds, crusts or scabs

You're more likely to get it if you have:

  •  Lots of moles or freckles
  •  Fair skin that burns easily
  •  Red or fair hair
  •  Light coloured eyes
  •  History of sunburn
  •  Personal/family history of skin cancer

For more information on the signs of skin cancer, visit www.nhs.uk/skincancer.

 

Health Select Committee

I am delighted to have been elected by fellow MPs to Chair the House of Commons Health Select Committee. I am so grateful to all those who have sent such kind messages of support. Whilst this will be a huge commitment, it will also be an opportunity to highlight so many of the health and social care issues raised with me from across the constituency and make sure that the voice of South Devon is fully represented in Westminster.

Click here to watch the announcement and Sarah's response

 

 

 

 

The Review of Polling Districts and Polling Places by Torbay Council

Torbay Council is conducting a general review of polling districts, polling places and polling stations within the Torbay Constituency and the part of the Totnes Constituency within the South Hams District Council area. Full details of which are available on the Council's website

 

 

 

 

Malborough's Scarecrow Trail

Malborough's Scarecrow Trail was a great success and made a profit of £1612 to be shared between Malborough Village Hall and All Saints Church Malborough. The Judges' best scarecrow was Sir Francis Drake and the Judges' favourite scarecrow was "Women who changed the world".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resignation of Stephen Dorrell

Stephen Dorrell MP, has been an outstanding chair of the Health Select Committee; I am sorry to hear that he is standing down from this role with immediate effect. Over the past four years, under Stephen's leadership, the cross Party Select Committee has impartially and effectively scrutinised government policy and held many outside institutions to account.

Stephen has never shrunk from his role in leading challenging inquiries on behalf of the public.

 

 

 

Ride London

I have been training for Ride London and have added two more routes to my cycle blog, which you can view here.  Both are suitable for cyclists wanting to come to Devon by train.  Devon miles count double!  Try this one from Dartmoor to Dartmouth, taking in the English Riviera for 68 miles of bluebells and blue sea.

 

 

 

The Shark Trust

The Shark Trust has launched its No Limits? campaign in response to the crisis posed by unlimited and escalating shark fishing pressure. With no catch limits set for many shark species, landings have soared over the past decade, placing huge pressure on shark populations. The Trust's No Limits? campaign highlights the urgent need to introduce science-based catch limits for Blue Sharks, Shortfin Mako, Tope, smoothhounds and catsharks – species accounting for over 97% of reported Atlantic shark landings.

No Limits? appeals to you to support the campaign by signing the online petition urging governments to act before it's too late, and today's commercial shark species follow other previously abundant Atlantic shark stocks into collapse.

 

South Devon Business supports a Great British Sucess Story

There has been another sharp drop in unemployment both in the Totnes constituency and across the country as a whole. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that unemployment in our area of South Devon dropped by over a third (34%) since this time last year and by 15% over the past month.

The strength of these figures are particularly welcome as they include a fall in youth unemployment, which decreased by 30% in the past year and by 14% in the past month.

I am delighted that our area is following the national trend, which has seen 1.5 million more people in work since the General Election. Unemployment is now at a five-year low and the number of people in work is the highest since records began in 1971.

While in Parliament I have continued to support the Government's plan to create jobs and build a strong economy. These figures, along with economic growth which makes the UK the fastest growing economy in the developed world, show that the plan is working.

The national economic success story has been achieved in large part by policies which encourage apprenticeships and jobs and by the businesses that give opportunities to young people.

Locally, I am working with South Devon College to organise a Careers and Skills Fair

On Friday 6th June at the South West Energy Centre from 10.00am-12noon there will be a chance for employers to discuss the wide ranging issues on developing the skills needed to grow and sustain businesses across the region as well as receiving information on funding and grants. Please click here to register

To coincide and celebrate the official opening of the South West Energy Centre, there will be a Careers and Skills Week at the Centre, the week commencing Monday 9th June. During this week there will be a wide range of interactive activities taking place, ranging from employer talks, apprentice skills showcases, displays and master classes.

On the Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of that week there will be a carousel of activities for young people to participate in, including:

·Meeting with employers to gain an insight into a diverse range of industries·Discover a wide range of careers and apprenticeship programmes·Learn what it takes to secure employment in what can be a challenging marketplace·Hear first-hand from employers what qualities they are looking for and how to stand our from the crowd·Talk to current apprentices to find out what it is like to earn while you learn

On each of these days there are 2 x 2 hours sessions running from 10.00- 12.00 or 13.- 15.00

For more information on these sessions please contact Farrah Goodwin on 01803 540809 or email Farrah.Goodwin@southdevon.ac.uk

My thanks to Barclays Bank for their sponsorship of these events and to Torbay Development Agency for their support.


Flood Support

I know many are still recovering from the severe weather we experienced earlier in the year and I want to ensure that everyone is aware of the government financial support schemes that are on offer to those adversely affected.

The following link will take you through to a summary guide of all the schemes that are being supported by government funding and I would urge all eligible businesses and individuals to apply for any pertinent schemes.

 

Littlefootprints Sands Memorial Garden

On Sunday the 1st of June at 2.00 pm South Devon Sands, a local branch of the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, will open the Littlefootprints Sands Memorial Garden at the Follaton Arboretum in Totnes.

Work began on the garden some months ago and the idea behind it was to create a baby memorial garden for those who have suffered the tragic loss of a child. The land was kindly donated by South Hams District Council. There will be remembrance events held at the garden several times a year.

 

 

Coombeshead Solar Planning Application.

Today, South Hams District Council's Development Management Committee were minded to approve the planning application by AEE Renewables to install 45,000 ground mounted solar pv panels, near Diptford.

The Secretary of State has now exercised his powers under Article 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) to direct the Council not to grant permission on this application without specific authorisation. This direction has been issued to enable him to consider whether he should direct under Section77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that the application should be referred to him for determination. This direction does not, of course prevent the Council from considering the application, forming a view as to the merits, or, if they are so minded, refusing permission.

 

Consultation on changes to financial support for solar PV

This week, the Government announced the launch of a consultation on proposals to close the Renewables Obligation for large scale solar farms from April 2015. If the plans are approved, developers will no longer to receive Renewable Obligation Certificates for solar farms with a capacity greater than 5MW – removing their incentive to build large scale developments. This would mean that developments such as the proposed Coombeshead Farm solar plant near Diptford which would produce 7.86MW over 23.4 hectares would be ineligible to receive the Certificates.

I welcome the announcement as I believe that the Government should encourage community energy solar developments on roof tops rather than larger industrial scale developments. This will allow us to continue increasing the percentage of renewables in the UK's energy mix while ensuring that our natural environment is protected.

Also this week, I wrote to Nick Boles – the Planning Minister – asking him to consider calling in the planning application for the proposal at Coombeshead Farm near Diptford. This of course would only be put forward for consideration should the application be approved by SHDC's Development Management Committee.

The strength of local feeling on this development has been made clear – many people have written to me directly and over 200 people have submitted objecti

Click here to see me being interviewed by Women2Win

 

Click  to listen to BBC Radio 4 Today programme interviewing Sarah and discussing "Do Westminster Primaries Work?"

 

 

 


06 DEC 2014

Christmas Fayre

I was pleased to be at the Manor Inn in Galmpton today to open their first Christmas Fayre, which was raising money for the Children's Hospice South West. Thank you so much to Chris and Jon for inviting me along.


05 DEC 2014

Electronic Totnes Pound

I was thrilled to visit Gazebo in Totnes this afternoon to use the electronic Totnes Pound and I paid for a beautiful Christmas decoration by text! It is so easy to do and you can find out more...


05 DEC 2014

South Devon Link Road

Following on from my surgery I went along to see how the work is going on the South Devon Link Road. It was great to meet Garry, the Senior Operations Manager on site at the Penn Inn flyover. They are doing an amazing job and on...



16 DEC 2014

Health Select Committee

The Health Select Committee met today for the 2014 accountability hearing with the Care Quality Commission To watch the meeting click here


11 DEC 2014

Fishing Industry

Sarah Wollaston (Totnes, Conservative) Click here to watch Sarah speak It is a pleasure to follow that eloquent contribution from Mr Wright. Like others, I should like to start by paying tribute to all those fishermen who put their lives on the line to put food on the nation's plate. No one knows...


09 DEC 2014

Patient Safety and Medical Innovation

Sarah Wollaston (Totnes, Conservative) Click here to watch Sarah speak Like books, one should never judge a Bill by its cover. Later this week, the Medical Innovation Bill reaches Report stage in the House of Lords, but I would like to demonstrate that it is fundamentally flawed in its premise, it...


09 DEC 2014

Health Select Committee

The Health Select Committee met today, the subject was Public expenditure on Health and Social Care To watch the meeting click here


03 DEC 2014

Autumn Statement

Sarah Wollaston (Totnes, Conservative) I warmly thank the Chancellor for investing the extra billions of pounds in our NHS. There is not only extra revenue, but a transformation fund that will transform the NHS into the service that we need for the future. Does he share my concern, however,...





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Sarah's Personal Blog

Click here for Sarah's full blog and to leave comments

Fair Representation for England 18th December 2014

This week, William Hague set out the options to ensure fair representation for England following the agreement to devolve greater powers to Scotland. Whilst 'English Votes for English Laws' is rarely top of the priority list, the subject regularly comes up at my open meetings as people are rightly annoyed that Scottish Labour MPs regularly vote on issues which have no effect whatsoever on their own constituents. Imagine the fuss if the situation was reversed! https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/387598/implications_of_devolution_for_england_accessible.pdf

Following the Scottish independence referendum, the transfer of additional powers to Scotland will significantly worsen this injustice to English voters.

In the Houses of Commons, William Hague set out the three options put forward by the Conservative Party:

1. Bills that deal with English matters could only be able to be voted upon by English MPs at all legislative stages.

2. Bills that deal with English matters could be voted upon by all MPs at Second and Third Readings but only by English MPs at Committee and Report Stages.

3. There would be the creation of a new legislative stage in between Report Stage and Third Reading at which English MPs could veto and approve legislation which deals only with English matters.

I am pleased that all three options look to address the 'English question' within Parliament rather than proposing that another raft of structures and politicians be created. The idea of regional assemblies was rejected during a 2004 referendum in the North-East and I have yet to meet a constituent who asks me to campaign for more politicians.

I'm keen to hear your views.

The first proposal has the advantage that it would not add extra stages to the already lengthy legislative process. Although it is true that some parts of bills may apply to devolved nations but not others, in reality Labour oppose this as it would reduce their ability to push through unpopular, burdensome and expensive legislation should they ever return to power. The SNP have long taken the view that they should not vote on English only legislation and rarely do so, thus demonstrating that it is not the complicated morass wrongly claimed by Labour.

This is about fairness to England.

Update on meeting with Planning Minister Kris Hopkins 14th December 2014

Last week, I met with Kris Hopkins – Minister from the Department for Communities and Local Government – to discuss challenges for South Hams District Council (SHDC) with solar and wind farm planning policy.In recent years, our area has seen a significant increase in the number of applications. SHDC has either approved or is currently processing applications for solar farms covering 305 acres – the equivalent of 170 football pitches. I have received a large number of representations on this from people across South Devon who are concerned about the impact that these development have on the countryside. The South Hams is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and I am concerned that overdevelopment with vast industrialised solar arrays will impact on vital tourism and the land we need to feed the nation.

This year, the Government announced reforms to the subsidies provided to developers to remove Renewable Obligation Certificates from solar farm developments over the size of 5MW – removing the incentive for large solar farms to be built. While this news is welcome, there are concerns that this will lead to a large increase in applications in the short term, as developers seek to beat the 1 April cut off for subsidy.

At the meeting we discussed some of the problems that the Council faces when solar and wind farm applications come in. Developers have the right to appeal if applications are rejected and the associated costs for the Council can be high if their decision is then overturned. This can leave Councils with a difficult decision when rejecting an application as they need to sum up the risk to council tax-payers money if their decision is overturned on appeal. Additionally, I have concerns with the appeal process allowing unelected Planning Inspectors to overrule the decisions made by local representatives who have detailed local knowledge and opinion.

Of course all areas must take their share of renewables but it is clear that the South West has been far more attractive to developers because the returns on solar are greater. We have more than fulfilled that obligation locally and nationally we are already on course for reaching our target for energy generation from renewables. It is time to genuinely shift the balance to installations being where the public expect them to be, on rooftops or brownfield sites, not desecrating our beautiful landscape for the profit of a few at the expense of subsidies paid by those who are fuel poor.

We have asked the Minister for stronger and clearer guidance to help Councils reflect the wishes of local people and I look forward to seeing the Department's future plans to support local councils in achieving this. Councils must be able to turn down applications where they feel they are inappropriate, safe in the knowledge that council tax payers will not be doubly penalised in having to put up with these monstrosities as well as pick up the tab for the appeal.

Thank you to representatives from the council and the CPRE for coming to London to help to set out the position so clearly.

2 Billion Pound Extra Funding for the NHS

The Chancellor has promised almost £2bn in extra funding for the NHS. This will make a real difference as the pressures facing the health service from rising demand are becoming increasingly clear. This pledge also confirms the government's backing for the NHS 5 Year Forward View as set out by its new Chief Executive, Simon Stevens.

During our ongoing public expenditure inquiry, the Health Select Committee has heard that that changes in people's health needs and an increase in the number of those living with long term health conditions mean that, without action, the NHS would face a £30bn funding gap by 2020. NHS England's Five Year Forward View has set out their plan to close that gap. However this plan will still require an extra £8bn funding a year by 2020 with £1.5bn this coming year. The funding announcement will protect high quality services for patients and allow the NHS to start work on improving community services including changes to invest in the front line in primary care . It was particularly welcome that future budgets will allow planning over several years to make it easier to plan services with more certainty.

Despite the good news this weekend, it is more important than ever to ensure to secure a strong economic recovery to safeguard funding for the NHS in future years.

 

A truly United Kingdom must be fair to all its Nations

Scotland has decided; we remain a United Kingdom. Their referendum has been a triumph for democratic engagement and a vote of confidence in the most successful political union in history.

This was not a vote however, for business as usual. In Downing Street, the Prime Minister has set out his pledge not only to the Scottish people but to every part of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to deliver greater devolution of powers. For England, we have heard the promise of 'English votes for English Laws', ending the inequity of Scottish MPs voting on laws which do not affect their constituents. It is not just the so called 'West Lothian Question' however, which demands an answer. There are demands for devolved regional assemblies, even networks of greater city states but where is the evidence that people have greater affinity or satisfaction with extra layers of local government? I don't hear a clamour for more politicians. The more we spend on new regional structures and their inevitable layers of bureaucracy, the less we spend on people. It is also hard to see how a network of wider city states could feel relevant to rural England. Like many of my constituents, I identify with Devon but have no affinity with 'greater Exeter' or Plymouth. Likewise, regional government in the South West would hardly satisfy Cornwall. The fact is that whatever sub-national structures are set up there will be rumblings of discontent. The Scottish Referendum marked a decisive step towards a federal United Kingdom. In my view that should mean MPs representing English Constituencies for Laws only affecting England should be considering devolved issues without interference from MPs representing other nations within the UK. We should be joined by those MPs only for those decisions which affect us jointly. Where assemblies decide to share other powers, their MPs would of course be entitled to vote.

Labour claim this will create 'two tier' MPs but that is just the inequity which exists at present with Scotland's over-representation on issues which do not affect them. Scotland has had the opportunity to decide their future, now it is for England to decide as the future constitutional changes will affect us all. It is also for Westminster to change the way it operates and to spend more time looking beyond the M25.

On the issue of the so-called 'Barnett Formula', I am unhappy about the eleventh hour pre-referendum promise that this would be extended in perpetuity. The formula, which is the basis for allocating public money across the nations of the UK was designed with good intentions in the 1970s but it is no longer fit for purpose. It is this formula which allows Scotland to spend £203 extra per head annually on health services alone and over £1500 overall on services. Why should a person in need in Devon count for less than someone in Scotland? We need a formula which recognises deprivation and health inequality but also one which recognises the challenges of providing services in sparse rural areas and crucially the extra costs of meeting the needs of older people. I will not be voting for the Barnett formula in perpetuity but for a fairer settlement for people wherever they live. That in my view must be an important principle at the heart of a truly United Kingdom.

Childhood Obesity

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

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A Short Life: Devon based Charity Auction raising money for Little Bridge House Children's Hospice

A Short Life was set up by Jon Rowe, who recently lost his 11 year old sister to the disease Mucopolysaccharide (MPS).  Click here to find out more about the charity auction that Jon is organising to raise money for the MPS Society and Little Bridge House Children's Hospice.