On Friday and Saturday we are expecting some heavy rainfall and strong winds across Devon and Cornwall from Storm Callum. Some of this could coincide with high tides, especially along the South Coast of Cornwall where the Environment Agency have already issued Flood Warnings.
The EA will be monitoring the situation with their partners and will issue further Flood Alerts or Warnings as necessary.
The Area Field Operation teams have been undertaking pre-storm checks by clearing debris from streams and unblocking culverts.
Please note we are likely to experience surface water on some of the road network and this could lead to adverse driving conditions.
To keep up to date with the conditions:-
- sign up for flood warnings at www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings or by calling Floodline on 0345 9881188 or Typetalk 0345 602 6340
- visit the Environment Agency website which contains details of river level and flooding information
- follow the EA on Twitter for updates @EnvAgencySW
- please report any flooding in your area to Floodline on 0345 988 1188.
Dartington Village At Home. Saturday 13th October
This initiative is organised by Dartington Parish Council and aims to show what an amazing variety of clubs, activities and organisations there are in Dartington, to welcome newcomers to the Parish and for residents of all ages to meet and 'Celebrate the Village'.
Enjoy a sociable evening with other Dartington residents at Meadowbrook Community Centre, Shinners Bridge, Dartington TQ9 6TG from 6.00pm - 9.00pm
Find out about the wide range of organisations and activities for all the family based in the village and meet the people who run them.
Enjoy good food and drink from the 'Beacon Bar and Kitchen'.
Discover all that Dartington Village has to offer!
For further information contact:-
Jinty Balch on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07967 555525
Change of advice day for Citizens Advice in central Totnes
The Citizens Advice drop in advice sessions held in Caring Town Information Exchange (CTIE) at the Mansion on Fore Street will be moving from Fridays to every Wednesday from October 3rd.
Teena Barrett, Advice Services Manager at Citizens Advice South Hams says "The service will be the same as before, open on a drop- in basis for people to come along with their problems and talk to an adviser although the hours have changed slightly and will now be 9.30am – 12.30pm.
CTIE have made the CAB very welcome and working from the Mansion in Totnes has helped clients who live centrally and find it difficult to travel to Follaton House. The move to a Wednesday is because the CAB have more advisers on hand to help residents with problems such as housing, debt, benefit and disability entitlement.
All information and advice given by Citizens Advice South Hams is free, independent, impartial and confidential. Advice is also quality assured and meets the Advice Quality Standard (AQS), all debt advice is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. CTIE at the Mansion also has a public access computer available.
Totnes residents can access advice from Citizens Advice South Hams, on line by visiting southhamscab.org.uk and typing their problem into the "How can we help" box, by ringing 03 444 111 444 or by dropping into their offices at Follaton House Mon – Thurs 10am – 4pm or CTIE at the Mansion Weds 9.30am-12.30pm
Kingsbridge and Saltstone Caring Fundraising Lunch
Kingsbridge and Saltstone Caring are holding a fundraising lunch on Friday 19th October at the Thurlestone Hotel.
KASC is a small local charity provides a free befriending service to the lonely and the isolated living in Kingsbridge, Salcombe and the surrounding villages.
If you haven't done so already, please visit the charity's website at kascare.uk
South West Water champions ReFill revolution to reduce litter from single-use plastic bottles
South West Water is behind a national campaign by water companies to make tap water more freely available, helping to reduce litter from single-use plastic bottles and keeping people healthy and hydrated when out and about.
To mark the launch of National ReFill Day (27 September), South West Water is supplying 3,000 stainless steel refillable bottles, free of charge, to Keep Britain Tidy to distribute to community groups in Devon and Cornwall. The ReFill bottles can be sold by communities to plough the proceeds back into good causes in their areas.
More than 1,100 locations, such as cafes, hotels, restaurants and shops, are now registered with ReFill in Devon and Cornwall, allowing the public to top-up their water bottles for free – more than double the total last year. People can use an app on their phone to find out where the nearest ReFill point is, or look out for special signs in shop windows.
The sites are part of a growing network of participating premises and businesses across the UK, co-ordinated by trade body Water UK, which aims to offer ReFill in every major town and city in the UK by 2021.
I would encourage businesses to sign up for this project to ensure that the South West is leading on the issue of tackling the amount of single use plastic bottles ending up in landfill (estimated to be 16 million everyday)
You can sign up via this link, either to register your business or to see where there is a Refill site near you.
Drugs & Alcohol Survey
Healthwatch Torbay is working with Public Health Torbay to identify what works well and what does not work well, for people in Torbay that may have a problems with drug and alcohol use. If you would be interested in helping Healthwatch Torbay please do look at the following survey which aims to gather feedback on the types of support people need to make positive changes to their problematic use of drugs and/ or alcohol.
Centenary of the End of the First World War
We are approaching the centenary of the end of the First World War and many events will take place to mark this special occasion.
Pageant Master Bruno Peek is the man responsible for the detailed organisation behind many of the events that bring our country together to remember the past. Bruno has prepared a tribute of remembrance on 11th November called the Battle's Over. The national commemorations will include the lighting of over 1,000 beacons of light symbolising an end to the darkness of war and a return to the light of peace. And cathedrals and churches across the country will ring their bells in celebration of peace.
There will be many events taking place across the country recognising the importance of this centenary, giving us all an opportunity to remember those sacrifices that were made, both on the battlefields and on the home front, so that we can continue to enjoy freedom. You can find out more about the events planned on the Pageant Master website
Great Western Railway
After discussions with GWR about the lack of easement on the 17.57 (retimed18.03) during the temporary period of electrification works at Newbury, GWR have agreed to allow lower priced tickets on this service for Newton Abbot and Totnes customers. They are looking at an easement for the remaining line closures on Tuesday 28 to Thursday 30 August, Monday 8 to Thursday 11 October and Monday 19 to Thursday 22 November.
Consultation for Planning for Shale Gas Extraction: Share Your Views
I know that shale gas extraction, or fracking, remains contentious and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government is currently seeking views on the principle of granting planning permission for non-hydraulic shale gas exploration development through a permitted development right.
In practice this would mean early exploratory work could proceed without requiring planning applications, although planning applications would still be required for fracking.
The consultation will run until the 25th of October and you can find out how to contribute via the following website
Voice & Vote: Women's Place in Parliament.
Come and see the excellent free Exhibition in Westminster Hall this summer. Exploring the history of women in Parliament - the campaigns, the protests, the achievements. The Exhibition tells the 'her-story' of Parliament over the last 200 years, and the many brave people who fought for democratic equality. Book your free tickets now! www.parliament.uk/vote100/voice-and-vote
Rural Crime Reporting Line
Rural crime is a serious issue for farmers, rural businesses and those who live in the countryside, and it can have significant impacts on a farm or another rural business.
A new service for farmers and the public to give information anonymously about rural crime has been launched by the National Farmers' Union, in partnership with the charity Crimestoppers. Farmers, rural businesses and the public can ring 0800 783 0137 or visit www.ruralcrimereportingline.uk to anonymously give information about crime relating to:
- large-scale, industrial fly-tipping
- hare coursing
- machinery theft; or
- livestock theft
The latest position with the A379 at Slapton.
Over the past few months, Devon County Council has been carrying out site inspections and drawing up a scheme to reinstate the road. Detailed work has also been undertaken to minimise the environmental impacts of the scheme and to address the risk from unexploded ordnance.
Contractor Alun Griffiths Ltd started work on Monday 16 July on the southern section of the reinstatement, near the junction to Slapton village, which has an existing planning permission.
A second section of the route towards Strete Gate will also be realigned as the scheme progresses. The County Council is awaiting planning approval to update the permission for this northern realignment of the route, to move it further north and west than in the approved scheme plans.
For more updates please click on the Slapton Line Partnership website
World-leading 'Blue Belt' Expands as New Marine Protections Revealed
The consultation on the third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones has now opened and you can share your views on this until the 20th of July. Defra Minister, Michael Gove, has set out plans to create more than 40 new Marine Conservation Zones across the UK – safeguarding almost 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats and marking the most significant expansion of the UK's 'Blue Belt' of protected areas to date.
You can read more about the announcement here
The consultation can be accessed here:
The Royal Forestry Society Excellence in Forestry Award 2018
The Hillyfield woodland farm on Dartmoor, is a 46 acre woodland restoration project managed for community and environmental benefit on Dartmoor National Park, and has been shortlisted for the Royal Forestry Societies prestigious Excellence in Forestry Award 2018 for Small and Farm woodlands.
I recognise how vital the Slapton Line is to everyone in this area and following the damage by Storm Emma, I immediately went to see the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP to ask for assistance with the cost of rebuilding the A379 which is damaged beyond repair in two long sections. I then also raised this with Theresa May at PMQs and welcome the confirmation from the government that the rebuild will be funded in full with £2.5m, I hope this news is of some comfort to those local communities still dealing with the aftermath of Storm Emma.
I am very grateful to all those who have been working hard as part of the Slapton Line Partnership, and our District and County Councils, to prepare for this by putting the necessary planning permissions and ecological preparations in place in advance. Hopefully this means that repair works can proceed as soon as possible.
Lastly, thank you to all the emergency services, South Hams District Council, Devon County Council and The Slapton Line Partnership for their rapid and professional responses both to the issues with the Slapton Line and the terrible conditions last week.
The Department for Transport have provided the following information on this matter:
SOUTH WEST ROAD DAMAGED BY BEAST FROM THE EAST GETS £2.5 MILLION REPAIR FUND FROM GOVERNMENT
A Devon community has been handed a boost by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling today (Wednesday, March 7) as he announced £2.5 million to repair a vital road severely storm damaged last week.
The A379, between Slapton and Strete Gate, was partially destroyed by Storm Emma and has been closed since the beginning of March.
The road is a key route in the area and is essential for the local economy, as it provides access to tourist hotspots including the beach and Slapton Ley nature reserve.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:
"Good roads are vital for keeping communities connected so people can get to work or see friends and family.
"The recent winter storms caused significant disruption right across the nation, but now we need to ensure we repair this road is repaired as quickly as possible.
"We are giving Devon County Council funds to repair the A379 so there is no long-lasting impact from Storm Emma on the vitality and prosperity of this area."
Devon County Council will be allocated £2.5million to ensure the repairs to this damaged road, previously damaged by storms in 2001, are undertaken as quickly as possible.
This funding is in addition to over £270 million we are providing for local highways maintenance and repairing potholes to Devon between 2015/16 and 2020/21.
The Department for Transport will continue to work with the council to see whether it can help improve resilience on this road to help protect it from future damage.
Updates on the road can be found on the Slapton Line website
Kingsbridge and Saltstone Caring
Kingsbridge and Saltstone Caring aim to promote the independence, physical and mental well-being of older, isolated or vulnerable people living in Kingsbridge, Salcombe and the surrounding area. They do so by providing services not normally available through statutory agencies.
I know that the charity is always on the lookout for more volunteers and you can find out more about the work they do on their new website.
Share Your Views on The future for Food, Farming and the Environment
Agriculture is a key industry in a rural area such as this one and a consultation is now open on the future for food, farming and the environment. The consultation will run until the 8th of May and I encourage everyone to share their views on the government's proposals.
Ideas include redirecting money from direct payments under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which are based on the amount of land farmed, to a new system of paying farmers "public money for public goods" - principally their work to enhance the environment and invest in sustainable food production.
Leaving the European Union and the Common Agricultural Policy means that we have the chance to reform our agricultural and environmental policy and I hope everyone takes this once in a generation chance to help shape a new vision for our countryside.
You can view the consultation here.
The Advanced Maths Premium
I am delighted that schools and colleges in England will receive a funding boost to help increase the number of 16 to 18 year-olds studying advanced maths, helping young people get the skills they need for the future so they can go as far as their talents will take them.
Maths skills are so important for those who wish to pursue careers in engineering, computing, accountancy and design and educational establishments will now receive a £600 premium for every additional young person aged 16-18 who takes an advanced maths qualification. The premium will also support schools and colleges to increase the number of girls and those from disadvantaged backgrounds taking advanced maths qualifications.
You can find out more about this here
Great Western Improvement Work
Electrification work between Newbury and Reading starts on Monday 12 March. This impacts the West of England services as the line is closed from Monday to Thursday and trains will be diverted through Swindon. This will add between 20 to 50 minutes to journeys and will mean some trains are retimed.
Great Western are asking everyone to double check their journey before they set out.
This is a major piece of work by Network Rail which will mean the new Intercity Express trains will run on electric power as far as Newbury on their journeys to the South West. This will enable GW to operate a new faster timetable from January 2019.
The work will take over 1200 hours to complete, and there will be several weekday line closures between March and November, including a three week closure in July. Dates are on the dedicated webpage www.gwr.com/travel-updates/planned-engineering/newbury2018
West Devon Borough Council is committed to preventing people from needing to rough sleep, particularly during the winter months where the risk of harm from exposure is more significant. In response to this risk they have activated their Severe Weather Emergency Protocol to ensure that no one has to sleep rough during the coldest nights of the year. The recent significant weather warnings for the area have highlighted the importance of encouraging rough sleepers to access accommodation. Offers of accommodation have been made to all those they know to be sleeping rough and they are working proactively with local support groups to encourage people to accept these offers.
If you know of anyone at risk of rough sleeping please contact SW-Housing.Advice@swdevon.gov.uk in normal working hours or call the office on 01822 813600. There is also a dedicated Streetlink operated hotline on 0300 5000914 which is in operation 24 hours a day.
Sky Ocean Rescue
Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on the issues of ocean health, particularly single-use plastic, and inspire people to make small changes.
Sky Ocean Rescue's whale, Plasticus, which is made up of a quarter of a ton of plastic – the amount that enters our oceans every second, came to Parliament, to bring to life the scale of the problem.
Here are the top tips on how you can #PassOnPlastic
- Drink out of a refillable water bottle
- Use a bag for life
- Avoid products that contain microbeads
- Buy cotton buds with cardboard rather than plastic stems
- Swop your wet wipe for a flannel
- Use a metal or glass straw
- Buy fruit and veg loose rather than in plastic packaging
- Give up plastic cutlery
- Bring your own travel mug to your favourite coffee shop
We all have a role to play in saving our oceans. Small changes = big difference!
Centenary of Voting Rights for Women (6th February 2018)
|Truly wonderful to see all the Acts of Parliament that made it possible for women to vote and to take their seats. It is thanks to the sacrifice, courage and determination of so many suffragettes and suffragists that there are now over 200 female MPs - our democracy is stronger as a result.|
UK Parliament Week (12th-18th November 2018)
UK Parliament Week is an annual festival that engages people from across the UK with Parliament, explores what it means to them and empowers them to get involved.
There is something for everyone: whether you attend or organise an event.
Organisations across the UK run events and activities throughout UK Parliament Week which explore what the UK Parliament means to them and their community.
Your event or activity can be as big or as small as you like! It can be aimed at the public, or it can be a private event aimed specifically at your staff or service users.
As long as your event helps your audience to engage with the work of Parliament, explore its history, and empowers them to get involved, there is no limit to how you can take part in UK Parliament Week. For more information please click here
Stalking Protection Bill
Thank you to everyone for their support for the 2nd Reading of my Private Members Bill.
The Stalking Protection Bill can be found here
Vote 100 Programme
The Vote 100 programme will celebrate the anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave all men and some women the vote for the first time, as well as other important democratic milestones. You can find out more about this at the following website
EqualiTeas, are running between the 18th of June and the 2nd of July and they will be a UK-wide celebration of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act. The hope is that schools and community groups will get together over a cup of tea to share, debate and celebrate this important anniversary. You can find out more about this here
UK Parliament Week this year takes place from the 12th to the 18th of November and how you take part in this is entirely up to you. If you want to register an event or activity you can do so here
You will need to register before the 30th of September and when you do you will receive a free kit including activities, ideas and all the materials you'll need to take part.
Government Childcare Support
I am pleased the government has taken action on the issues surrounding childcare provision as making sure that childcare is affordable, accessible and high quality is one of the best ways to help parents into the work place and also ensures our children receive top notch early years education.
New childcare support measures are being rolled out and to find out more about what you and your children could benefit from please do go to the following website: https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/
Support for parents includes 30 hours of childcare for the working parents of 3 and 4 year olds, up from the 15 hours a week that were being provided previously. Parents claiming Universal Credit (UC) are also supported with up to 85% of their childcare costs for children under 16.
For those on higher incomes there is Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) which provides up to £2,000 of support for childcare costs for children under 12 (or under 17 and up to a higher maximum of £4000 for those with disabilities); is paid per child; and, crucially, is available to self-employed parents, as well as to employed parents (though earnings eligibility criteria apply). The TFC rollout will complete on 14 February.
In addition, the government will continue to provide all 3 and 4 year olds with 15 hours a week of early education and this was extended to provide the most disadvantaged 2 year olds with 15 hours a week in 2013.
South West Rail
Following pressure from SW Conservative MPs, I was pleased to receive the following letter from Chris Grayling today. I welcome this positive first step.
I am writing to you today to update you on work on Rail in the South West and the progress we are making on our ambitions for your constituents. I appreciate all the work that colleagues are continuing to do on prioritising transport schemes and the DfT will set out our strategy, following the PRTF report, by the end of February.
Dawlish remains our number one national priority and ensuring we find a permanent solution for this vital connection, is never out of mind. As you will recall, shortly after the publication of the PRTF report and my appointment as Secretary of State, the Department moved quickly to the next stage of the work commissioning Network Rail to look at the engineering options. Additionally, I visited the work last year to see for myself this vital rail corridor.
The Department has continued to take forward work to develop solutions for the line through Dawlish and Teignmouth. The £15m funding that has been provided to Network Rail for this purpose is focused on the three most urgent elements identified within their resilience study, in order of magnitude.
This is a complex project which has required extensive work with the Environment Agency, but the work is ongoing and I have asked Network Rail to deliver a planned solution as quickly as practical. My aim is to begin the full work quickly after the completion of this development phase.
This region is vital to the whole UK which is why we are providing funding to support a significant increase in track upgrades activity across the network, including in the South West, and increasing maintenance spending to deliver a more reliable railway. This is part of the recently announced an expected rail investment of around £47.9bn for Network Rail in England and Wales over the period from 2019 to 2024.
The current work includes re-signalling of the main line from Totnes to Penzance via Plymouth, allowing a more frequent two trains per hour local/regional service, to be operated by High Speed Trains with four modernised coaches.
Beginning this summer there will be 29 new Intercity Express bi-mode trains running on the London to Penzance Great Western Route. These will replace 40-year-old stock and will provide more than 1,000 extra peak time seats compared to today.
A new timetable significantly improves typical journey times from London to Plymouth by reducing the differences between the current fastest journey time and the longer journey times experienced on many journeys.
In addition, the Department is contributing £9 million to a Cornish package securing the modernisation of the London to Cornwall Sleepers and moving the Sleeper maintenance from London to a new facility at Long Rock Depot, near Penzance. This depot was handed over to GWR in December 2017 and the first day and sleeper carriages are already in service, with remaining vehicles to be introduced early in 2018.
We have also been at work on an extensive programme of resilience across the network, in the wake of the floods in 2014.
At Cowley Bridge, just north of Exeter, Network Rail has already raised all of the lineside railway signal cabinets at the site, putting them above the level of the November 2016 flood. Additionally work to widen and improve the existing flood culvert was undertaken during 2017 and an additional culvert will be installed this summer to significantly improve the protection of the railway.
A further option of removal of three weirs has been examined by Network Rail as a potential last stage of its work to help protect the railway from flooding. Delivery of this is subject to a detailed assessment of the impact of such a scheme of the wider area to be carried out by Network Rail, consent from the Environment Agency and funding availability.
Flood resilience work has also been completed at Whiteball and is being progressed at Axe and Broom on the route from Exeter to Waterloo.
You raised the question of the Speed to the West proposals in our recent conversation. Last year I tasked Network Rail with providing me with an initial assessment of the potential for journey time improvements through partial electrification and improvements in track alignment. Of course the work currently under way to electrify and improve the line between London and Bristol and London to Newbury will also mean shorter journey times.
I am currently reviewing the costs and business case for the first part of the proposals, and would assure you that we will, if we decide that this is the right approach, be able to integrate this with planned renewals of the track between Totnes and Plymouth.
In addition we have instructed GWR to prepare plans to introduce regular train services to Okehampton, with the objective of securing a credible and costed plan for delivering an all-week, all-year train service between Exeter and Okehampton as soon as reasonably practicable.
I will continue to update you on the progress as we continue to invest in this vital part of our rail infrastructure.
The South Brent Old School Community Centre
Following the closure of the Post Office at the Newsagents in South Brent, a Post Office Service will be available at the Old School Community Centre at the following times:-
Wednesday 09:00 to 13:00
Friday 09:00 to 12:00
Saturday 09:00 to 12:00
All Banking Services for All Major Banks Available!
Launch of NHSquicker App
The app shows waiting times for local emergency departments and minor injuries units, based on your location.
It also shows live travel times to help people make informed decisions about where to go when they are in need of urgent care. You can also use NHSquicker to find information about less urgent NHS services, such as GPs, pharmacies, sexual health services, dentists and opticians
You can find out more about this via the following website.
Measures to Tackle Puppy Farming
We are a nation of dog lovers and when getting a new pet I know that most of us want to make absolutely sure we are not inadvertently supporting the cruel practice of puppy farming . However, for too long puppies have been for sale in the UK that have been reared in appalling circumstances by unscrupulous breeders who have a total disregard for their welfare.
I am glad the government has now announced a raft of measures for consideration to try and tackle this problem. Proposals being looked at include the following
- Making sure that licensed dog breeders show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made and puppy sales are completed in the presence of the new owner.
- Insisting that licensed dog breeders can only sell puppies they have bred themselves and regulating adverts ensuring licensed sellers of all pets, including puppies, include the seller's licence number, country of origin and country of residence of the pet in any advert for sale.
- Measures to tackle unethical and cruel puppy smuggling across borders will be explored and the breeding of puppies with genetic disorders will be addressed.
I am pleased that the government is so committed to improving animal welfare and these plans are another step forward in ensuring that we have the highest standards in the world. You can read more about this announcement via the following website.
Consultation on Opt Out Organ Donation
The consultation on changing organ and tissue donation rules in this country to one of presumed consent, where people must opt out of the organ donation register rather than opting in, has opened and will run until the 6th of March 2018.
I realise this is a controversial proposal with some feeling strongly that many people would already be happy to donate organs but simply do not get around to registering and others believing that a move such as this creates an uncomfortable assumption that the state has a right to our bodies after death.
An opt out system has already been introduced in Wales and there have been arguments that it has not vastly increased transfer rates. However it has also not been in place for that long, so it may be too early to tell how beneficial the change has been.
The consultation will examine areas such as how much say families have in their deceased relative's decision to donate their organs, when exemptions to 'opt-out' would be needed, what safeguards would be necessary and how a new system might affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith.
I strongly recommend that everyone with an interest in this area shares their views on this divisive topic. You can find out more about the consultation and how to contribute via the following website.
Channel 4 Interview
30 Hours Free Childcare
I am delighted that the Government met its commitment to launch 30 hours free childcare earlier this year.
Parents wanting to take up a 30 hours place for their child in the January term should apply now and ideally by 30 November to ensure they receive their eligibility code in good time for next term.
Parents who already have a child taking up a 30 hours place also need to confirm their details are up to date every three months.
Parents will receive an email notification four weeks and two weeks before this date, reminding them to do so. Parents will need to confirm their details via their online childcare account, which can be found at www.gov.uk/childcareaccount.
Dartmouth Caring recently launched a new video about loneliness.
The video highlights the fact that loneliness can affect people of all ages and the importance of local support in dealing with it.
Dartmouth Caring is a local charity supporting its local community and working closely with its health and welfare professionals for the benefit of individuals in its community.
PM's open letter to EU citizens in the UK
The Prime Minister has published an open letter today, promising to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to obtain settled status in the UK.
The letter explains that the government is in touching distance of an agreement on citizens' rights and promises that the process for EU nationals to register to stay in the UK will be streamlined – with EU citizens having a direct say over how it will work.
New Post Office in Paignton
I was pleased to hear that a new Post Office is scheduled to open on Tuesday the 10th of October at Gilletts, 79 Kings Ash Road, Paignton, TQ3 3TY.
It will be a local style branch and customers will be able to carry out a wide range of Post Office transactions alongside retail purchases.
The new service will offer longer opening hours, with the Post Office opening hours in line with the retail business and will be open from 6.30 am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and from 7am to 11pm on Sundays.
Identify theft reaches epidemic levels. Guard your personal details.
Fraudsters are obtaining personal information, such as names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details, by hacking computers, trawling social media, stealing mail, tricking people to disclose their details, or buying information through the 'dark web'. And they're using it to pretend to be that individual for their own financial gain, applying for loans or store cards in their name for example.
A vast amount of personal data is available online; and statistically, victims are more likely to be in their 30s and 40s, often because of the amount of information about them that has been gathered online. Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service's Manager Steve Gardiner says "Most victims will be totally unaware that information about them has been taken by someone else and it's only when they spot an unexplained transaction on their statement, or they get a call from the bank to query an attempted transaction, that they realise. And sometimes that's too late."
So what can you do to avoid becoming a victim of ID theft and fraud arising from it?
• Take care about the amount of personal information that you voluntarily post online, particularly to social media sites. Think about what someone else might be able to do with that information about you if they found it online. Be aware and check, especially before you post your address or date of birth, that you are using an official and secure website.
• Use anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes, and keep your computer's firewall up to date. Most threats to cyber security can be removed by using these.
• Don't ever share your passwords. Passwords are your first line of defence against cyber criminals online, so don't share them or write them down. The same is true for Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). Don't share that either. Here's an article on Martin Lewis', Money Saving Expert website, about password security.
• Make passwords and PINs 'strong'. Don't use your date of birth, your child's or pet's name; and try to include a mix of characters – upper and lower case, and numbers. Aim for a minimum of 10 characters in a password.
• Don't use the same password or PIN for more than one account.
• Shred all your financial documents before your throw them away.
More information about guarding your personal details is available on Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service's website.
Consultation on Introducing CCTV in English Slaughterhouses
I have long been a supporter of making CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses and I am pleased that the government have now announced a consultation on this.
Measures like this will help ensure the UK is a world leader on animal welfare issues and the proposals will make it necessary for slaughterhouses to record all areas where live animals are present.
Authorised officers such as official veterinary surgeons would have unrestricted access to footage, reassuring consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced.
These proposals should help to increase public confidence in the welfare standards of Great British food and you can find out more about the consultation via the following link.
Big is Not Always Best: Opening Up the Aid Budget to Small Charities Across the UK
I welcomed the creation of the Small Charities Challenge Fund earlier this month which will help small charities in the UK access funding from the Department for International Development. Organisations with an income of less than £250,000 a year are now able to apply for grants of up to £50,000 in order to help the people they are supporting in the worlds most disadvantaged countries.
I support our aid budget, but I know that many do not. We can all agree that it is essential that the money we do give is spent more effectively. I believe this fund will help to do that as often it is the case that community led organisations know best what delivers change on the ground. There will always be a key role for larger charities but that must not mean excluding many of those organisations linked to communities and charities here in the UK.
More information on how to apply for funding and what projects will be eligible can be found on the following website: www.ukaiddirect.org
Womens Rights to choose should apply to all parts of the UK
Thank you to all those constituents who contacted me about Stella Creasy MP's amendment. I have long made my position clear on supporting the right for women to have safe access to termination of pregnancy and thanks to the support of backbench MPs, myself included and led by Maria Miller MP, former chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, the government have agreed a way forward on this and the amendment was withdrawn. The government is now proposing that women from Northern Ireland who travel to England for a termination will no longer have to pay for this service, with the cost of this being paid for by the Government Equalities Office.
I welcome the cross party consensus that has prompted the government to make this sensible proposal. You can view the full letter from Justine Greening explaining how this is being taken forward.
Confidence and Supply
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has agreed to work with the Conservatives on a confidence and supply basis. This means that the DUP will support the Government on important 'confidence' votes such as finance bills and the Queen's speech. The DUP will also support 'supply' bills that allocate the funds for Government policies. While some of the DUP's policies will be taken into account by the government, such as keeping the pensions triple lock and winter fuel payments for all pensioners, their social policy positions on matters like same sex marriage and abortion are devolved issues and will not influence decision making in England. In any case, votes on issues such as this are votes of conscience and subject to a free vote by individual MPs. I have long made my position clear on supporting the right for women to have safe access to termination of pregnancy and on LGBT rights. I will always oppose the death penalty and the teaching of creationism in schools and there is no chance of these being introduced.
The deal allocates £1bn of extra funding for Northern Ireland, alongside greater control over £500m of funds that have already been committed to Northern Ireland. This does not increase funding to Scotland or Wales because it will not be subject to the Barnett formula. The terms of the agreement can be found here, and background on the financial aspect of the deal here.
One of the most serious concerns raised however, has been around the potential impact on the Good Friday Agreement. The Government must be vigilant in maintaining neutrality and also consult regularly with other Parties. The point has also been made that the extra funding available will ease some of the tensions that have acted as a barrier to the reestablishment of a power sharing executive in Stormont.
South Devon College celebrates even more success!
South Devon College was awarded the highest rating of 'Gold' under the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a system for recognising excellent teaching and learning in higher education.
The TEF Gold rating is further endorsement of the high standards of teaching, learning and support delivered at University Centre South Devon.
South Devon College has also received the prestigious Investors in People (IIP) Platinum accreditation, the highest level awarded by the people management standard. South Devon College is the only College in England to have achieved Platinum s