New councillor for West Devon

Split opposition leads to Conservative gain from Independent – Owl

Philip Churm, Local Democracy Reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

By-election was tense, but efforts paid off  

West Devon’s newest councillor says he is passionate about the local area and is determined to help tackle the housing crisis.  

Cllr David Turnbull (Conservative, Tavistock North) was elected in a by-election on 17 February with a majority of 42 in a win that bolsters the Tory group on the borough council which now has 17 councillors. 

The election was called after the resignation of independent councillor Steve Hipsey earlier this year. 

Cllr Turnbull, who has been elected for a 15-month term ahead of full council elections in May 2023, says the by-election was tense at times but that his efforts paid off.   

“I didn’t really know which way it was going to go,” he says.

“I know we’d worked really hard. I got out to meet and speak to as many people as I could but up to the day, it was quite close.” 

Cllr Turnbull describes how his decision to stand for election was made after speaking to other councillors and locals. 

“I’ve always been interested in local politics. I’ve had a few conversations with [Cllr] Debo Sellis (Conservative, Tavistock South East) when she’s been canvassing me at my home address in Tavistock and had some really good conversations. 

“I’ve told her my interests and she followed through with that. 

“So when Steve Hipsey stepped down, she approached me. 

“I went out for coffee had a conversation with a couple of guys. Everything led from there, really.” 

But Cllr Turnbull says his greatest strength on the council will come from living and working locally for many years. 

“I’m born and bred in Tavistock, albeit I moved to Tavistock, I think, when I was about 18 months old,” he explains. “I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in Tavistock. 

“I’m very passionate about the area and do whatever I can to help to deal with anyone’s area of concerns locally. 

“I live within the ward that I represent, so I’m on the doorstep if anyone needs me.  Ultimately I adore Tavistock and it’s very close to my heart.

“I’m beginning to take note of things that might need to be improved and I’m looking forward to finding out what I can do to deal with those issues.  

In mid-February West Devon Borough Council agreed a motion to declare a housing crisis.  

It follows concerns that house prices in the borough are the least affordable in Devon with average housing costs standing at over 12 times the average salary. 

There is also a severe lack of long-term rented accommodation.

Cllr Turnbull is an estate agent with a business based in the borough.  He says his knowledge of the housing market may help the council tackle the housing crisis but acknowledges there are several challenges. 

He says it is “very difficult for first time buyers to get on the ladder. 

“They’ve obviously got to save up large deposits which is very difficult for a lot of them to do.”

But Cllr Turnbull says many existing schemes should help ease the problem. 

“Help-to-Buy and shared-ownership affordable housing is another important part that needs to be more available, I think, so that people who have got smaller deposits, that’s their leg up to get onto the housing ladder, albeit they’ll be buying up a share of the property rather than 100 per cent of it.”

The result in the by-election were:

Susan Bamford (Green Party) – 163 votes

Doug Smith (Labour) – 85 votes

Peter Squire (Liberal Democrats) – 337 votes

David Turnbull (Conservative) – 379 votes

The Conservatives now hold 17 of the borough’s 31 seats, giving them a majority on the council.

The remaining seats are held by the West Devon Alliance group, which has 12 representatives.

West Devon Alliance is made up of one Liberal Democrat, two Green Party councillors and nine independents. 

A further two councillors sit as non-aligned independents.

Matt Hancock says he ‘broke the rules because he fell in love’ in tell-all podcast

He said he broke the social distancing guidelines but “by then, they weren’t actually rules, they weren’t the law.” – So that’s quite clear isn’t it? – Owl

It came after host Steven Bartlett, the entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den investor, asked the former minister about Covid rules during the height of the pandemic which prevented couples in different households from kissing, holding hands or any other type of touching.

www.independent.co.uk

Matt Hancock has said he broke social distancing guidelines at the height of the Covid pandemic because he “fell in love” with his married aide.

The former health secretary resigned from his ministerial role in disgrace and left his wife of 15 years after CCTV images emerged of him kissing close friend Gina Coladangelo inside the Department of Health last summer.

In a tell-all interview with The Diary of a CEO podcast, Mr Hancock has now revealed he “fell in love with somebody” and it “all happened very quickly” – but insisted he did not break the law.

He said: “I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines.

“By then, they weren’t actually rules, they weren’t the law. But that’s not the point.

“The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. That happened because I fell in love with somebody.”

Mr Hancock quit in June last year after The Sun published images taken on 6 May 2021 showing him in an embrace with Ms Coladangelo.

Two-metre social distancing guidance was in place at the time, while a ban on hugging between people in different households wasn’t lifted until two weeks later.

Ms Coladangelo, whom Mr Hancock met when they both worked in student radio at Oxford University, was a non-executive director at the Department of Health at the time, earning at least £15,000 a year.

Mr Hancock told the podcast Ms Coladangelo, whom he has known “for more than half [his] life”, was brought in to help with public communications.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has said he broke social distancing guidelines at the height of the Covid pandemic because he ‘fell in love’ with his married aide

“We spent a lot of time together – ironically trying to get me to be able to communicate in a more emotionally intelligent way – and we fell in love,” he said.

“That’s something that was completely outside of my control and I of course regret the pain that that’s caused and the very, very, very public nature … but I fell in love with someone.

“It actually happened after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place.

“I hold no bitterness about this because I broke the rules, I ’fess up. I broke the guidance.”

Mr Hancock was also keen to stress that his and Ms Coladangelo’s relationship was not “casual sex”.

It came after host Steven Bartlett, the entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den investor, asked the former minister about Covid rules during the height of the pandemic which prevented couples in different households from kissing, holding hands or any other type of touching.

The then-health secretary had warned people to “be careful” about the risk of coronavirus when those rules were relaxed in September 2020 for couples in “established relationships”.

A visibly uncomfortable Mr Hancock asked Mr Bartlett to start the section of questioning again without the reference to casual sex.

“I haven’t had casual sex with anybody,” he said. “I fell in love with somebody.”

The podcast comes after the High Court ruled Mr Hancock broke equality law when appointing Conservative peer Dido Harding to an emergency health job during the Covid crisis.

Judges ruled the then-health secretary failed to comply with public sector equality duty in the process of appointing Baroness Harding and her ex-Sainsbury colleague Mike Coupe to senior posts in 2020.