County Deal to focus on skills training, affordable housing, health and social care

Torbay Weekly

Our area is one of nine chosen by the Government to be in the first wave of County Deals.

The Government will negotiate a County Deal with each area, based on an action plan which covers the unique issues faced by them.

I recently met the Minister who will be dealing with it to outline my thoughts on what approach the Government should take across Devon.

I emphasised it needed to focus on skills training, affordable housing, health and social care.

The proposed deal will cover Plymouth, Torbay and Devon, the historic Devonshire county.

Predictably, some initial responses to the announcement from local politicians have focussed on the political structure which may accompany it.

Rather than discussing whether the County Deal should be run by an appointed committee of councillors, a directly elected body or an elected mayor, which is fascinating for politicians, when talking with colleagues in Government, I focussed on how the deal must include control of funding and powers to influence outcomes in key areas such as housing.

Once we have a package which will make a difference agreed for our County Deal, we can discuss which political structure would be best suited to deliver it effectively.

Energy bills

With energy costs rising, the Government confirmed a package to help mitigate the impact on the cost of living.

Households across England, which are in council tax bands A-D, will receive a £150 rebate, which will be paid directly by local authorities from April.

In addition to this, discretionary funding of £144 million will be provided to support vulnerable people and individuals on low incomes who do not pay Council Tax, or who pay Council Tax for properties in bands E-H but are still struggling with increased heating bills.

In addition, the Energy Bills Rebate will provide around 28 million households with an upfront discount on their bills worth £200.

Energy suppliers will apply the discount to domestic electricity customers from October, with the Government meeting the costs.

The discount will then be automatically recovered from people’s bills in equal £40 instalments over the next five years, beginning from 2023 when global wholesale gas prices are expected to come down.

These measures ensure support is aimed at lower income families. Whereas cutting\suspending the five per cent VAT rate on fuel would most benefit those with the largest bills.

In cash terms it would help someone paying a large energy bill to heat a private swimming pool more than a person struggling with the bill to heat their home, hence a rebate per household via Council Tax instead.

Surgery times

My next surgeries are on Saturday, February 12, 11am to 1pm at Paignton Library and Information Centre, Great Western Road TQ4 5AG and Friday, February 18, 10am to midday at The Windmill Centre in Pendennis Road, Torquay TQ2 7QR.

For an appointment you can either email me at kevin@kevinjfoster.com or leave a message on 01803 214989.

Surgeries are for personal queries from residents they would like me to help them with, such as housing or welfare, rather than a wider policy debate.

There are also drop-in sessions at my office 5-7 East Street, Torquay TQ2 5SD between 10am and 1pm, Monday to Friday, where a member of my team will be available to help with any queries.

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