I’d like to thank everyone who took part in our Ask Us Covid-19 Facebook Live event last week. It was wonderful that so many of you took the time to ask questions, tune in and send so many positive comments.

Cllr Steve Darling, leader of Torbay CouncilCllr Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Council

One of our priorities in the partnership between the Lib Dems and Independents who run Torbay Council is to ensure that the local authority, in collaboration with its partners, becomes more of a listening council that empowers its communities.

The most significant milestone on this journey was when Torbay Council held its first community conference last September and we hope that last week’s Facebook Live, involving partner organisations, is opening up the council to become a more enabling council.

Although we have used Facebook Live to engage with the public in the past, this is the first time we have held an event like this with our partners.

It provided information and reassurance as well as demonstrating some of the outstanding work that the local police, the Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, Torbay Council and Torbay Community Development Trust have been undertaking during these challenging times.

We are always looking at new ways of positively interacting with the public and building on our work with partners.

As the initial feedback has been so positive, we will be doing more of these events to directly reach out to residents, and we look forward to welcoming partners to join us again in the future.

You can see the recorded live event on the council’s Facebook page or on our website.

Last week, we made big strides towards attracting more funding to Torbay.

We submitted a bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) for the Emergency Active Travel Fund.

This is designed to promote active travel methods, like cycling and walking, as a replacement for journeys previously made by public transport.

The initial funding will be for temporary or experimental measures only.

We also submitted a bid to Network Rail and the Department for Transport for a share of £20 million to fund a new railway station in the Torquay Gateway.

The new station, which will be known as Edginswell, will deliver a wide range of benefits including travel, employment and housing opportunities.

On top of this, we received welcome news from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government that the Government is seeking appropriate ‘shovel ready schemes’ that will offer a quick stimulus to local economies.

We have worked closely with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and submitted schemes which can be delivered within 18 months of them being given the green light.

These schemes include development of employment land, improving our offer to local start-up businesses, and supporting the development of the growing hi-tech sector in Torbay.

We know that Covid-19 is likely to have a devastating impact on Torbay and so we are doing all we can to limit the damage to our communities and stimulate our economy.

I recently attended my first virtual prayer breakfast with clergy from across Torbay.

I found this virtual event energising when the church leaders were sharing what they were thankful for during the pandemic.

It made me reflect on how fortunate many of us are with our families around us or the kindness of strangers who act as though they are family.

Our faith communities play such a big role in people’s lives in our Bay and I think it’s important to recognise this.

There is evidence in other parts of the country how positive relationships can be built, such as in Bristol where the elected mayor and faith groups have worked together to boost fostering in the city.

I hope we can deepen our relationships with our faith groups in Torbay to strengthen the work they already undertake.