Last weekend marked a milestone in the relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

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

I hope those who felt safe enough to take advantage of this enjoyed visiting friends, bars, restaurants and attractions in our beautiful Bay, supporting our local businesses.

Torbay Council and its partners treated this as if it were a bank holiday weekend as we prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. Torbay was perhaps a little quieter than we had expected. However, I do understand that our police were busy dealing with the usual levels of anti-social behaviour over a summer weekend.

After 10 years of TOR2 providing services in Torbay, Torbay Council has established a new wholly-owned company called SWISCo.

It will deliver a range of frontline services, including household waste, recycling, street scene and grounds maintenance services.

This presents us with a unique opportunity to do things differently and more efficiently, in a way that is better for the environment, increases recycling rates, and achieves better value for money for the local taxpayer.

Annually, we send approximately 37,000 tonnes of household residual waste to the waste plant at a cost of around £3.44 million.

Although this waste does generate some energy, we want to drive down these costs.

Some years ago local authorities were set a target of achieving a 50 per cent recycling figure by 2020. Our last recycling rates were at 40 per cent, significantly falling short of this 50 per cent target.

Through SWISCo, we can drive improvement of the recycling habits of the Bay towards this target instead of having to pay £93 a tonne to get rid of our waste.

Having a wholly-owned company means we have more control and are able to make more changes without incurring additional costs for things like amending contract agreements.

I agree with the many people who have commented on how they would like to see more wild flowers around the Bay in places such as grass verges and roundabouts.

We now have more flexibility with the new company to look at how we return places to being an asset to nature, though we must still take into consideration safety and good working practices.

Litter picks, and flower beds managed by the community, will continue to be supported by SWISCo and Torbay Council, and this joint working approach will be promoted and actively pursued.

One of the initiatives we are currently looking at is how we can work more effectively with local volunteers to harness the enthusiasm out there and the desire of local people to take more pride in their local areas.

This is particularly important in light of continued pressures on our budgets and the impact this may have on the services we provide in the future.

We will be working much more closely with the voluntary sector and building on the relationships we have been creating through the Covid-19 outbreak.

One movement which has struck a chord across the nation is Black Lives Matter. I see this as akin to the ‘Me Too’ movement a couple of years ago with both movements bringing into focus hidden injustices that not all in our communities are aware of.

As a council, we want to launch a review to explore how racism affects Torbay, to engage with the community and give people the space to rationally voice their experiences and opinions.

We want to gather evidence and views so we can establish what action needs to be taken with our partners in Torbay to address any issues and make the necessary changes.

Last Friday there was a healthy debate in the Torbay Together meeting where many partners across Torbay pledged to work closely together to tackle any challenges that come to light through the review.

We’ll let you know how you can be involved once we have set the wheels in motion.