Car park charge freeze proposed for Torbay

Town Hall Car Park off Lymington Road, Torquay

Town Hall car park off Lymington Road, Torquay - Credit: Google

Car park charges are set to be frozen under budget proposals from Torbay Council for the 2021/22 financial year.

The move is one of several new proposals put forward by the council’s Cabinet ahead of a final decision on spending from April.

The Cabinet’s response to the draft budget published on Tuesday, confirmed plans to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent, plus an extra three per cent ring-fenced for adult social care – an increase of around £1.50 for an average Band D property.

The council said in a statement the proposals included a one-off investment of £1million in 'services for our communities'.

The new proposals include:

  • £150,000 to dredge Brixham harbour so larger fishing vessels can be accommodated
  • investment in tackling climate change
  • £700,000 to support children and families with complex and challenging needs in their home communities
  • £300,000 for residents facing financial hardship
  • £150,000 to reinstate subsidies for local bus services
  • No increase in car park fees for the coming year.

The new schemes are in addition to a set of projects lined up for next year which were publicised earlier in January including: 

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  •  £50,000 towards replacing Paignton seafront festoon lighting with an up to date alternative
  • £250,000 to start the capital projects for Torquay Town Deal and Paignton Future High Streets Fund
  • £500,000 to deliver an Economic Repositioning Plan, which aims to help the local economy recover from the impacts of Covid-19 as quickly as possible.

The council, which is run by a partnership of Independents and Liberal Democrats said in a statement: “A number of changes have been made to the initial proposals, which includes investing more into services our communities value the most.

“This follows confirmation about our final Government funding settlement and careful consideration of all your views and those of the Overview and Scrutiny Board.

“When the initial budget proposals were drawn up a number of financial pressures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic were identified.

“Since then, we have received further funding from Government in the current financial year to help cover some of these costs.

"This has enabled us to remove the contingency we had in place for Covid-19 related costs for adult social care, children’s social care and home to school transport.

"The improvements we are undertaking within children’s services are also continuing to bring financial benefits, as well as better outcomes for our children and young people.”

The council says the extra money for adult social care will include investment in 'preventative work to help people stay healthy and well at home'.

The statement said: “We want to continue to support the most vulnerable in our communities who have been affected by cuts in previous years.”

The council spends more than  £110million a year on the full range of local authority services, from children’s social care to highways and waste.

Torbay Council’s Liberal Democrat leader Steve Darling said: “A key priority of this administration is to improve our children’s services and it’s heartening to see that we have made great progress in the current financial year.

“For the first time in a long time, we are improving the lives of children and making savings instead of covering an overspend in this department.

“Doing all we can to support vulnerable adults in Torbay is also vitally important.

"The only way we can do this is to utilise the Government’s adult social care precept and increase Council Tax.

“This way we can give vulnerable adults the support they need and put more preventative measures in place to help people in the future.

"We are not alone, early indications suggest other local authorities will have to do the same.”

Deputy leader Darren Cowell, an Independent, said: “We understand that many families are facing challenging times. We would prefer not to increase Council Tax, but we have no choice.

“Most of the investments we are proposing with our contingency funding and savings are a one off, but decisions on our Council Tax base-line will have an impact on funding for all our services in years to come.

"We do have the lowest Council Tax in Devon and early indications suggest this is likely to be the case next year.

“This administration’s priority is to listen to what you say and invest in areas you say you value the most, where we can.

"We are still facing financial pressures; the majority of the recent funding announcements have not led to an increase in our budget for 2021/2022.

"But we are determined to do all we can to help our local communities and this one off extra funding we are proposing will give us more time to work with our communities on longer-term solutions to help Torbay thrive in the future.”

The full budget proposals can be viewed on the council’s website.

A recommended budget from the council’s Cabinet meeting is due to be considered by the full council on Thursday, February 11.

If there are any objections, a decision will be deferred for two weeks when the final budget will be set along with the council tax.