Torbay Council leader Steve Darling: Ensuring key players are all singing from the same hymn sheet

Cllr Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Council

Cllr Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Council - Credit: Archant

As we start to overcome the peak of this pandemic we at the council are working harder than ever to secure the best outcomes for our Bay.

It was great news that Torbay was one of only eight local authorities that were able to host one of the army testing centres within hours of invitation from the army being put out.

We were able to achieve this as we had been working with the local NHS trust to establish a similar facility and, therefore, council officers had already undertaken options appraisals on a number of car parks within Torbay.

The facility at Lymington Road, Torquay, is for essential workers and their families, if they are suffering from COVID symptoms.

Sunday saw 80 tests being undertaken at the facility and I would encourage any key workers who need a test to use this service as if there isn't the demand for it within Torbay it will be moved elsewhere.

During this crisis I and other Cabinet colleagues are reaching out to local businesses so that we can champion issues they may raise with us.

I did this with Brixham Trawler Agents last week and it was interesting to hear some of the gaps they see in the fishing support scheme that was announced a few days ago.

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The failure to support vessels 24 meters and larger is a significant issue for Brixham, as there are approximately 15 vessels of this size.

They are also concerned about the lack of support for themselves as a company and other similar companies that manage the sales and distribution of the catch. As Brixham is the largest fishing port in England and Wales by value of catch this is a key issue for our local economy and we are sending this message up to the top of government.

A number of us participated in some virtual meeting testing that was very successful last week.

Our first proper virtual meeting is likely to be a licencing committee and I have spoken to the chairman of the planning committees as I think it is important we get virtual planning meetings up and running as this is the area of the council that receives the most public engagement.

We hope that we can use virtual platforms for some aspects of the decision making within the council as has been successful within other local authorities and has seen an increase in public engagement.

On Friday of last week I participated in a virtual meeting for the Heart of the South West where the only business was considering and developing an appropriate recovery plan for our region.

The groundwork for this had already been undertaken by some of our key officers of the council.

I spent my time reinforcing the need for tourism to be at the heart of the plan.

Areas that I also championed included construction and training. In addition to this I got fishing to be included in a reference to agriculture as it is a key part of the economy across the Bay.

We are currently holding weekly Torbay Together meetings, a partnership of all key players across Torbay from the public, private and voluntary sector.

It is very useful to ensure that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet as well as sharing our problems.

The key focus for last Friday's meeting was an economic recovery plan for Torbay that Alan Denby from the TDA had started to consult with key partners on.

We need to ensure that other partner's hopes and aspirations are included in the plan so it isn't just a Torbay Council Document.

Our different way of doing things that have been developed over recent weeks needs to be built into our new approach of how we can improve Torbay.

We need to be pushing on a grass roots approach for communities and at the same time being prepared to intervene in our town centres to give them a long-term viable future as a place that people want to visit.