Torbay Council leader: We need to be strong to fight Torbay’s corner when we are on the other side of this

Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Council

Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Council - Credit: Archant

The world, and Torbay, will never be the same again post the COVID-19 crisis.

It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of families that have lost loved ones during the pandemic and fears as to whether our society will be the same again.

For the last three years this country has been torn apart and paralysed by the Brexit debate, this health crisis has forced us all to support each other and consider our fellow man like never before.

The economic downturn, with the possible loss of more than 12,000 jobs across Torbay, is sobering and we need to be building upon our newly found grass roots communities and be demanding that the government bring forward significant investments in our area such as the future high streets funding of £15 million for Paignton, the town deal fund of £25 million for Torquay and support millions of investment in our fishing industry in Brixham. The government also should boost these pots that were in train before this financial shock hit us.

Our nation's economy, and particular areas such as ours that have a sickly economy to start with, need this jump-start to avoid an economic depression that could be worse than that seen in the 1920s.

Across Torbay Council we have adapted to these pressing circumstances and we seem to be starting to settle into this new normal.

With the government announcing a further three-week lockdown it is now imperative that we bring forward virtual ways of holding our meetings.

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The governance support team have been testing some difference systems.

The Cabinet are able to start to focus our minds towards the core business of the local authority and ensuring we are progressing policy in key areas such as the establishment of SWISCO, our successor to Tor2, and testing regeneration opportunities.

We all need to be reflecting on what our world will be like in a few weeks' time and how we can both support our communities, take advantage of new ways of working and boost our economy.

We need to be strong to fight Torbay's corner when we are on the other side of this.

Over the weekend the government confirmed an additional £1.6 billion to support councils during the COVID crisis.

We are yet to receive the details of this but this is likely only to cover the costs of supporting our communities during these extraordinary times. The additional costs of lost income to councils, such as car parking and lost income of commercial units, plus savings that councils were set to make over the year are currently not covered by central government.

Over the weekend we reached payment of over £12m of business grants to businesses across Torbay, with Torbay Council officers working through the weekend to make this happen.

This was the vast majority of the money for those who have applied for the £10,000 grants to businesses across Torbay. Much more is set to go out this week.

The government have identified more than 1.5 million people across the UK who, due to significant health concerns, need to stay at home for 12 weeks.

Many of these people will have friends and family who can aid them in doing this. However, for those who have no-one, the government is arranging deliveries of food and the council needs to be the safety net where this may not be met and check with these people where other support is required.

Torbay Council has developed at team of around 16 call centre staff to reach out to those identified for shielding by the government.

The shielding list has been expanded and now stands at just shy of 3,000 as of Friday.

All but 10 of those have been contacted. An officer of the council went out to knock on doors of these 10 individuals on Friday, April 17, where no contact could be made via telephone.

This crisis was always set to be a marathon, I do not believe we will have sight of the finish line until we have high levels of testing across the UK, we are lobbying and working with partners to try and bring this forward.