Torbay Council leader Steve Darling talks of the new challenges - and hopes - for the resort

Economic forecasters are suggesting that Torbay could lose up to 12,000 jobs in the recession that appears to be on the horizon.

The worrying thing for Torbay, with our hospitality led economy, is that in a world where the nation’s economy runs at 90 per cent of its former capacity due to the continued lock down of the hospitality sector, Torbay is likely to be significantly harder hit than the rest of the country.

We are working hard to develop an economic recovery plan and ensure that government is aware of the challenges that we face.

The Council is potentially set for a significant financial shock. The Government so far have shelled out £9million to our council to cover the cost of the pandemic. However, our estimates show that loss of income will result in a £21million shortfall in the Council’s budget at a time when we need to be boosting investment in to tackle the unemployment issues.

The decision to buy the Debenhams building is clear evidence of how the partnership between the Liberal Democrats and Independents, who run Torbay Council, are willing to intervene positively in our town centres to try to re-shape them so that they become more attractive places for locals and visitors.

We hope that Debenhams will continue to trade from this building however, should they choose to hand back the keys, the Council will be in a position to ensure that there is regeneration on this site rather than allowing an empty building to fester for many years.

When we consulted with our communities about our plans for Torbay earlier this year one of the strongest messages from the public was their wish to see the decline of our town centres halted. I have also this week been chipping into the council’s effort to try and contact the hundreds of businesses who haven’t applied for business grants. While I was able to make contact with the majority of people on my list, it was interesting to note that a number of people still thought that the grant scheme was actually a loan that the government would be asking to be paid back.

This is not the case, business may have to pay tax on this but please do visit the council’s website to see if your business could qualify for this grant.

My inbox this week has been dominated by emails regarding dogs on beaches during this lockdown period. My household contains a black Labrador-retriever guide dog whose favourite hobby is pretending to be a horse running through the waves on a flat beach. Whilst I have great sympathy for those who would like to see a relaxation on the rules regarding dogs on select beaches I am aware that this could put some of our blue flag beaches at risk, not just for this year but also next season when we would hope to be bouncing back.

The clincher for me is that the environment agency start monitoring the quality of our bathing water from May and any poor results due to dog fouling would stay on our record for five years to come. Don’t forget that 18/29 of our beaches in Torbay allow dogs on all year round.

Over the past few week my son and I have been regularly using our tandem around Torquay either to pick up some essential shopping or as part of our exercise regime. In happier times, when there were more people on our streets, it was always part of the fun of the tandem to experience the pleasure that this bike would give to others whether it is a child shouting at you, “that bike is sick!” or just smiles from strangers who rarely see a tandem. Let’s hope that it is not too long until we are able to have more people on our streets and have more smiles on our faces.