Leading Torbay councillor: ‘Let’s hope sense of community remains’

Torbay councillor Darren Cowell has pledged to help businesses

Torbay councillor Darren Cowell has pledged to help businesses - Credit: Archant

Leading Torbay councillor Darren Cowell has pledged to help businesses battle back against the pandemic. And he has praised the community for coming together in a way which has been 'nothing short of miraculous'.

Cllr Cowell is the council's deputy leader, whose portfolio is finance.

He writes: 'Easter 2020 will be like none other. After such a wet winter the sun eventually started to shine and normally we would have been arranging quality time with family and friends, spending time in the countryside or somewhere along our wonderful coast or perhaps enjoying an al-fresco meal or a pint in a beer garden.

'One thing that would have been for sure is that on such a glorious weekend Torbay would have been welcoming thousands of visitors and our tourism industry would have been open for business.

'That all changed on March 23 when the government announced measures to combat the invisible enemy that is Corvid-19.

'The impact upon Torbay has been huge. Hundreds of businesses have closed their doors and the government have announced unprecedented sums of money in an effort to keep them afloat.

'Here in Torbay the council is processing grants for businesses that meet set criteria and some £47.5 million is being paid out. The processes hasn't been without some challenges as software needed to be set up and the 3,000 businesses across the Bay needed to apply for grants of either £10,000 or £25,000.

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'As the cabinet Member for finance I hope that as you read this many of the grants would have been paid and that all applicants would have been processed within the next week to 10 days. Many of our council staff are focussed on supporting this process and I am grateful for their dedication. There are, however, many other businesses that are facing significant challenges that are not eligible for grants and who are facing immense difficulties finding support. The council and TDA are committed to raising these issues with the government and to highlight the real challenge to Torbay's £450million tourism industry.

'There are shops, pubs, hotels, attractions and restaurants that would be normally trading at this time, but are in limbo.

'These issues are often discussed with Torbay's MPs, Kevin Foster and Anthony Mangnall, and it is refreshing that the conversations between the council and our Parliamentary representatives have been very constructive. While the government have taken significant measures to support business, more needs to be done.

'And we must not forget the sole traders and self-employed. There are hundreds of people with their own business or who work as sub-contractors. The government have announced various packages of support – but the period that people must wait is far too long. Again, the council hopes the government will speed up payments.

'There are serious threats to many businesses and we must hope that the crisis ends to give a chance of recovery for hundreds of businesses across Torbay.

'We certainly are living in extremely challenging times. Every Thursday it has become normal for residents to come together to applaud our NHS workers as well as those workers who strive to keep us safe and keep essential services and products flowing.

'As well as thinking about those businesses who struggle, those workers who work hard to protect us, we must also thank and celebrate the hundreds of community activists who are making phone calls to the isolated, delivering prescriptions and provisions to those unable to shop for themselves and making themselves available to help.

'The volunteering network that has come together is proving to be a lifeline for many in our communities and providing essential help to the NHS and other public services.

'There are also food banks and volunteer organisations that are helping to cook and deliver hundreds of meals, for example Re4orm have delivered well over 2,000 meals in three weeks.

'The community response has been nothing short of miraculous. Finally, let us hope the new sense of community that has emerged doesn't melt away when 'normality' returns and that it proves to be a positive legacy out of what is proving to be a crisis the like of which has not been seen for over 75 years.'