Turning the tide of poverty in Torbay

A steam train going past the beach at Goodrington Sands Photo: English Riviera BID Company

It always brings a smile to my face when I hear the whistling and chuffing of the steam train as it leaves the station. Photo: English Riviera BID Company - Credit: Archant

Over recent weeks, I have spent many hours introducing myself as the leader of Torbay Council on doorsteps in the Clifton with Maidenway ward as I support our candidate, Catharine Johns, in the council by-election caused by the sad death of councillor Ian Dogget last November.

I have overcome my male pride by carrying a symbol cane to alert people to my being registered blind, previously only used in the Tube in London.

Whether it’s because of a recent deterioration in eyesight or lack of exercise during lockdowns I am not quite sure, but at least if a resident sees me walking into a wheelie bin, they’ll know it is due to my disability rather than having had one too many.

It always brings a smile to my face when I hear the whistling and chuffing of the steam train as it leaves the station.

While I have heard it out on the water at the Orestone, I was surprised to hear it in Waterleat Avenue the other evening.

Our steam railway is something that makes Paignton and Torbay special.

It has felt very much like a half-term report to electors on how the partnership between the Liberal Democrats and Independents is getting on with tackling the challenges that we face in Torbay.

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The partnership running the council came together under the banner of turning the tide of poverty in Torbay.

The international pandemic has both slowed down some of the progress we had hoped to make, like a long-term solution for Oldway Mansion, as funding opportunities were switched to Covid responses.

It has also forced us to work speedily and innovatively with partners to come up with solutions to the obstacles thrown up by the pandemic.

If I had to highlight three key successes achieved despite the distraction of the pandemic, they would be, firstly, getting a firmer grip on children’s services resulting in the council no longer having a Government-appointed commissioner to watch over us.

Secondly, it would be the establishment of a local housing company to deliver rented affordable housing for the people of Torbay, and thirdly, the success in gaining Future High Streets funding for Paignton and Town Deal money for Torquay.

This will see tens of millions of pounds invested in regenerating both these town centres.

The international pandemic has tested us but Torbay, as a whole, has risen to the challenge so I was delighted when Torbay was shortlisted with four other councils for the Co-Op Council of the Year award for work around food poverty.

We are committed to being a co-operative council and are striving to improve the lives of our community by working with them.

 One of the ways we achieved this last year, which was one of the hardest  any of us have ever experienced, was by bringing together community food resources and fundraising efforts to create the Torbay Food Alliance.

This group of food banks has supported those most in need during the pandemic, working with schools and the Community Helpline to ensure everyone had access to food.

 Amazingly, Torbay Food Alliance has just celebrated its first birthday and prepared and distributed its half-millionth meal last week!

We are now building on this approach and are developing a strategic food partnership.

This will provide a long-term collaborative approach and will create a resilient local food system.

 Through this partnership we will tackle the issues and work together to explore creative and innovative solutions so we can together provide good, healthy and sustainable food to all.

After the difficult past year we have all had, we would be proud to gain this award.

The winners will be decided by a public vote, and this is where we need your help.

 If we’ve inspired you, impressed you, helped you or made a positive difference in any way we would be very grateful if you could vote for us.

To vote for Torbay Council go to www.uk.coop/vote. Voting closes at midnight on June 1, 2021, and the winners will be announced on July 5, 2021.

Torbay Food Alliance  also aims to connect people to other help around housing, debt, benefits and more. More information at www.torbayfoodalliance.org