Working hard to maximise opportunities and tackle challenges

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak - Credit: Press Association

It is a hackneyed old phrase but the devil in a budget is very often in the detail.

That is why it is best to give it a couple of days before making any pronouncements on a Chancellor’s budget.

This is what the Institute for Fiscal Studies did, and now they have declared Rishi Sunak’s budget 'more Scrooge than Santa' with his cutting of public spending and raising taxes to the tune of nearly £50bn, relative to his pre-pandemic plans of March 2020.

In determining the council’s budget last month we adopted a prudent approach, both in setting the Council Tax level and also putting money aside for future financial pressures.

The Chancellor’s mask slipping and exposing 'Scrooge Sunak' has justified our approach as local government funding appears to be in the cross-hairs of the Chancellor’s cuts.

Sadly, austerity appears to be far from over, the investment needed in our NHS has not been delivered and, despite the Prime Minister’s  protestations, the long-term fix for social care remains nothing but political rhetoric.

This week’s budget saw announcements about new grants and extensions to existing financial support to help businesses weather the effects of the pandemic.

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Some of these are administered through the council.

We’re still waiting for the final details from Government, but in the meantime I urge all businesses to check if they are eligible for any of the existing grants.

They can be applied for retrospectively, even if you haven’t applied before, and cover all periods of the lockdown since November 2020.  

We will be giving regular updates on support for business on the council’s social media channels using the hashtag #TorbayBusiness.

What businesses need is certainty. Many of our 4,000-plus businesses in Torbay are small and medium sized and are on the cliff-edge of survival.

Add to that our disproportionately high dependence on the hospitality and tourism sector compared to other areas in the country, and it makes our economy very vulnerable.

It is crucial that we get the investment that we need to survive and recover from the effects of the 'three winters' that our traders have suffered.

We continue to urge the Government to recognise the potential of our area for investment through the Future Shared Prosperity Fund.

This will replace European funding now that we’ve left the EU and, as announced in the budget, will be allocated directly to local authorities.

We have similar pockets of deprivation as some more metropolitan areas of the country, the national economy shrank by ten per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels and the OBR predict 6.5 per cent unemployment.

We are committed to doing all we can to tackle social and economic challenges to make sure we are not hit harder.

We have a highly-skilled workforce in Torbay, excellent natural assets and well-connected business parks, so our task is to get the Government to see Torbay as a serious contender for investment in its Levelling-Up agenda.

Torbay’s thriving hi-tech sector and other manufacturers in the Bay could benefit from Plymouth and South Devon’s designation as a freeport, and we’ll be working with partners to maximise these opportunities.

We’ll also be backing our local creative venues to take up the bids for investment in this important sector, which adds to the richness of our tourism and quality of life offer.

And, of course, if there’s one thing this year has taught us, if we didn’t know this already, it is the importance of an agile and robust public health provision.

I can’t praise enough our hard-working and professional public health team here at the council, led previously by the inimitable Caroline Dimond and now by our new director of public health, Dr Lincoln Sargeant.