Steve Darling: Investing in our priority areas despite £500m of cumulative cuts

Torbay Weekly

This week the budget will be decided and set by the council.

The impact of the austerity years continues to haunt Torbay Council after more than £500 million of cumulative cuts and savings over the past ten years.

Since being elected in 2019 , the partnership between the Liberal Democrats and Independents has got a firm grip on the authority’s finances, particularly in respect of children’s services, which, added to adult social care, accounts for almost 80 per cent of our budget.

You only need to look across the border at Devon County Council to see what can go wrong, where they are predicting a £12 million overspend on children and adult social care in the current financial year.

This is resulting in painful cuts to social care and highways, to name just two services.

It is frustrating that the Government have only given us a single-year settlement which does not allow us to plan for the long term, and also means that we need to plan for our finances that could drop off a cliff next year.

Despite this, we are investing in our priority areas.

We listened carefully to your feedback, and I am pleased that so many people said they were in favour of our initial proposals.

We also listened to other suggestions put forward and updated our initial proposals to reflect this.

With the poor contract with TOR2, we saw the council being effectively a hostage client and the private company extracting profits and choosing not to invest in the service.

However, we are now starting to turn the tide with £4.6million invested in our fleet and recycling plant.

We are now investing a further £1.5million in SWISCo so we can ensure many of the bread and butter services, such as parks, waste and recycling, and roads start to approach the standards that many residents quite reasonably expect.

We know how important clean streets are to our residents and as a direct result of feedback, we have invested £100,000 in one-off funding to tackle fly-tipping and dog fouling.

Another change we have made in our final proposals is a £1million climate investment fund to deliver projects and initiatives across Torbay.

We really want to drive forward activities with our partners so we can make a positive difference to Torbay’s environment.

As I go out and about in Torbay, I often reflect on the number of economic regeneration projects we have planned to carry out and this fills me with optimism, but we need the resources to deliver them.

That is one of the reasons we are investing in additional project managers to drive these schemes forward at pace and we are setting aside a contingency fund to meet escalating building costs after Brexit and the pandemic.

Our car parks also need rejuvenating. so we will be starting a £1million programme of investment in them.

The initial work will enable significant improvements to signage, surfaces, and lighting.

The housing crisis is also a huge challenge in the Bay, so we are allocating the majority of a £500,000 pot to improvements aimed at bringing empty properties back into use, improving standards in the private rented sector, and progressing housing sites which have planning permission.

It is never easy to ask people to pay more council tax, but with only a one year financial settlement from the Government, we must be prudent with regard to future funding in case the Government slash our support next year.

That is why, like the majority of other local authorities across Devon, we are set to increase our council tax by 2.99 per cent.

This will mean that Torbay will continue to have one of the lowest council taxes in Devon.

If you are struggling to pay your council tax bill you can seek support at www.torbay.gov.uk/council-tax/ or call the council on 01803 201201

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