Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council were delighted after a rental housing company for Torbay, Rentco, scheduled to invest £25 million in Torbay, was agreed at the Full Council meeting on the 20th July. The council-owned housing company is set to start to tackle some of the deep-seated housing problems in Torbay, such as the lack of affordable housing, and to raise standards in the private rented sector.
A delighted Cllr Steve Darling, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council, said: “Just a few weeks ago this project was dead in the water and it is only through our intervention that it has now been brought back to life by seeking common ground between the fractured Tory group. Deprivation has worsened in recent years under the Conservatives. It is initiatives like this that will start to get Torbay back on track".
In the same week a second food bank opened in Torquay, the Conservative/UKIP controlled council began a consultation on raising from 25% to 45% the Council Tax contribution from those the benefits system deems so poor that they qualify for a discount.
Tormohun Liberal Democrat councillor Mandy Darling is very worried for the over 8,000 households that will be hardest hit. “For many the 25% they have to pay is already too much and more than they can afford. The only people who will gain from this are the bailiffs the Mayor sends in when people can’t pay.”
She met with Emma, the manager at the Windmill Community Centre, Hele. Emma said: “I am shocked how few people know about this proposed change. People should contact their ward Councillor to share their concerns about these horrific proposals."
Ann, a volunteer at the centre, also pictured below, said: "This will push a lot of people over the edge and massively increase homelessness.”
Paignton councillor Ian Doggett said: “The Council Tax collection rate in Torbay is 97% overall, but only 60% among those who qualify for the discount. So the Tories and their UKIP ally want to charge those least able to pay an even larger sum that will see their arrears and the Council’s non-collection rate rise.”
It is claimed the proposal would save around £1.75 million, but, according to Steve Darling, the Liberal Democrat council group leader, the hardship it will cause for those who can barely make ends meet today, and who provide the bulk of the demand for support from our food banks and other charitable resources, is incalculable ."It’s not really a saving,” he says, “as people on the lowest incomes tend to spend all of their income, so the cut will take £1.75 million out of local tills at a time when the Council claims it is supporting local businesses!
“It is the government the Conservative councillors were so keen to campaign for and see elected that is largely behind this, although the priorities of our elected Tory mayors and their administrations over the past decade have made matters worse.”
The government passed down responsibility for Council Tax benefit to local authorities in the Welfare Reform Act – an act, Adrian Sanders, our MP at the time, voted against. As predicted, the costs of this responsibility are not being met in full by the government, so local authorities are having to find more of the money elsewhere.
“Liberal Democrat Councillors are leading the opposition in the Council and campaigning against this and other ideas that seek to balance the books on the backs of the poor,” says Councillor Darling.
Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council are set to challenge the Conservative-controlled council over plans to charge those least able to pay council tax hundreds of pounds more each year. Currently, those who are in receipt of benefits and are of working age pay 10% of their council tax. The Conservative-controlled council plans to increase this to a 45% charge, as well as making a number of other penny-pinching changes to the council tax support scheme from May 2017. This will result in council tax bills for those on benefits and of working age increasing by hundreds of pounds a year.
Letter from Lib Dem councillor Steve Darling to the Herald Express:
The article entitled “Families are in crisis says food bank chief”( Herald Express 24.2.2016.) confirmed what many of us know is the reality in Torbay, as expressed in Nigel Williams's comment that ”A high percentage of our food parcels are going to working families who are finding that there is too much month left at the end of the money.”
So what is our Tory MP saying about this crisis in Torbay?
Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council are set to demand that the Council borrow to invest in affordable housing for local people.
Tormohun Liberal Democrat Councilor Mandy Darling Said “We have 3000 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in Torbay. And half the national average at 8% of the number of available social homes. Nationally the Conservatives are bleeding money away from supporting such provision and so we feel that the Council needs to step up to the mark to ensure those homes that are desperately needed in the Bay are provided.”
She went on to say “over recent years we have borrowed over £7 million to spend on Rock walk and Princes Prom. We feel it is time to use some of this money for improving peoples lives by giving them decent homes to live in.”
Torbay Council is set to adopt a new housing strategy on 10 December at its Full Council meeting. Torbay Liberal Democrats have described the new plans as a house of straw that fails to tackle the needs of our communities in Torbay.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Steve Darling, said, “We have been promised this strategy for years and now it has come to Council it appears to be a house of straw that fails to tackle the massive housing problems we face in Torbay. It lacks focus, targets and any ambition to help local people. It appears the Mayor is failing to tackle housing needs and fuelling the housing greed of the buy-to-let market in the bay by proposing such a third rate strategy.”
He went on to say, “We have a number of detailed concerns. These include:
- Failing to have explicit targets for the delivery of units of affordable housing within the lifetime of the Housing Strategy.
- Failing to have enough detail within the Housing Strategy in order to give confidence that the Strategy can be delivered practically over its lifetime.
- Failing to have alternative methods of bringing forward affordable housing units within the Strategy, rather than just relying on the requirement within the Local Plan that 30% of new housing developments should be affordable.
- Failing to include the needs of the community in the Aligned Investment Plan rather than being wholly Treasury management-led (as indicated within the supporting information for the Housing Strategy). The timescale for the implementation of that Fund should also be included within the Strategy.
- Failing to have a timescale for the preparation of the delivery plans which sit below the Housing Strategy.”
Councillor Darling ended by saying, “Over the next few days we will be reaching out to other council members to see if there is an opportunity for a cross party amendment to be put forward at the council meeting later this month.“
Contact Steve Darling 07443425503
In light of the latest indices of deprivation figures and the worrying downward trends it highlights in Torbays most deprived areas Liberal Democrat Councillor for Ellacombe Cindy Stocks has submitted a question to the Mayor at the next full council meeting on 22nd October.
At the last Torbay Full Council meeting on the 24th September, 2015, Liberal Democrat Councillors on Torbay Council proposed a scheme that could see millions of pounds invested in private sector housing in Torbay to reduce the numbers of poor quality private sector rented homes in the Bay and develop a scheme that would improve the quality of private sector housing within Torbay.