Nominations have been announced for this year’s Torbay unitary elections and it has been confirmed that only the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have a full slate of candidates set to contest the elections for Torbay Council on Thursday 2nd May.
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council Chris Carter said “Over the last 20 years the Conservatives have run Torbay Council for all but two of those years. It is always a two horse race in Torbay and this set of elections will be no different. We have a strong, diverse team of community champions who range in age from 19 to retirees. Torbay deserves better and we plan to deliver this on 2nd May.”
Ellacombe Liberal Democrats have selected former Labour Parliamentary candidate Jermaine Atiya-Alla to stand alongside fellow Torquay resident Jack Dart for the two seats in the ward.
Jermaine was chosen by Labour to fight the 2010 General Election in Newton Abbot but he has switched to the Liberal Democrats, who he says have the local community’s best interests at heart.
He says: “Elections in Ellacombe and across the Bay are always close contests between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Jack Dart and I want to see big changes in the town hall but this will only happen if people vote for the two Liberal Democrat candidates in Ellacombe, who are best placed to beat the Tories.
“Having grown up with the Labour Party it was not an easy decision to leave but with the poor national leadership and squabbling in the local party, it's an organisation that many others and I no longer recognise.
“I am delighted to be able to promote the Liberal Democrat agenda to tackle poverty and deprivation locally, involve the community in decisions that affect their lives, and be part of a strong and united team with a clear vision for Torbay’s future."
The news broke this weekend of the shock death of the secretary of the Torbay GMB Union branch, Paul Raybould. Paul was also secretary to the South West and Torbay Trades Union Congress.
The Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council, Steve Darling, said: "I had a chat on a bus with Paul only a few hours before his death. I asked him how he was getting on with the local elections campaign and as usual, with Paul, he told me he was busy supporting people over their employment rights. Paul and I had similar concerns about the problems that Torbay faces and we worked together over the years to tackle them."
The Torquay councillor went on to say: "Paul spent a lot of his time selflessly helping people with their issues concerning employment rights. He was one of life’s givers and there is one less good guy on the planet today."
Dennis Brewer, Chair of Torbay Liberal Democrats, added: "Paul has been a great servant to the Bay and particularly in his work with Tor2 and NHS staff. Our thoughts are particularly with his son Richard and daughter Vanessa. Richard is very much in the mould of his father and hopes to carry on the family tradition of helping and supporting those in need."
In a shock email today, councillors on Torbay Council have been informed that the street lighting service is in crisis and that residents in the bay can expect a poor street lighting service for months to come.
The leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council, Steve Darling, slammed this latest public service failure as "just the latest example of how the Conservative-run council is letting down the people of Torbay. We have suffered the omnishambles of failed bin collections for a couple of years and now another basic service is set to fail."
He went on to say: “Street lighting is a public safety matter. I am demanding an urgent meeting with officers to ensure we get this public service back on track as a matter of urgency. We must also hold the contractors, Keir, to account if they are failing in their duties. This is the latest example of how outsourcing public services to the private sector can go wrong."
The email from the officer is as follows:
I am contacting you all to make you aware of some issues that the Highways team are experiencing with their provision of a street lighting maintenance service.
The current street lighting contractor, Kier Lighting, has experienced a number of recent resignations from their key operational staff within a very short period of time and after today we have been advised that their resources in terms of staff will be depleted to a level where they may only be able to provide a minimum emergency response to our street lighting issues. The effect of these staff resignations have followed Kier’s loss of the Plymouth City Council Contract last year, leaving Torbay as their only Street Lighting Service in the South West. This has also left them without any other local resources, with the relevant skills, to backfill the staff departures.
We are of course working with Kier to try and find a potential solution in the short term and Kier are looking at whether there are options with other contractors operating in the South West, however I consider that the options will be very limited due to the specialist nature of this service.
With this in mind we have decided to commence an urgent procurement exercise to appoint a new contractor. As this situation was not anticipated we have to commence the procurement exercise immediately and this may take a few months to complete. In the meantime I regret that the authority’s ability to undertake a full street lighting service is likely to be severely compromised. As stated we are working hard to maintain as much of a service as possible, but it is more than likely that complaints from the public about street lighting issues may begin to increase during this procurement period.
The current situation is not of the authority’s making and we could not have foreseen this situation arising with 1 year remaining of the current contract period. I realise that this type of work is very much in the public eye and affects the reputation of the Council and as such I wanted to ensure that you are all aware of this situation and would request your assistance in managing the expectations of the public at his time. I will of course keep you updated on this situation once we have some more positive news.
I apologise for any inconvenience this will cause.
Torbay Conservatives perform double u-turn and decides to buy Amazon warehouse near Exeter
Local residents have been outraged by the news that the Conservative-dominated Torbay Council have gone ahead with an investment of £15 million in a new warehouse for an online retail giant located outside of Torbay.
Staggeringly, local Conservatives decided to make the investment despite the fact that Torbay’s Tory leader openly acknowledged the harm being caused to our high streets in Torbay.
Torbay’s Lib Dems had lead the opposition to the investment for many months and it seemed they had convinced the dominant Conservative group against the investment. But in what appears to be a double u-turn, local Conservatives went ahead to back the
Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson Lee Howgate said: "Torbay's Conservatives have betrayed our town centres, local businesses and residents in Torbay. At a time when our high streets are crying out for investment, local people are rightly outraged that our council is using taxpayers' money to help out the big online retailers. It really makes you wonder: do they care about the plight of our town centres at all?"
The Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council have received a response from Waitrose about the long-term future of their staff at the Torquay branch. Cllr Steve Darling, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council, wrote to the supermarket chain last week.
He said: “I understand the Torquay branch of Waitrose was their 9th best performing store in the country in relation to area footage and had regularly met their sales targets. The letter gave assurances in respect of the support that Waitrose would be offering their staff. However, I have heard from a number of sources that the new operator may leave a gap of a number of months which could result in employment rights being lost for any staff from Waitrose. The current staffing level is 96 and this could drop to 30 if it is a budget supermarket.”
He went on to say: “I asked the Torbay Development Agency to contact Waitrose to see how they might be able to assist but, sadly, the contracts of sale have already been concluded. I have heard rumours as to who the new owners will be and plan to share my concerns with them once this has been confirmed.”
Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council are demanding answers over the shock cancellation of Armed Forces Day this summer.
Paignton councillor and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council, Cllr Chris Carter, said: “A number of us saw the social media speculation about this event being cancelled. Despite making enquiries, the first I knew of this cancellation was when I heard it on the local radio. This is a bolt from the blue, and whilst Torbay faces financial challenges it is wrong to axe this celebration of those who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.” She went on to say: “I am particularly concerned that the decision appears to have been made behind closed doors and without an opportunity for elected councillors to influence it. I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will be taking this matter further.”
The Liberal Democrat councillor for Barton and Watcombe, Swithin Long, has tabled a question for the Torbay Council meeting on 3rd April regarding a future Healthwatch contract. His question raises concerns that a future Devon-wide rather than Torbay-focussed contract could lead to a dilution in local services. Healthwatch is an independent body which monitors health services on behalf of the public.
Councillor Long’s question says:
"On 17th December 2018, the Elected Mayor took the decision to extend the existing Healthwatch contract with Healthwatch Torbay until March 2020. In the reasoning for the decision the Mayor indicated that in the future the longer term model might be for a Devon-wide contract.
Healthwatch Torbay provides services above and beyond the statutory services that they are required to provide. There are concerns that a Devon-wide Healthwatch contract might dilute those services to those statutory services which means Torbay residents would lose out.
What will the decision-making process be for awarding the post March 2020 Healthwatch contract, and how will councillors be involved in that decision?"
Commenting on his question Councillor Long said, “Concerns have been raised with me that a future Devon-wide Healthwatch could result in a contract that provides statutory services but does not provide extra services designed to cater for the local area. I hope that the answer to my question will reveal how a future decision on the contract will be reached and how councillors and residents can influence that decision.”
Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council are calling for a reset in the way the developer of the Pavilion engages with the local community. This follows the refusal of the current planning application earlier this week.
Cllr Nick Pentney, who won a landslide by-election in the Tormohun ward three years ago on a platform of stopping over-development around the Pavilion site, said: “It has been very frustrating that it has taken from August to February for the Council to come to a decision over this application so that things can move on. We also find it disappointing that some local organisations are talking down Torquay. We should be using the current state of affairs as an opportunity for the developer to re-engage at an early stage with the community so there is a real opening to influence the final proposals for the harbourside in Torquay.
"We have already met with officers and pushed for early engagement with the community. With the Fragrance Group pressing ahead with their exciting proposals to bring a five star hotel back to the Bay, we anticipate the developer coming forward with proposals in the next few months. Success breeds success, and we need to ensure that such organisations as the local Community Partnership and Friends of Cary Green are in the room for early discussions.”
Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council have slammed a decision by the council to put on ice any further development from a 25 million pound housing company until this summer.
The company was established in July 2017 to deliver more affordable rented housing for Torbay. To date, no schemes have come to fruition under the chairmanship of the Conservative group leader, Cllr David Thomas.
Cllr Steve Darling, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council, said: “Torbay has less than half the national average number of social rented homes. The Housing Company is an initiative that the Liberal Democrats championed as a way of turning the tide on poverty in Torbay. Sadly, the Conservatives have supported this in name only and by kicking this initiative into the long grass they will leave many people in dire housing need disappointed.”