A more listening and responsive council for our communities

The latest column from Steve Darling - Leader of Torbay Council

A more listening and responsive council for our communities is what the Liberal Democrat/Independent partnership which runs Torbay Council is aiming to achieve. This is why we have held two community conferences and established a weekly email newsletter.

Our third ‘Ask Us’ COVID-19 Facebook Live event last Tuesday was held on what was a poignant day with the  announcement that the virus has now taken the lives of over 100,000 people in the UK. It has been an extremely challenging year for everyone, and much has been asked of us, but this is a stark reminder that, even though the government has led us to our current dire situation through its persistent failure to take decisive, evidence-led action, we must continue to do our part to control the virus and follow the scientific guidance including ‘Hands, Face, Space’.

It was great to see so many residents joining our latest Facebook Live on  26 January. If you missed it, you can view it at https://www.torbay.gov.uk/covid-live.  Over 3,000 people viewed the  event with nearly 300 interactions and questions covering subjects from vaccinations and enforcement to schools and care homes. We also had many questions about mental health support services. Our partner organisations, including the police, the Torbay Community Development Trust and our local NHS providers, must be thanked for their participation and their ongoing hard work in the pandemic.

Since the first Covid-19 lockdown, Torbay Council has formed a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Alliance with a range of statutory and community organisations who support mental health and wellbeing in Torbay. The Alliance recognises that mental health support is not, and cannot, be provided by a single agency and support needs will differ if someone is just feeling low or is in real mental health distress.

Torbay Council promotes the Every Mind Matters website which provides information and links to local mental health support (including NHS Talking Therapies and DPT crisis support). Young people (aged 11-25) can access the free, anonymous, online mental wellbeing community KOOTH at www.kooth.com. For a local list of mental health support you can go to the council’s website www.torbay.gov.uk/improve-your-mood

We have now paid out over £4m to local businesses across all grants schemes and have expanded the criteria for the discretionary grants to include businesses run by self-employed people that still have fixed ongoing costs for example, van lease, website costs or insurance. This could be taxi drivers, web developers, early years/childminder settings and driving instructors amongst others. Any businesses that hasn’t done so can check their eligibility on our website www.torbay.gov.uk/business-financial-support and must apply before 31 March 2021.

With more of us at home during the  lockdown, we’re getting more home deliveries which can lead to more cardboard packaging. This is the ideal opportunity for all of us to think about how we can improve our recycling.

We want to increase Torbay’s recycling rate from 40% to 50% over the next few years to help the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. A staggering 52% of waste in our bins could have been recycled so we can all do more by recycling food waste, plastics, glass and many more items. 20% of Torbay’s wheeled bins content is food waste, which could have gone in our food caddies.

Recycling is not just about what we can put in our boxes but also reducing and reusing. Single use plastic has a big effect on our environment and we can reduce the amount in our homes by switching to reusable coffee cups, water bottles and long life carrier bags where possible.

We have recently recruited new Recycling Coordinators to help advise, support and educate residents on our recycling provision in Torbay. They’ll be working with communities to help drive up our recycling rates and to help us all do our bit to tackle climate change.

You can find more information on recycling on our website at https://www.torbay.gov.uk/recycling

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