It’s been a tough time for those on the frontline of the emergency services in the last eighteen months with the pandemic generating extraordinary pressures. As restrictions ease, there is a pent-up demand on the NHS and a very busy summer for our police, ambulance, firefighters and coastguards in Torbay.
This is why the partnership between Independents and Liberal Democrats that runs Torbay Council is proposing that on September 9th we hoist the official flag of ‘Emergency Services Day’ above the Town Hall.
Two million people work and volunteer in the NHS. We know the heroic stories of those who worked in intensive care for endless, high-pressure shifts, but the NHS is like a machine and every part relies on another, from the human resources department to the pharmacy, from the bio-chemists to the hospital discharge team.
One reason our country has been able to respond to the high drama of Covid-19 is because we have a NATIONAL health service, the legacy of enlightened politicians and social campaigners in the 1940s who recognised that for the country to be healthy all had to be healthy.
The Beveridge report was drafted by the Liberal economist William Beveridge, who proposed widespread reforms to the system of social welfare to address Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, and Idleness. The report formed the basis for the post-war reforms known as the Welfare State, which included the expansion of National Insurance and the creation of the National Health Service. The pandemic has reminded us that social status and private healthcare cannot insulate you from a rampaging disease that knows no boundaries. It is only by everyone locking down, everyone following the rules and everyone accepting vaccination, that the disease will be beaten.
The NHS and emergency services have led by example. Who can forget the frontline staff who went into isolation in hotels to keep their families safe?. In care homes in South Devon, staff moved in to ensure that their elderly vulnerable residents were protected. We hoist the flag for you too.
Volunteers also played their part in fighting the pandemic. The Torbay Community Development trust set up the Torbay Helpline, manned by volunteers with help from Torbay Council and the health service. We also saw councillors from all parties on Torbay Council delivering food parcels and supporting their communities in their hour of need. When mentioning councillors a special tribute should be paid to our youngest councillor in Torbay, Ellacombe councillor Jack Dart who played a pivotal role in establishing the Torbay Help Hub, a community Facebook group that continues to be a go to place for mutual support in Torbay.
National politicians have bragged about the vaccination programme in the UK. We are right to be proud of it but we need to acknowledge that whilst health professionals have been the backbone of this service the volunteers have acted as the oil in the machine and have ensured the smooth running of this process. When I visited the Riviera Centre in Torquay for my vaccine I was in and out within 5 minutes.
These volunteers embody the good citizenship which means that we have been able to draw strength from our neighbours and friends during the last eighteen months, for example running errands to the shops for those who were shielding or just too frightened to go out.
My hope is that such community spirit continues because we are not out of this yet. Throughout the pandemic Torbay has shown it is a resilient and resourceful community and we have worked together like never before. At a recent meeting with the National Lottery a number of participants from the charity and voluntary sector reflected on how Torbay was well placed to push on towrds developing a shared vision for our communities. There are still significant areas for improvement, but like battle-hardened soldiers our communities across Torbay have a strong foundation to build upon.
Cllr Steve Darling - Leader of Torbay Council
Nothing says more about a town than its centre. It’s the place that brings people together from across all its communities. The centre is the town’s heart and will be the place that most residents and visitors will know. Rightly or wrongly, it will be the place that determines many people’s view of the town in its entirety. Put as simply as possible, Torbay’s town centres matter.
I know that when I speak to people on their doorsteps, their key focus is very often on improving our town centres. We have been successful in securing just under £40M in Future High Streets funding and Town Deal funding for Paignton and Torquay respectively. We have also and have lodged ambitious levelling up plans for Brixham in excess of £10M. Whilst this is a critical part of Torbay’s long-term future, we can’t ignore the social issues that are affecting our town centres.
Towards the end of last month, Shaun Sawyer, Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall Police, and Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner visited Torquay. The visit was focused on what could be done to reduce antisocial behaviour in the heart of Torquay.
Personally, I’ve been appalled to hear and see the extent of some of the antisocial behaviour that occurs in Torbay, particularly the open use of drugs and unacceptable behaviour on and around our high street. This summer I’ve also been visiting hoteliers in Croft Road and Belgrave Road who have shared their experiences about unacceptable behaviour on our streets. When I meet with anyone, I always encourage them to report incidents of anti-social behaviour as they are happening. The walkabout gave the opportunity for local businesses to share their concerns, especially around response times to shoplifters and anti-social behaviour.
I know that the ward councillors for Tormohun, Mandy Darling, Cordelia Law and Nick Pentney recently wrote to all residents in and immediately off Belgrave Road encouraging them to report such behaviour. The fact of the matter is that if this kind of behaviour is unreported, then it will not show up as an issue for the police to deal with.
It was great to see the ‘can do’ approach that is being taken by local business owners. To tackle anti-social behaviour at Torquay Marina, Sean White from Wesup took the innovative approach of taking over some of the space managed by MDL Marinas. Sean and his team have turned a disused space into a thriving terrace which offers stunning views of the inner harbour. This is a great example of how, despite the ongoing financial challenges of the pandemic, businesses are helping to drive change for Torbay.
The visit also focused on those who support some of our residents who are most vulnerable. We had a very useful conversation with the manager of the Leonard Stocks hostel and a good conversation with some of the professionals who support well over 1,000 clients who are on drug or alcohol addiction programmes. As we approached the Town Hall for a final wash up meeting, it was sobering to see a 41-year-old woman unconscious at Castle Circus. The police sergeant with us stayed with her and arranged for an ambulance to get her to A&E.
Together, we need to drive forward change. We know that there have been misguided cuts by the previous administration to the supporting people budget and we need to see how we may be able to reverse this. We are developing a clear action plan with key partners with regard to how we can work together to tackle these issues. It cannot be down to one agency, body, or business to make change happen. The changes we all want to see, won’t happen overnight, but as a result of having a shared vision, understanding and commitment. Together, we can ensure the people of Torbay thrive.
Please note this event has now been cancelled due to high COVID cases in the Bay
Torbay Council has contributed £2,500 to support an exciting weekend of sporting events.
The ‘Bouncing Back to Sport’ weekend will enable local residents to try out a variety of sports sessions for free at Torquay Tennis Club.
As part of the councils ‘Torbay on the Move’ strategy which is supported by an investment of £150k after years of under investment into local sport, Torbay on the Move aims to get more people more active and into sport.
On Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 July, Torbay Sports clubs are showcasing the different types of sports available that are open to everyone again now that lockdown restrictions have eased.
With a theme of ‘sports, health and fun’ it is hoped the festival will be one of the biggest sporting celebrations seen in the Bay.
The event will be formally opened by Councillor Terry Manning, The Worshipful the Mayor of Torbay, with live music provided by Torbay Brass Band.
Over the weekend, festival goers will get to experience activities such as taekwondo, baton twirling, basketball, yoga, hockey, table tennis, archery, Zumba, football, cricket and gymnastics as well as a range of water sports.
The last 12 months have been really difficult for both sports clubs and participants. Not being able to take part in sports is not only detrimental to people’s physical health, but their mental wellbeing. We are delighted to be able to support this initiative as part of our progress towards developing our Torbay on the Move strategy. We will be announcing even more sports and exercise-related events and activities over the coming weeks.
Kirsten Neilson-Hunter, Secretary of Torquay Tennis Club, said; “As a result of COVID-19 we wanted to provide an opportunity as soon as restrictions were lifted to give something back to the people of Torbay. We wouldn’t have been able to put on this event without the support and help from Torbay Council and Sport Torbay, who have been so wonderful. The enthusiasm and positivity from the various clubs has been staggering.”
Andy Pelling, Chairman of Torquay Tennis Club, said; “I know just how hard these past 12 months have been for local sports clubs, the organisers, the children, the parents, the volunteers and everyone. People have had to endure so much, so now is the time for Torbay to enjoy all that its sports clubs have to offer.”
The Bouncing Back to Sport weekend is open from 10am on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 July from 10am.
For more information on Torbay on the Move, including the Bouncing Back to Sport and Believe to Achieve funding opportunities, visit https://www.torbay.gov.uk/leisure-sports-and-community/sports
Further information on Bouncing Back to Sport can be found via www.torquaytennisclub.co.uk or by calling Torquay Tennis Club on 01803 209500.
Nick Pentney, Liberal Democrat councillor for Tormohun ward, Torquay, has accused Kevin Foster, Torbay’s Conservative MP, of abandoning their election commitment on international development spending by voting to maintain the UK’s cut on foreign aid spending, which will endanger the lives of people around the globe.
In the 2019 General Election, Conservative MPs including Kevin Foster stood on a manifesto promise to “proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on development”.
This week, the Government won a vote in Parliament to continue their recently announced annual £4bn cut of Britain's international development spending from 0.7% to 0.5% GNI for at least 5 years.
Nick Pentney, Liberal Democrat councillor for Tormohun, said:
“Torbay needs an MP who will keep their word. When Mr Foster stood for Parliament in 2019, they pledged to support the 0.7% target on aid spending. They have callously broken their promise and abandoned millions of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our world.
“Kevin Foster’s vote will have an enormous impact on the most vulnerable, costing lives, stopping girls from going to school and putting a wrecking ball through vital projects like tackling the climate crisis.
“The Liberal Democrats have supported international development spending for over sixty years and put the 0.7% target into law in 2015. It is the right thing to do, both for the UK, and those who need our help. Kevin Foster has voted to end that commitment. It is wrong.”
Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
“Every Conservative MP stood on a manifesto commitment to the 0.7% target. They have now voted to cut the development budget for at least the next five years, if not more. It will do irreparable damage to Britain’s reputation across the globe. Now is the time for leadership - but instead, the Conservatives want Britain to hide from its responsibilities during a global pandemic.
There’s no question that we live in a beautiful part of the world and we want to keep it that way. Climate change has become a huge issue over the years, and rightly so – it should be taken seriously. As a local authority we are committed to becoming a carbon neutral council. We have a responsibility to do our bit to help Torbay and encourage our communities to do the same.
Lots of active travel projects are taking place across the Bay to benefit our health and wellbeing, quality of life, the economy and even our pockets! Five new projects are being launched this summer as part of our ‘Liveable Towns’ scheme which aims to make Torbay more accessible and encourage more cycling. They include a new cycle path on Torbay Road, working with residents to find out how we can encourage active travel and reduce traffic in Winner Street, Paignton, talking to residents about how we can improve cycling routes in and out of Brixham and a scheme for improvements alongside and near to Furzeham Primary School in Brixham. As a tandem rider myself, I know how intimidating it can be when lorries or buses appear to give little regard to push bike users on the highway.
But that’s not the only way we are trying to support our transport network. During the lockdowns many people stopped using public transport. Our partnership administration decided to not fund bus operators at historic levels at a time when they had furloughed bus drivers and reduced services. So, we changed the way we paid this concessionary funding. As a result, we have saved around £950k and we are now reinvesting that in our transport system.
We are using half a million of this money for highways maintenance and to repair signage. £50,000 is set to help develop an electric bus scheme in Torbay. Working with Stagecoach, we have expressed our interest in funding to help us buy several electric vehicles.. This will help achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and strengthen Torbay’s resilience in a changing climate. Buses are one of the greenest forms of transport. a fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road, reducing congestion and transport’s impact on the the environment.
With the funding saved through the concessionary bus fare scheme we are also offering free bus passes for families entitled to free school meals. Each pass enables up to two adults and three children to travel for free over the summer. After an incredibly difficult 16 months, this will help struggling families to explore Torbay and spend some quality time together. It’s something many of us take for granted, but for those dealing with tight finances it’s an opportunity to get out together and visit areas of Torbay that they otherwise might not be able to afford to do.
Another tranche of this money is being used to support some of our care experiences children to get them out and about using our buses. It always strikes me as extremely perverse that it is more expensive to use public transport in areas outside London, our capital. This is something the government should address.
Rather than ploughing money into keeping bus routes open that had no demand we have taken steps to use this money more wisely. We have invested in our transport structure and are giving back to our communities in a different way.
Travelling by bus is just one of the ways we can help the environment. During lockdown many of us ditched out cars and took up walking and cycling to exercise. Now we’re being encouraged to continue these good habits and stay active when we travel to work or school, and to meet friends and family.
We could all save an average £400-£600 a year by walking or cycling to school or work instead of driving. That’s got to be worth it!
A budget outturn report that was considered by Torbay Councils Cabinet shows that despite the significant COVID-19 pressures that made financial forecasting challenging, the council achieved an underspend on its 2020/21 revenue budget.
Most notably, Torbay’s Children’s Services made significant financial savings, resulting in a budget underspend of £5.7m. This turn around has been achieved whilst improving outcomes for children and families, allowing them to live better and more fulfilling lives.
As part of the 2020/21 the council approved significant investment into Children’s Services to improve outcomes for children and young people as well as improving the experience for staff. As a result of this renewed focus there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of costly residential placements meaning more children are being supported to live in family-based settings.
Despite the 2020/21 position, the council still faces a £13m budget gap over the next 3 years due to anticipated rises in demand for and costs of service delivery coupled with reduced Government funding.
As a result of the ongoing impact of the pandemic pressure continues into the 2021/22 financial year. The most significant impact remains for service areas such as car parking income, support for temporary accommodation and the collection of Council Tax and Business Rates. Limited funding has been made available from the government to off-set these costs, and there is still uncertainty as to how future funding for 2022/23 and beyond will change as a result.
With uncertainty ahead, it is critical that the one-off funding carried forward into 2021/22 is used sustainably, deliberately and consciously to target resources where they will make the biggest impact for Torbay’s recovery.
Notable investments to ensure Torbay’s people and economy thrives include:
- Cumulative £2m invested towards Community and Corporate Plan priorities
- Establishment of COVID-19 reserve
- Funding into supporting transformation and improvement work which focuses on improving services for residents
- £290k for free bus travel over the summer for eligible families
- £0.5m invested into highway improvements which includes potholes
- Capital funding to improve events infrastructure to host bigger and better events
- £150k towards works at Oldway.
Councillor Cordelia Law, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said; “The financial savings achieved within Children’s Services can be attributed to the continued hard work by the staff within the service. Whilst the budget outturn report focuses on the financial impact of the changes, the most significant impact of ‘the numbers’ is that children and young people growing up in Torbay have improved outcomes.”
The full report, along with all reports considered at Cabinet on Tuesday 13 July can be found on the website.
Keeping Torbay resident’s safe is a key priority for Liberal Democrat led Torbay Council.
Over the last 6 months, even with lockdown restrictions, the council’s CCTV Control Room team has worked with local policing and security teams to successfully deal with almost 2,000 incidents ranging from: anti-social behaviour, missing persons, traffic offences, theft, drugs and concern for welfare.
There are 259 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras across Torbay, 164 of which are located in town centres and car parks.
Footage from the system has been used to identify and address criminal behaviour, resulting in a number of positive outcomes.
During the summer of 2020, CCTV operators witnessed a male punching a female in Torquay Town Centre. CCTV operatives alerted the police and directed them to the male. Along with the assault on the female the male also assaulted a police officer. In June of this year, the CCTV evidence captured by the operators was used in court with the male subsequently jailed for 1 year and 2 weeks.
CCTV operators witnessed a fight happening in Fore Street, Brixham. As a result of the fight, two males were left seriously injured. Images captured during the incident are currently being used to find a male they wish to speak to in connection to this incident.
As well as CCTV being used to capture criminal behaviour, it is also used to help find missing or vulnerable people following reports of concern for welfare. Operatives work closely with local policing teams supporting them with their searches to ensure the missing person can be found as quickly as possible.
Cllr Christine Carter, Cabinet Member for Corporate and Community Services, Torbay Council, said; “Our CCTV operators and local policing teams do a fantastic job of working together to prevent crime and improve community safety. These highly trained professionals are ready to respond to any incidents twenty-four hours a day to ensure Torbay’s residents and visitors remain safe.”
Since 2017, Torbay Council have invested £400k into new and updated CCTV technology.
There are 259 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras across Torbay to prevent and detect crime, antisocial behaviour, find missing people and monitor traffic flow.
164 cameras are in town centres and car parks and 15 cameras are used to watch the traffic. The rest are in public buildings, including the Town Hall, public libraries, and Torre Abbey.
Cameras record images twenty-four hours every day. CCTV operators watch live images at strategic times in a local monitoring suite. If they notice criminal activity on camera, they can direct police response to the incident.
Footage from the system can be used as evidence in both criminal and civil court cases.
A new purpose-built 5,550m² manufacturing facility at Claylands in Paignton is complete and ready to be used by a local multinational manufacturing company.
Castings Support Systems (CSS) Group will take on the building to support their growing business and use specialist machinery to manufacture products for pharmaceutical distribution and aerospace industries. Relocating to the new manufacturing facility will enable the group to continue to grow while remaining in Torbay.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Swithin Long, Torbay Council Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, Tourism and Housing, said: “This outstanding project provides vital employment space for a thriving local business. Investment by Torbay Council and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership has enabled CCS Group to relocate within Torbay rather than elsewhere. The project supports local growth, which will create new jobs and boost the local economy.”
From this facility, CSS will expand its market share globally. The CSS Group are official tier one suppliers to Rolls Royce Gas Turbines and other World-renowned companies. CSS provide complex tooling, technical mouldings and composite components, for mechanical handling systems and many engineering sectors including aerospace and defence. The Group continues to explore opportunities in emerging technologies to position themselves in new markets and accommodate future growth.
Ted Head, Chairman of CSS Group, said: “For a number of years we have been exploring options to meet the needs of our growing companies which currently occupy two company owned facilities with a combined floor space of 3,000 square metres. The construction of this new state of the art manufacturing facility provides us with an opportunity to continue with our exceptional growth and to deliver innovative products and solutions for our UK and international clients. Currently, we deliver to 25 countries worldwide and we foresee continued growth from our European and other overseas partners for our products and technical services. We will be proud to show our new facility to any potential customer or partner from anywhere in the world and to showcase the bay at the same time.”
The development is funded by £2M of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership’s Unlocking Growth Funding and an £8M investment in the site by Torbay Council.
Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It was great to visit the site first hand recently and see the fantastic new facility. The completion of this project is great news for Torbay and will benefit so many growing businesses in the area. This new facility, which has been supported with £2m from the HotSW LEP’s Unlocking Growth Funding, will provide 5,000m² of employment space, enabling a growing manufacturing company to relocate to a larger space and helping to support local growth, create new jobs and boost the local economy.”
The project has been delivered by TDA and Midas Construction.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is a template that many people, including myself, aspire to live their lives by. This parable was told to those of us who joined the street pastors in Torquay just before we hit the streets last Friday night. This was the first time our street pastors have been out around Torquay harbourside since the pandemic hit. Street pastors are Christians who, without judging anyone, are there to support vulnerable people round the harbourside. When I’ve been out previously with them, I saw them supporting people who, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, were incapable of looking after themselves and were at risk of criminal, sexual exploitation or medical problems..
As we walked around the harbourside and the pastors engaged with the door staff, it was evident from their warm wishes how much these baseball-capped angels have been missed since the night time economy has opened up again.
During the evening, we assisted a gentleman whose mobility scooter had failed, but he somehow lacked the means of contacting a family member for assistance. While we waited for the cavalry to arrive, he recognised me as a long standing Liberal Democrat councillor and enthused about the recent Chesham and Amersham by-election result. He commented how the Liberal Democrats were now a force to be reckoned with since, if they could achieve such a massive swing in the southeast of England, surely the heartland of Liberal Democrat support in the west of England is now on course for revival.
Friday was thankfully a quiet night for the street pastors, but it is testament to this voluntary service that one of their number, Trevor Staveley, was recognised in the Queen’s honours list for services to vulnerable people and to the promotion of safer streets in Torbay.
In my taxi home, I was recognised by the taxi driver and he mentioned the positive impact having taxi rank marshals had made to the harbourside in Torquay.Tthe security staff were able to impose their presence on the rank and reduce the amount of queue jumping and flash point for fights.
Living with a physical sensory or learning disability has its challenges, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fulfilling life and contribute to society. I am registered blind myself and occasionally face discrimination and have challenges undertaking many activities that other people take for granted. I hope this gives me a unique perspective in being able to empathise with people with other disabilities.
It can be difficult for some people to understand the challenges other people experience if you don’t have a disability yourself. National events like Learning Disability Week help to raise awareness of the issues faced by those with disabilities.
A host of coordinated events were taking place in Torbay last week to link in with the national event and to celebrate the work and the services provided to support people with learning disabilities in our communities. Events such as gardening workshops, drama performances and music sessions took place across the Bay thanks to the collaborative efforts of a number of local community and voluntary organisations. It was a tremendous way of enabling people with learning disabilities, their families and those who support and work with them to come together to meet or make new connections.