Mayor: Regeneration of Torbay economy and creation of jobs 'priority'
THE regeneration of Torbay's economy and the creation of more jobs remains the number one priority for the council, the mayor has told a scrutiny board.
Mayor Gordon Oliver was responding to calls to clarify his strategic vision for the economy of the Bay.
He said that 'jobs, jobs, jobs', were the means of taking people in the Bay out of poverty and creating wealth for others.
And he claimed that his administration was seeing improvements in the job market for young people as well as encouraging inward investment.
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But Lib Dem opposition leader Steve Darling said his response to a series of questions revealed a lack of overall planning and showed how the mayor liked to make policy 'on the hoof'.
Among the questions asked of the mayor were, what are the aims and objectives of his economic strategy, how is the strategy being implemented, and how is the council encouraging new businesses and job creation?
The mayor told the board: "We have seen for more than 20 years that in counties of the South West unemployment statistics were always the highest. When elected this is what was at the forefront of our policies.
"The drive for better pay and permanent jobs is our priority. This was the policy we were elected for and from that comes the strategy."
He listed 'some success stories' of the past 12 months, such as the Kingskerswell bypass, work on which is due to start next month.
He said the lack of a suitable motorway link had in the past held inward investment back.
Part of the strategy was to link job creation with housing.
Other strands of the strategy included meeting monthly with Job Centre Plus and private companies; creating 130 new jobs through the Outset Torbay business support programme; and working with bypass contractors Galliford Try to ensure 25 per cent of workers are from the local area.
He said progress in job creation for 18-to-24 year olds in the last six months had been 'quite phenomenal'.
"We've been reducing young people in unemployment in a better way than the rest of the country."
The mayor said that marketing, 'soft landing' business opportunities, support for tourism, the work of the Torbay Development Agency, and South Devon College in training young people were all to be applauded.
And he highlighted the 'fantastic growth' of the Brixham fishing industry, with the catch now worth £26million a year.
The council, he said, was 'looking at' developing a fish processing plant to maintain the progress.
"It's a start and we have got a long way to go. I am happy to work with members on this council for a better future."
Cllr Darling said the mayor's general aspirations could not hide a lack of clear planning and targeted action.
He said trying to get clear answers from the mayor 'was a bit like nailing blancmange to the ceiling'.
"We asked for information from him months ago but only got the answers a few days ago and it was not up to standard. The work of the Regeneration Task Group was not addressed at all.
"There is a lot of aspiration but people are looking for a level of performance management to deliver on the words on the ground.
"Where are we going with this? I don't know how worthwhile the conclusions he comes to are and it raises yet more questions."