Torbay Council budget branded 'disastrous'
TORBAY' Council's budget — facing £10million cuts — has been branded 'disastrous'.
Details have been revealed for the first time of where the axe may fall and the possibility of a two per cent council tax rise, depending on the Government funding decision due in December.
Brixham's planned park and ride scheme could be one of the victims of the cuts.
Mayor Gordon Oliver, who has put forward the budget for the coming financial year, said the council faced 'an unprecedented challenge' to make huge savings.
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But while many of his fellow councillors accepted that cuts must be made, they expressed serious concerns.
Brixham-based Cllr Mike Morey, leader of the non-coalition group on the council, said the budget 'looks a bit disastrous' and in three or four years' time the council could have 'a major problem making ends meet'. The axe is poised to fall on the council's biggest spenders — adult and children's services including home care, working with families and youth services.
Adult social care is facing a £2.16million reduction, children's services £1.3million, support services for vulnerable people £1.3million and £1.48 million from residents and visitors services.
A whole raft of services are in the firing line including:
Cuts in home care and support for carers.
A reduction in resident services which could threaten Blue Flag beach awards.
Less spending on road maintenance, seafront illuminations and grass cutting.
Cuts to library services.
Increased areas for parking charges.
Less money for school transport.
Deputy Mayor David Thomas explained they had worked on the basis of a two per cent council tax but this depends on the Government funding decision this month and could be less. This year they had had to draw up a draft budget without a 'heads up' on the grant figure from Government.
Labour councillor Darren Cowell claimed the mayor had 'failed in his responsibility to the people that would be affected by the cuts to act in a timely manner'. He said: "The budget needed to come much, much earlier."
Cllr Morey said the main issue was over priorities. He said: "With the little money the Government gives us we have to think about what's essential. The protection of the most vulnerable is most important.
"Gordon Oliver may be concentrating more on palm trees than on children and vulnerable adults.
"He's talking about closing Brixham's park and ride and outdoor swimming pool which is important for tourism."
Councillor Vic Ellery, who represents Brixham's Berry Head with Furzeham ward, said the budget was 'frightening' and the worst he had seen in his 30 years as a councillor.
He said: "It's absolutely dire and we're in big trouble. We've got to fight to save what we can. The decisions are going to affect people's lives and jobs."
Cllr Jackie Stockman, from the same ward, said she had 'grave concerns' about the budget.
She thought it was possible for the council to make savings and maintain services by working 'a little smarter and harder'.
She said: "I'm a little worried about what redundancies there might be across the board. In this low-paid area, we're very reliant on public authorities to enable young people to remain in the area they come from.
"I'm also concerned about the highways budget being reduced as it's an area a lot of people complain about.
"It would be foolish to take away too much voluntary funding because charitable organisations could fold and we would lose a massive amount of support."
Torbay MP Adrian Sanders said the mayor had approached him for help to reduce the cost of the money that the council had borrowed.
He said: "I will do what I can on that and I'm happy to help in any other way I can."