Unions reveal agency is facing 20 per cent cuts
CONCERNS have been expressed about the depths of cuts facing Torbay Council after it was revealed the council's economic development arm is facing reductions of up to 20 per cent.
The budget cut requested from Torbay Development Agency was revealed by unions following confidential talks last week. It has been suggested some voluntary and possibly compulsory redundancies may be necessary.
The TDA receives a £1.9million contract fee from Torbay Council. It also earns income from other clients. Chief executive Steve Parrock confirmed they had been asked to look at cuts of up to 20 per cent and meetings had been held with staff and unions.
He said they would be working to protect the economic development functions and the cut in the council fee would not impact on the agency's work with other clients, but he felt it would be inappropriate to comment further at this early stage.
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It is understood the cuts and savings being discussed include £125,000 increased income from contracts and staff savings of £175,000.
Labour councillor Darren Cowell said: "Twenty per cent cuts are a real concern. It's vital Torbay is best placed to benefit from the new bypass and the Torbay Development Agency has an essential role to play in any economic recovery. It is worrying a key player is being cut and I will be seeking discussions with Mr Parrock to better understand the implications of such a cut.
"This is the first budget announcement giving any sense of detail. We know cuts are coming, but what we don't know is where the Mayor's priorities are.
"I have been calling for a four-year budget plan for many months. Any sensible business would look to the future and shape itself accordingly. Torbay Council should be no different.
"I am worried the Mayor may be burying his head in the sand and not recognising the real difficulties the council will face over the coming years.
"We must stop this salami-slicing approach to our budget and determine what services can be delivered in the coming years. It may well be these services are delivered in new ways. Now is the time to face these challenges, but I fear we are being led to the cliff edge by a Mayor who may fear the tough decisions he faces.
"As a start, I call upon the Mayor to release his draft budget as a matter of urgency so we can have a grown up debate on the challenges we are facing, not just next year, but in the years to come also."
Lib Dem leader Steve Darling said members were being 'kept in the dark'.
He said: "We had been promised information would start being published in November, a senior officer has now told us it won't be until towards Christmas. We need the information early otherwise it will be the same as last year's mad rush with poor information. It is rabbits trapped in headlights and it is inevitable these leaks are happening because of the dithering."
GMB spokesman Paul Raybould said they had met with the TDA last week and said they had been told a cut of up to £400,000 was proposed. "The TDA does a great job to promote growth and stimulate economic recovery in Torbay and the council should be providing resources it needs to grow jobs not cut its budget at all," he said.
Caroline Taylor, chief operating officer for Torbay Council, said because of the Government's spending review which means a 28 per cent cut in Government funding over four years, the council needs to find up to £10million through a mixture of service savings, further efficiencies and increases in income.
"It is no understatement that the council faces extremely tough decisions and needs to find a way to reduce costs and look at new ways of delivering services so it can maintain as many services as possible which Torbay residents value.
"The public consultation process has already begun with a public event last month. Our senior management team has been keeping staff informed of the budget process as it progresses.
"We are still looking at all the possible options.
"We enjoy a very good working relationship with all the trades unions in Torbay and appreciate the important role they play in supporting staff in difficult times. However, we are extremely disappointed a trades union representative has decided to discuss private and confidential matters before the council has made any decision. We have raised our concerns with the relevant trades union."