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Major Torbay spending approved

Saturday, July 20th, 2019 8:13am

By Ed Oldfield, Local Democracy Reporting Service

It includes creating a new £100m Torbay Economic Growth Fund

A Devon council hit by millions of pounds of Government cuts is spending £225m to support economic regeneration, tackle poverty and bring in extra income.

The investment works out at nearly £1,700 for each of the 135,000 residents of the south Devon coastal strip in Torquay, Paignton and Brixham.

Three separate initiatives agreed by Torbay Council at a meeting on Thursday night will be funded by borrowing from the Government at a discount rate.

One will create a new £100m Torbay Economic Growth Fund to develop self-financing schemes to create jobs, build homes and revive high streets in the area.

Projects already on the list are regenerating Union Street in Torquay, building homes at Victoria Square in Paignton and redeveloping Brixham town centre car park.

The decision follows a pledge by the partnership of Liberal Democrats and Independents running Torbay Council to “turn the tide on poverty”.

The groups joined forces after the local elections in May to push the Tories into opposition.

The council also voted to borrow another £100m to increase its investment fund to £300m.

That uses loans to buy commercial property, producing  income from the profits which goes on council services.

The current investments are bringing in more than £3m a year, estimated to rise to £5m when the extra cash is invested in 12 to 18 months.

The council’s leadership says growing the fund is crucial to fill the gap left by cuts in Government support.

Funding has dropped by £21m over the last four years and the council is facing another £18m of cuts over the next three years.

In a third scheme, the council voted to set up a Housing Rental Company backed with £25m of borrowed cash to build affordable homes.

It will be given council-owned sites at Torre Marine in Torquay and Totnes Road at Paignton to start off with.

All the economic activity will be delivered by TDA, formerly the Torbay Development Agency, the council’s economic development company.

Liberal Democrat cabinet member Swithin Long said there were 1,150 people on the housing waiting list and 90 in temporary accommodation in Torbay.

Proposing the £100m economic growth fund, he told councillors it would send a “clear signal” to public and private sector partners and investors “that we are serious about investing in the Bay”.

The Conservative group voted in favour of all three proposals brought forward by the partnership, making the decisions unanimous.

The latest detailed figures on deprivation from 2015 showed parts of Torquay and Paignton in the top ten poorest areas in England, with Torbay the most deprived area in the South West.

Average earnings in the area were below the national average last year and fell from the year before.

Torbay has one of the highest rates in England of children in care, adding pressure to its spending on statutory services. 

Children’s services were overspent by £5m last year, in line with a national trend.

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