We held an event on 1 October 2019 where residents could ask us questions about Town Councils. Here are the answers to the questions (grouped into subjects) that were asked:
Why are the Council still pursuing the formation of Town Councils when it was rejected by the public?
Why did we need a second consultation when 80% stated No, even if deemed “flawed” it is a result that should be honoured?
Back in May, Torbay voted 80% no to Town Councils. Is this our version of Brexit, going again until we get the result the council wants?
A consultation on establishing Town Councils requires a two part consultation and is a process that is prescribed by law. This latest round, which was a decision made by Council, is the second phase and is part of the planned 12 month consultation.
The first consultation was to find out what people’s initial thoughts were on the introduction of Town Councils. People were concerned about:
- Amount of extra Council Tax
- Reduction in local services
- What Council Tax is currently spent on
- The number of additional councillors
The first consultation received 585 responses which represents 1 in 228 of the residents of Torbay, that’s 0.4% of the population.
We are now providing more factual detail about the areas of concerns raised. We want to focus on the importance of local services in the community and if people are prepared to pay more Council Tax to protect the services which matter most to them.
Why aren’t the Lib Dems and Independents listening to local people?
The Liberal Democrat/Independent Partnership has stated as one of its priorities that it wants to fundamentally change the way in which we communicate and engage with our residents. This stage of the consultation has been designed to reach as many residents and community groups as possible so we can hear as wide a range of views as possible.
How are you ensuring that all residents in Torbay are receiving information?
We had no knowledge of the first consultation and would not have known about the second consultation without a neighbour telling us.
Information has been shared with residents and community groups through:
- Mainstream media and social media messages – including targeted messaging to specific groups of the community (including young people)
- Roadshows in each of the towns of Torbay – including Churston Library and ahead of matches at Paignton and Brixham Rugby Clubs and Torquay United
- #YourTQs – Facebook Live Events
- Ask Us…. question time event
- Presentations at Community Partnerships and Business Forum
- Direct emails to stakeholder organisations – including the Chambers of Trade
- Requests to share made to Council staff and Torbay Hospital, South Devon College and the Police
- Letters to a 10% sample of Torbay households – 6,000 letters in total
- Ward Councillors requested to distribute posters and postcards at key community locations within their wards
- Posters in Libraries and Harbour Offices across Torbay
Has the Council taken into account that the Government has stated it will consider capping Town Councils as part of the 2021-22 settlement if the Government sees evidence of Town Councils excessive expenditure?
Yes – we have taken this into account. If the Government sees evidence of Town Councils excessive expenditure it will be for the Government to determine whether to introduce a cap to Town Councils income.
Why did the officers report early in 2019 state the cost of the Town Councils would be “up to £300” but now we are told it will only be £90?
The report considered by Council does not make any reference to the level of precept from the proposed Town Councils.
Come clean and tell us what services will be cut in Year 2.
It will be for the Town Councils (if established) to determine which services it provides from year two. It is expected that Town Councils would engage with their communities to agree which services were valued by their communities and then to make decisions accordingly.
As a Local Authority, you are failing to upkeep Torquay Town Centres with terrible drug and alcohol problems. How will this be better with Town Councils?
Unfortunately, as funding for Torbay Council has reduced over recent years, difficult decisions have had to be made – including reductions in the preventative services for issues such as drugs and alcohol.
By enabling our communities, Torbay Council, Town Councils, community partnerships, voluntary organisations and our residents can work together to support each other and improve our towns.
Will Torbay Council be disbanded if Town Councils are created? Will the post of CEO of Torbay Council be redundant?
No - Torbay Council would continue to exist and provide services and would still need to have a 'Head of the Paid Service' (a statutory post which is held by the Chief Executive).
However, there is likely to be a continued shift toward only providing those services which we are required to by law. We will need to consider what the core offer of the Council is as the demand for those services increases at the same time that the available funding decreases.
Why are agency social workers used? I understand Torbay Council used to employ social workers. Are not agency social workers more expensive?
We continue to employ social workers, however, we need to employ agency social workers to ensure that we can keep an appropriate level of staffing within our Children’s Services in order to keep children safe.
The costs associated with agency social workers is higher than employing permanent social workers. This is why a critical piece of work is being carried out to ensure that we can recruit and retain social workers. We are currently undertaking a number of actions to increase our recruitment and retention rates.
Governance arrangements for new Town Councils
What safeguards will be put in place to ensure good practice?
Is it correct that these few remedies available outside of four yearly elections. That there is no single organisation which overseas Town Councils?
Will Broadsands be joined by Galmpton and Brixham in a separate parish – mimicking the Neighbourhood Plan?
Part of the consultation is seeking views on which Town Councils should include the Churston with Galmpton ward. This could be either Paignton or Brixham or the ward could be split between the two Town Councils.
Will the Town Councils be volunteers or voted in by the public?
Town Councils would be made of councillors elected by the voters of the wards covered by each council.
Please explain how councillors will initially be elected to new Town Councils in 2020?
In the same way as local elections, nominations would be sought for candidates and an election held.
It is expected that elections to the new Town Councils would be held on Thursday 7 May 2020 which would be same day as the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Aren’t we duplicating the ward councillors?
Town Councillors would be involved in running the services provided by the Town Councils and Torbay Councillors would be involved in running the services provided by Torbay Council. There would be more councillors overall in Torbay but they would not be duplicating work.
Will there be reduction of Torbay Councillors being 36 at present?
No – there will continue to be 36 councillors on Torbay Council with elections held every four years.
Where do community partnerships fit in with Town Councils?
At the moment, Torquay has nine Community Partnerships with three councillors assigned to each. How many Town Councillors will there be and in what way do they differ from community partnerships?
Community Partnerships are staffed by volunteers – how will Town Councils involve the community?
Community partnerships have an important role to play within the communities that they operate in and we wish to see community partnerships continue and thrive. Town Councils would make up another way to engage with our communities.
Torbay Council, Town Councils, community partnerships, the voluntary sector, trade organisations and individual residents need to work together for the benefit of Torbay as a whole.
How will volunteers be insured? And for what?
It would be for each Town Councils to determine whether it seeks volunteers to assist in delivering some services. The Town Councils would need to ensure that appropriate insurance was in place.
Funding and Costs of Town Councils
Brixham Town Councils’s general administration costs run at 60p in the pound. What may the running costs from £90 be? Would we lose £54 in costs?
We are told that 90% of funding will go into services. How does that square with Brixham Town Councils where pay and admin costs are nearly 60% leaving about 40% of precept available for services?
What is the additional cost of running another layer?
What percentage of the precept will be spent on the town?
The costs of running Brixham Town Councils are £180,000 per year and we have assumed that the running costs of both Torquay Town Councils and Paignton Town Councils would be the same (i.e. £180,000 per annum per council).
Based on a maximum of £90 per year for a Band D property, the precept would raise in the region of £2.09 million for Torquay Town Council. This means that a little over 8% of the budget would be spent on administration and 92% on delivering local services, which we would otherwise have to end or reduce delivery of. It would be a similar percentage in Paignton.
How can setting up three more tiers of administration save money? This will raise more money from hard pressed residents but save nothing.
There would be an additional tier of local government – one which is much closer to the people it serves. The money raised by the Town Councils would be used to fund the services which people value the most - such as greenspaces, public toilets, culture and events. These are services which we are likely to need to cease or significantly reduce.
The Council Tax Support Scheme would continue to be available for those residents who need help in paying their Council Tax.
How different will the funding from Government be - Town Councils vs local authority?
The amount of funding from the Government for local government has reduced significantly over recent years. Our grant from the Government is expected to cease in 2021/2022. The new Town Councils would not be funded from the Government but will be entirely funded by the Council Tax precept. From 2021/2022, it is expected that we will be funded only by Council Tax and Business Rates.
A few years ago there was a dispute between Brixham Town Councils and Torbay Council on the allocation of the precept. What guarantees are there that Torbay Council will not raid the Town Councils precepts or any national government allocations to the Town Councils?
Will local tax support grant paid across for the benefit of Town Councils be passed by Torbay to those new councils?
Transferred services – how do you guarantee the money follows and is not kept by Torbay Council as has been seen in some areas?
Any new Town Councils would not receive any form of Revenue Support Grant from the Government, so there would be none passed through from us. All of the precept collected by us on behalf of the Town Councils would be passed directly to the Town Councils to decide how to spend the funds.
What will the Council Tax payers pay in Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3?
What will it cost in three years?
The Council Tax in Year 1 would be set by us no higher than the amounts shown below:
The level of Council Tax in year two and beyond would be a decision for each Town Councils based on the services that it wishes to provide.
What will the precept do for the area of Goodrington?
Will all money be spent on tourist areas?
It will be for each Town Council to determine what services it provides and where those services are provided. Town Councils are closer to their communities and therefore residents would have a greater influence over the services that are provided on their behalf.
Can you confirm income/expenditure as I understand that those under £25,000 will not be subject to annual audit?
It is proposed that each new Town Councils would have a budget significantly over £25,000 so this would not apply.
Is this just to get the precepts?
The Liberal Democrat/Independent Partnership want to ensure that communities are enabled and involved and believe that Town Councils can play a critical role in this. At the same time, decisions need to be made about the future of the services which we can provide. We can no longer afford to provide services such as parks, recreation, illuminations, culture and events and it is likely that these will either cease or significantly reduce. Town Councils can raise Council Tax which can be used to fund these services – taking account of the views of the residents in those towns about how those services are delivered.
Funding of Torbay Council
Why are you not getting enough funding to maintain a Local Authority?
As part of the austerity measures introduced by the Government a number of years ago, the amount of Revenue Support Grant that we receive from the Government has reduced significantly. Whilst the Spending Round announced in September 2019 did not make any further cuts to local government funding for 2020/2021, it did not reverse the reductions in grant which had previously been made.
Alongside the reduction in funding from the Government, we face a significant increase in demand for our services – especially the high cost ones such as Children’s Services and Adult Social Care. As a coastal authority and tourist area we also face costs which other authorities do not.
This is why we continue to lobby the Government to recognise the needs of Torbay.
Will we have a rate rebate if the council is manned by volunteers?
The Council Tax for Torbay will continue to be set each year by us. This will take account of the level of services which we will continue to provide and the funding available for those services.
Alongside this, we want to enable its residents and communities to be proactive in supporting the services which matter to them.
If Town Councils decided to reduce the costs of services delivered in their area, which could be through the use of volunteers, the Town Councils could decide to reduce the amount of the precept.
Will there be a rebate on our council tax if we have to pay more for Town Councils?
The Council Tax for Torbay Council will continue to be set each year by Torbay Council. The precept for year two and onwards will be set by the Town Councils.
The Council Tax funds for Torbay Council is used to deliver those services that we are required to deliver by law e.g. Children’s and Adult Services. These services are costing us more to deliver than we receive so a reduction in Council Tax, or a rebate is unlikely. Town Councils can deliver those services that we are not required to deliver by law – parks, illuminations, toilets etc. So it will be down to the individual Town Councils, along with their residents, to decide what they will deliver and how much the precept will be.
Can you put on events to attract more wealth for the area e.g. sports, music (i.e. similar to Bournemouth)?
If the air show is subsidised by the Council why has the Council committed to yet another one?
We have very limited resources for holding events. We know that events create a vibrant area for our residents and tourists which has a positive impact on our economy. We want to create the environment which encourages events but we cannot fund them ourselves. However, the decision has been made that a flagship event – the English Riviera Airshow – will be supported. The costs associated with this have continued to reduce over the years as sponsorship has increased. The overall positive economic benefit to Torbay has an impact across all our communities.
If the Council are subsidising the Airshow – which is requested by the Tourist Board - why are the flower beds not being subsidised – they help encourage visitors to return to Torquay?
We are continuing to work with partners, communities and individuals to reduce the cost to the Council of services such as flower beds.
Decision Making on Town Councils
How and who will make the decision about Town Councils?
Do I fully understand that Councillor Carter said that Town Councils would be implemented regardless of the results of the second consultation?
If the majority response to the consultation is no will you take any notice?
What happens if Torbay votes no to Town Councils?
If the results of the consultation show that the majority of those who responded did not want Town Councils established, the Cabinet will very carefully consider all of the consultation responses. They will have to balance this with the future of services that residents require and value. This will inform the position that the Cabinet will recommend to the Council.
The decision on whether or not to establish Town Councils will be made at the meeting of Full Council, which will be held on 5 December 2019.
If Full Council votes no to establishing Town Councils, we will then need to make a decision about which service we deliver in 2020/2021 and beyond. We are required by law to have a balanced budget and to deliver its statutory services such as Children’s Services and Adult Social Care. This is likely to mean that from April 2020 we can no longer deliver all of the discretionary services which we currently deliver.
Will the Town Councils take over the £300 million debt and will they be responsible for the debt?
The Town Councils will not take over our Investment and Regeneration Portfolio. We will continue to operate this Portfolio which will generate approximately £3.6 million in 2019/2020 which is used to support the services which the Council provides.
Where on the Council’s website are the spreadsheets showing how the £300m is being managed?
Full details of Torbay Council’s Investment and Regeneration Portfolio are on our investment and regeneration strategy page.
Details of how the investment fund is spent are also reported quarterly to Overview & Scrutiny Board. This report also goes to Cabinet.
Other issues raised
Other than the idea to turn the Pavilion into a hotel, which was rejected by some of the councillors, what ideas have they got for utilising the building?
Work is continuing to secure the future of the Pavilion and we will keep residents informed as this progresses.
We send £10 billion of aid to India when they have a space programme. Charity begins at home. Who can we lobby to keep this money?
Your local MP is best placed to answer this. It will be either Kevin Foster or Sarah Wollaston - depending on where in Torbay you live. Their contact details are on the MP page.
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