All residents in Torbay will be concerned by recent reports on the falling value of the Council’s investments. A policy, now outlawed by government, saw £235 million of loans, invested in private sector projects (mainly outside of Torbay). Torbay Labour Party believe most local people will now view these decisions as reckless.
Torbay Labour understands that these investments are now only valued at £209m and annual income from these investments has also fallen below budgeted amounts. The gap will require the Council to use reserves or make further cuts in services.
Whilst these investment policies were introduced by the previous Tory administration the policy has been continued by the LibDem/Independent alliance with the purchase of 32 retail units and car park in Torquay, for an undisclosed sum, and the acquisition of the Debenhams building under the Economic Growth Fund.
The Council claim that they have plans for the Debenhams building if Debenhams is forced to close in March, but the Labour Party say, “True to form, they are not sharing this information with the people who will have to pick up the bill. We are still not sure how much the Council actually paid for the building.”
The Chair of Torbay Labour Party, Andy Symons said, “Whilst nobody could have predicted the pandemic, it does show how risky the council’s strategy has been. We are all warned that investments can go up or down. That is fine when we are risking our own money but the Council has been gambling with the public’s money and this could leave future generations paying for their mistakes for years to come.
The Council has faced major challenges because of the Tories’ austerity measures at a national and local level. But the LibDem/Independent alliance thought it could circumnavigate these cuts through a combination of risky investments, replacing paid jobs with volunteering and charging for services which were once paid for by local taxation and government funding.
Unfortunately, less than two years into the new Council, these plans are starting to unravel. Once again we have empirical evidence that you simply cannot do more for less.
Of course, we welcome the new grants which the Council has been able to secure, but this is not the way to fund local services. The Bay’s future seems dependent on a combination of competition with other authorities for resources from an inadequate pot, gambling on investments and using volunteers to deliver services which once provided employment in the area.
The pandemic has taught us a very important lesson, trying to deliver more for less simply stores up problems for the future.”
The Labour Party is calling on the Council to only invest where there is clear evidence that this will lead to improvements for local people in terms of well-paid jobs, for example, in new green industries.
Labour is concerned that current investment at best will only deliver more low paid, insecure jobs in an area which already has major deprivation issues.
The Party is also demanding the Council open the books in terms of current investments, and other debts and to release plans and financial projections for the buildings they currently own, especially the Debenhams building which could require considerable additional funds in terms of maintenance and development.