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Councillors with duty of care to most vulnerable: 'Cuts wholly unacceptable'

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

  • voting: Cllr Michael Hytche voted against the proposals while Cllr Beryl McPhail abstained

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PROPOSED 70 per cent cuts to 'supporting people' budgets in Torbay have been condemned as 'against all natural justice' by councillors.

Councillors have rejected the level and timing of reductions to services caring for vulnerable people like the Leonard Stocks Centre at Factory Row and the Jatis Project and called on the mayor to at least postpone the cuts for a year and make cuts more evenly across other departments.

After hearing representations for users, organisations and the police that if the services fold people could die, scrutiny councillors said the cuts were 'wholly unacceptable' and they have a duty of care to the most vulnerable.

They said the proposed cuts were 'indefensibly and unevenly spread' across departments with people 'most in need and those who are most vulnerable being hit the hardest'.

The report said: "The panel feels those fortunate citizens of Torbay who have uncommitted disposable income are hardly touched by the budget reduction proposals with the majority of service departments being required to make reductions of around 20 per cent to 25 per cent.

"However, against all natural justice, 'supporting people' have been asked to find a swingeing cut which is in excess of 70 per cent.

"The panel considers the effects on those who are least able to help themselves are so profound the proposals for 'supporting people' are calling the morality of the whole process into question."

They suggested under-spending in adult social care could be used to help the services and have questioned the reliance being placed on the new community development trust and have said its progress should be reviewed.

They have asked for a report from the director of children's services which is heading for a £4million overspend this year — even after an extra £2million budget injection — on radical new ways to run the service.

They have called for an options appraisal on how the Riviera International Conference Centre can be made self sufficient.

The panel has asked for further progress to be made to realise capital for Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust before their grant reduction is agreed and the mayor give 'sympathetic reconsideration' to the proposals by the English Riviera Tourism Company to delay the bulk of its budget cuts for a year and a commitment to the end of its contract period.

They have also asked the council do all in its power to support the proposed tourism business improvement district otherwise the company will have 'no long-term future'.

The panel condemned the proposed cut to the Citizens' Advice Bureau saying the council should be 'strengthening its safety nets' and 'the board believes this should be one of the last areas to be cut'.

They want the cut reduced from £75,000 to the £30,000 proposed last year.

They have called for a review to establish any duplication of services being provided by the CAB, the council and JobCentre Plus as a matter of urgency.

They also called on the council to review the budget setting process which should start earlier in the year and to develop a '2020 Vision' to 'establish whether it is fit for purpose in the environment it finds itself in'.

Cllr Michael Hytche voted against the proposals and Cllr Beryl McPhail abstained.

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