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Mayor 'has cost the council £2.5m'

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

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TORBAY MP Adrian Sanders (pictured) has claimed decisions by mayor Gordon Oliver have reduced Torbay Council's cash strapped budget by at least £2.5million.

He was responding to claims by the mayor that South Devon MPs had voted for £5million further cuts for Torbay.

Mr Sanders said: "There are no further cuts I have voted for."

He also claimed: "The local government settlement was tough, but we also voted to give councils a number of financial freedoms which Torbay has chosen not to use.

"Many councils have shown they can make savings without affecting frontline services. This means sharing back office functions with other councils — something Torbay should have done a long time ago — cutting non-essential spending and working smarter to prevent expensive social problems occurring in the first place."

He said among the decisions the mayor could have taken to raise more cash was to raise council tax. He said the mayor had decided to freeze council tax for two years running in exchange for a grant from central government which was smaller than the amount which could have been raised without a government penalty through a below inflation rise.

"This has left the mayor £2.5million plus inflation short on his base budget for next year," said Mr Sanders.

Councils who permit new housing development in their area benefit from the increased council tax collected. "The amount of new build within Torbay has failed to meet local housing need and bring in additional income," said Mr Sanders.

He claimed a failure to agree the Local Plan has also meant Torbay cannot benefit from community infrastructure levy payments from developers.

He said the decision to make all families pay the full council tax meant around a third are now in arrears. "In order to force payment the council will need to spend more in legal and bailiff fees than is ever likely to be recovered from those who simply cannot afford to pay," said Mr Sanders.

He said to help struggling businesses the mayor has the power to reduce business rate liability for an individual ratepayer or group of ratepayers.

Mr Sanders said councils have the power to charge up to 150 per cent council tax on long-term empty properties which have been substantially unfurnished for at least two years.

There is also the freedom to levy business rate supplements following a successful ballot of all business ratepayers in the area affected and the money can be spent on new schemes. He said: "The mayor does not appear to have yet explored this freedom in relation to land off Hamelin Way which will be opened up for development of the Kingskerswell bypass."

Mr Sanders said larger retail stores could also be charged an 8.5 per cent increase in business rates, which he said would raise £804,950 in Torbay.

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  • papper  |  December 06 2013, 2:50PM

    It's interesting that those people that were so vocal in getting Nick Bye 'out' and those silly repetitive comments about see you at the exit door Nick, don't seem to be keen in defending the Mayor in his time of need. The current Mayor, whose quite frankly been a complete waste of time and before anyone starts to correct me in saying he has overseen the development of AB&C cannot take credit, since most, if not all key projects in terms of development, were agreed prior to his 'reign'-I use that word as it is appropriate given his secretive meetings and being unanswerable when tough questions need to be asked. We really do need someone with enthusiasm for change. If I was to sum the Mayor and his team of councillors up it would be similar in going to a restaurant today and finding out the special was prawn cocktail followed by duck ala orange-Just not fit for today's tastes and really not exciting nor imaginable.

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