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Public have say on the plans for cuts

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

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TORBAY mayor Gordon Oliver has been told to 'put people first' in his budget.

A consultation event at Torquay's Riviera International Conference Centre on Monday night was held to give the public the opportunity to give Torbay Council feedback on the draft budget proposals and indicate where they believed reductions could be made.

Mayor Oliver continued to blame MPs for the council's predicament and said: "We want to preserve many of these services. Some services will have to go. We need to know what your priorities are."

The savings identified from internal and efficiency savings are around £11million — with £11million still needing to be found.

Paul Raybould, GMB branch secretary for Torbay, said the council staff had been 'forgotten' in the budget decision-making process. He said: "Not once in the presentation was there any reference to dedicated staff who will be the real cash savings from the exercise by being made redundant."

During the question and answer session, several of the 200 people at the event told the mayor the proposals, particularly to slash the Supporting People budget by 73 per cent over two years, would be 'catastrophic' for vulnerable people and 'emergency services would not be able to cope'.

Several people spoke in support of the Leonard Stocks Centre at Factory Row in Torquay, which supports up to 24 homeless people. Two people said the centre had saved their lives.

There were strong concerns about the proposal to reduce the centre's funding by half, to around £150,000.

People spent around 40 minutes discussing and noting in small groups whether to support a rise in council tax, additional income opportunities such as car parking, and where savings could be made.

Nick Pannell, chairman of the Friends of Factory Row, said: "What we prioritised is that people come first."

Barry Dunnage said: "You've made a priority of tourism. If you're running a tourism town you don't want beggars on the street."

Mayor Oliver's general response to the 19 questions from the public was: "If you want to save these services, tell me where you're willing to make cuts somewhere else."

Pat Harris, who attended as a Healthwatch Torbay employee and a Torbay resident, told the Herald Express: "Eight weeks is not long enough for people to get an understanding of how taking 70 per cent here and 50 per cent there would affect service users.

"The consensus was we needed more broken down information."

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