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Torquay's Riviera International Conference Centre losing £46,000 as part of £10m cuts

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 22, 2013

Riviera Centre

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THE Riviera International Conference Centre is to lose £46,000 in subsidy as part of £10million cuts to the Torbay Council budget.

A move by the leading Conservative group to cut the grant was the only change to this year's budget that received unanimous approval at a four-hour long meeting.

It will mean the annual grant to the centre will drop from £645,000 to £599,000.

The cash will, instead, be held in contingency to cover unforeseen demands.

Cllr Alan Tyerman, executive lead for finance and audit, said after the meeting the change was due to have featured in the original budget but negotiations were not completed in time.

He said: "We had been seeking a reduction of grant for the last two to three months and we were anxious to make sure that it was a reduction that they would be able to agree to."

A new board of directors was appointed in April and pledged to become less of a burden on the public purse.

Cllr Tyerman said: "They have made such substantial progress this year. For many years they have come to us in the middle of the year to say they are not managing and need more. But this year they have not done so and they are managing so I think things are looking up.

"This is not the time to stifle that development and we would hope to see substantial reductions in future years but I still think there is a long way to go and I would say that it is a hope because it would be foolish to guarantee it."

The level of subsidy for the conference centre continues to be criticised by councillors arguing the money could be better spent on services for the vulnerable.

But mayor Gordon Oliver urged members not to 'stigmatise' the centre.

And Cllr Robert Excell warned the RICC 'was not a bank you could take money from'.

The Lib Dems asked for a clear business plan for the centre.

Labour and independent members brought four amendments to the budget to spend cash destined for the RICC to plug service cuts.

They were:

£45,000 to re-instate to street warden posts

£20,000 to assist the new Torbay Community Development Trust

re-instate community alarms for the elderly

£30,000 to 'safeguard' the opening of the Churston park and ride for the summer season.

They were among 13 motions brought by the opposition that were lost.

Cllr Steve Darling, Lib Dem leader, said the Conservative majority was the result of a 'silent whip' by mayor Gordon Oliver.

He said after the meeting: "Although there may be mutterings from some Conservative councillors, when it comes down to it, because the Mayor is the leader of the council he holds the cards."

Rejected proposals by the opposition groups also included a re-think on issues including three-year funding for the CAB, subsidised bus fares for selective schools, beach services, road maintenance, street wardens, Shoalstone pool and OAP personal alarms.

Cllr Jackie Stockman told the meeting: "I don't want to be part of a council that puts a conference centre above the care of elderly people."

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