Labour Councillor, Darren Cowell, has condemned Torbay’s Mayor for kicking a report about rogue landlords in to the long grass.
Cllr Cowell said, “The report, which called for immediate and targeted enforcement against the worst cases of rogue landlords, was a golden opportunity for the Mayor to send a clear signal that sub standard private accommodation will not be tolerated.
“Instead what we have is dither and delay while a further review and consultation is undertaken. I am certain that if he needed to find £60,000 for a pet project or for tourism he would have done so.
“But here we have a demonstrated need to lift some of our Bay residents out of squalid conditions and he chooses to ask for a further review. It is a matter of political priorities and clear understanding. This decision shows how out of touch he is with ordinary people in Torbay.
“No one is asking me to support his pie in the sky plans for a third harbour, but they are demanding action on the terrible conditions imposed upon some private tenants.
“This sends out the wrong message that Torbay is a place bad landlords can flout the law. It also discredits the vast majority of decent private landlords who take care of their tenants and properties.”
Torbay Labour councillor Darren Cowell has welcomed the news that Councillor Matthew James has resigned from the Conservative Party.
Cllr Cowell said: “I hope that more Tories will follow Cllr James lead in recognising the harm that this out of touch government are doing to people across the country. I couldn’t agree more that the government is putting the wrong people first.”
Cllr James, says in his resignation statement that he “cannot in good conscience defend their actions. The party promised not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor but I feel that that is exactly what is happening. I believe this government has turned its back on the compassionate, communitarian conservatism that was once promised.”
Local Labour MP Ben Bradshaw also welcomed Cllr James comments saying; “He is right to stand up for what he believes in. More than ever we need an economy that works for working people. The Tories promised change but have failed to deliver on a massive scale.”
Labour Councillor, Darren Cowell, has put down a question for next month’s full council meeting asking Mayor Oliver if he agrees that an inquiry should be held in to the legal dispute over Torquay’s Hi-Flyer balloon.
Cllr Cowell said, “I had hoped that the Overview and Scrutiny Board would have supported my calls for an inquiry, but was disappointed that they split along Party lines with the Tories closing ranks. That suuggests to me they are trying to protect their own – either from the past administration or this one or perhaps some that served in both.
“I have said all along that I fully appreciate the need for the legal process to be dealt with before we can investigate the circumstances which lead to the dispute.
“What concerns me most about this cover up is that it has been kept under wraps for three years and came to light after a Freedom of Information request from a member of the public.
“If the Mayor is sincere in his quest to lead an open and transparent administration I hope he will demand such an inquiry so we can establish the facts. We need to know who knew what and when and why Councillors and the public were not aware of the situation.
Labour Councillor, Darren Cowell, has written to the Mayor and Chief Executive demanding answers to questions about a three year old dispute meaning the operator has been withholding rent of almost £50,000.
Councillor Cowell said, “The situation regarding the non-payment of rent is extremely alarming. I have asked the Mayor and Chief Executive to explain who was aware of the dispute and what the dispute is about.
“In times when the council is strapped for cash, and is cutting services to young and old alike, we have to clearly understand why this has been allowed to continue for so long.”
The revelation came in response to a Freedom of Information request by a local resident after rumors circulated that the balloon operators were not paying rent following the storm damage earlier this year.
Cllr Cowell added, “Even if the rent had been suspended since the balloon was so badly damaged I would have to ask why as most businesses would have insurance against loss of earnings.”
The full text of the questions sent by Cllr Cowell:
Dear Gordon and Elizabeth,
The revelation in this FOI is truly shocking and appalling. That a leaseholder should be in dispute over legal conditions of their lease for three years is concerning.
Torbay Labour Party has raised concerns about the process of the appointment of the directors on the Conference Centre’s new management board.
Patrick Canavan, the Party’s secretary, has written to the Mayor saying; “As far as the appointment of the new board is concerned we certainly feel that there should be some transparency around who is appointed and an open appointment system would be most welcome. The existing process seems somewhat dubious, is not at all clear and smacks of the ‘old pals act’.”
Labour Councillor Darren Cowell, whose ward includes the RICC, is supporting the call and has also written to the Mayor asking that the new Board should include people with extensive experience of the conference business, preferably someone from outside of the area.
“I have concerns that the Board will not have the depth of experience necessary to carry the centre forward. I understand there have already been appointments made from the local area, but the whole process seems to be shrouded in secrecy.
“Surely if we are to make the best of the Centre and if the Mayor is serious about reducing the Centre’s burden upon the hard pressed tax payers of Torbay he should be advertising the posts?
Labour Councilor, Darren Cowell, has welcomed the promise of a review to car parking in Torbay. In an answer to a question he raised at the last meeting of Torbay Council, Councillor Robert Excell promised a review will be undertaken.
Councillor Cowell said; “Since receiving the answer from Councillor Excell I have spoken with him and urged that the review should not only be about the high tariffs, but a thorough review of parking policy.
“Our town centres are struggling and traders are pleading for a realistic parking policy. Tariffs are too high and are very confusing, with different rates in different areas. The promotional offers are welcome, but the message is still out there that charges are high.
“I have asked Councillor Excell that the review should include representatives from the traders, tourism and the community.
“The so-called review last year was not good enough. Questions have to be asked about charges. But also we need to explore if traders can help by offering discounts in their stores on presentation of the parking ticket stub. Many towns already do this, but of course offering discounts in these tough times may not be easy. But not to investigate it would be a mistake.
“The knock on affect of people trying to avoid meters is that they often park in residential areas. The overall approach to residents’ parking schemes has to be included in the review.
Torbay Labour Party is calling for the new parking charges to be reviewed as a matter of urgency.
Labour Chair, Councillor Darren Cowell, said; “While recognising the importance of income from car parking, we have to be mindful of the real struggle our town centres and local traders are suffering.
“I feel duped by the administration that the increase to tariffs actually agreed at full Council in October was later changed by the Executive Lead for Finance and what was supposed to have been a seasonal tariff morphed in to the one we have now.
“The October council meeting approved a review of tariffs, but I for one did not interpret that as allowing a senior councillor to abolish seasonal tariffs.
“I have asked senior councillors who have been involved in this process to undertake an urgent review of the prices and for the Overview and Scrutiny Board to investigate the whole consultative process. We must investigate how the change in tariffs was allowed to be slipped through without council approval.
“It would appear that there is already a recognition of the problem by £1 all day offer being made available on Saturdays. Of course this is welcome, but more needs to be done.
Torbay Labour Councillor, Darren Cowell, has hit out at the Mayor’s Forum event to be held later this month.
“Mayor Oliver wants to share progress to date with those who are passionate about improving life in the Bay. This clearly only applies to those who are passionate and not at work. The event being organised on his behalf is between 11am and 1pm. This is another example of how his words about being inclusive and open are becoming increasingly shallow.
“The event will hear of ways in which we can maximise the benefits of the Link Road – and yet the very forum set up last December to discuss this has still not met. Not only that, but despite the Council agreeing the membership of the forum, the leaders of the minority group have been snubbed.
“It appears it was ok to include politicians from all sides while bidding for the money, but now we need to look seriously at how we ensure economic regeneration the Mayor thinks he knows best.
“The agenda for the event includes the planting of ‘new iconic palm trees in the Bay’ which in themselves will be welcome, but we need to be hearing about the efforts being undertaken now to reverse the increasing number of residents who are losing their jobs and what he is doing to reduce the number of children living in poverty in Torbay.
Torbay Labour Party has hit out at the Mayor and his ruling Conservative group after what they have described as a shambolic budget process which will lead to increased pressures on the most vulnerable in the Bay.
The party’s Chairman, Councillor Darren Cowell, said; “When the Mayor was elected he wanted an open and inclusive council and said he would be a listening Mayor, regrettably the budget process has blown that out of the water.
“The budget papers made available to opposition councillors, and in some cases even to Tory councillors, have been unclear, lacked detail and clarity and have been the worst example of a smoke and mirrors exercise.
“I am appalled that opposition councillors have had to really scratch deep in to the flesh of the budget to identify some of the true impacts on services and my fear is that the harsh reality is still yet to emerge.”
Councillor Cowell has also hit out at the standard of debate during the five hour budget meeting. He said; “There were fifteen amendments and objections on the agenda tabled by Labour, Non-coalition and the Lib Dems, not one was passed as the Tory majority voted consistently en-bloc.
“We are told there is no whip, but it is incredibly coincidental that the Tory group tended to vote as one. The one notable and creditworthy exception was Councillor James who supported us on three occasions and spoke up for the youth of Torbay.
Torbay Labour Party is supporting efforts to keep library opening hours as they are. As part of the cuts being introduced by the Bay’s Tory Mayor, there are plans to reduce opening hours.
The Bay’s Labour Chairman, Councillor Darren Cowell is to move an amendment at this week’s budget meeting calling for £63,000 to be put back in to the library budget.
Councillor Cowell said, “The library service took a big hit last year and it is being asked to cut £170,000 this year also. I visited Torquay and Paignton Libraries on Saturday as part of National Libraries Day – I couldn’t visit Brixham and Churston as they close at 1pm. I was delighted to have met with the Friends groups who discussed the wide range of services on offer.
“Libraries are not just about books anymore. There are a wide range of services on offer and it’s nothing short of a scandal to cut the opening hours. Paignton is a brand new £6m facility and we are talking about closing it on a weekday afternoon.
“It may be true that there are fewer visitors to libraries after 5pm, but many of the people who take advantage of a late evening are those unable to visit at other times.