Planning troubles in Torbay ….

“Interesting news from Torbay – a private investigator has been hired to look into the planning decisions of Torbay Council. A fat file of evidence has been passed to the investigator based on dozens of interviews of local residents, existing and former council employees.

The investigator who has taken charge is a journalist with twenty plus years of experience with national newspapers, including the Daily Mail. She has a passion for local history and has thwarted numerous campaigns in the past relating to listed buildings and parks. Her connections across Westminster and the media are extensive.

The plan – sponsored by local residents and not by any particular organisation or body – is to publish all the evidence that is collected in a safe place online. Mainstream media outlets are already interested in documentary production and stories emanating from this body of evidence. The investigation is not solely directed against Torbay Council, as other entities have been found wanting, notably the local press.

An email address to send evidence to the investigator has been published. It is If you have information that you think might help them then please feel free to email it across to them.

So far £900 has been raised privately to help pay for the investigator who has travelled down to Torbay from London. A GoFundMe campaign was launched yesterday and can be accessed at the following URL:

An independent investigation by this respected and renowned investigator and journalist must surely be welcomed.”

The Torbay Investigation

Torbay GPs may hace scuppered merger of Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups

“The Breeze can reveal GPs in South Devon have voted against plans to merge the area’s CCG with the rest of Devon.

Bosses from the clinical commissioning group made the revelation at a Torbay Council meeting last night.

Apparently, unless a majority of GPs back the idea they can’t do it.

GPs in the area are now being asked to explain their reasons as bosses look to save the merger plans.

To date the two CCGs have saved £4 million by working closely together. [Owl: yeah, right – pinch of salt or whole salt cellar needed here …!]

Torquay councillor Swithin Long, who asked questions at the meeting, said: “At the Overview and Scrutiny Board last night the CCG advised that they were proceeding with the merger – however there is a fly in the ointment.

“In September a poll of GPs was done across the whole of Devon.

“In the rest of Devon (excluding South Devon and Torbay) 59 voted for the merger, 13 against and 3 abstentions.

“In South Devon and Torbay 12 GP practices voted in favour, 14 against and 2 abstentions (so 50% not in favour).

“The meeting was advised that the merger cannot go ahead without the majority of GPs in Torbay and South Devon voting in favour.

“Discussions will be proceeding with the GPs in Torbay and South Devon to see what their concerns are and the CCG will be coming back to Overview and Scrutiny at a date to be confirmed.”

A spokesperson for Devon’s clinical commissioning groups said: “Over the next two months we’re taking the time to meet up with local GP practices in South Devon and Torbay to listen to their views.

“The feedback we receive will help us shape what is the right thing to do next.

“In parallel we’re simply keeping the door open to the possibility of merger by working with NHS England on the next steps.”

For more about the meeting click here:

Will Torbay (and its soon-to-be-unelected Mayor and Tory majority) be next to topple?

During the last few turbulent years Torbay elected a super-Mayor, had a referendum to stop having a super-Mayor, its Tories split, split again, then split again and recently it was suggested by councillors that it should be subsumed back into Devon County Council. Not sure DCC will want to welcome it with open arms …..

Torbay council has called an immediate halt to non-urgent spending and stripped its services back to the statutory minimum because of financial pressures.

The Conservative-run council ordered the freeze after its budget report for the first quarter forecast an overspend of more than £2.8 million by the end of the year, which it attributed to a substantial increase in the number of children being looked after.

Steve Parrock, the chief executive, told councillors: “Even if an activity or contract is budgeted for, the task or expenditure may be postponed or cancelled if the work is deemed not urgent by the chief finance officer or myself.”

He added that the Devonshire council faced “significant financial challenges due to government funding cuts and increasing demands, particularly in social care”.

Labour called it a crisis that had arisen because of cuts to local authority funding. Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities and local government secretary, urged the government to “finally wake up to the consequences of their austerity programme”.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We are providing local authorities with £90.7 billion over the next two years to meet the needs of their residents.

“We are also giving them the power to retain the growth in business rates income and are working with local government to develop a funding system for the future based on the needs of different areas.”

Northamptonshire county council recently approved major cuts to jobs and services to tackle a £70 million shortfall and continues to be supervised by government commissioners.

East Sussex and Somerset county councils have warned that they could run out of money in the next two to three years, and auditors have said that Lancashire county council’s financial position is at a “tipping point”.”

Torbay-based Police and Crime Commissioner increases policing – in Torbay

Hernandez was a Tory local politician for many years in Torbay, before becoming Police and Crime Commissioner. Not long ago she attempted to appoint a pal from those days as her Deputy but was over-ruled:

Now she’s appointing a new senior officer just to cover the area. Is she planning a return to local politics there after her current “job”?

“A chief superintendent is being appointed for Torbay and South Devon, rather than a superintendent, to reflect “an increase in demand for policing” and help deal with “significant problems relating to crime in the bay”, Devon’s police commissioner has confirmed.

Commissioner Alison Hernandez said the new arrangement, due to be in place by September, was part of setting up a new basic command unit (BCU) for the area.

The force currently has BUCs for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon and Plymouth.

Ms Hernandez told a meeting last week of the plans, saying she “had become increasingly concerned about homelessness and crime in the area, as well as the increasing complexity of crime”.

She added that a “more senior officer for South Devon” would be part of a “renewed focus on issues there”. Continue reading

Torbay unitary runs out of money – wants to be returned as a district to DCC

So the elected mayor experiment failed and Torquay is attempting to rejoin DCC with its tail between its legs.

The mayor caused major controversies, here are a few highlights:

The Tory council majority split and split again:

The mayor bought up a shopping centre in Bournemouth, an office building in Exeter, a business park in Torquay:

He lost a no confidence vote but refused to resign:

A referendum decided that the mayoral system was not wanted so the council was going to revert to a cabinet system:

and now he says the council has run out of money:

“Torbay went it alone in 1998 but it has now taken the first steps back to Devon County Council being responsible for running the threatened services.

Mr Oliver said: “We cannot survive as we are beyond this next financial year. There is no money. …

“We have got two years. Whoever wins the election in May 2019, this has to be an all-party solution. “The lack of money will drive economies of scale. Local authorities will have to work in partnership. “Some of them are just too small as they are. “There are 10 chief executives in Devon and 10 financial officers. …

Torbay Mayor expelled from Tory group but won’t resign

Owl says: “Massive changes on the horizon … LEP …” – seems there are a lot of things we are not being told about … and Mayor Oliver is obviously making his own post-2019 plans … wonder if his plans coincide with other people’s plans …

“I was elected by 20,000 voters not 20 councillors” is Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver’s response to calls from his Tory colleagues to step down.

Though he has also been expelled from the Tory group on the council on Monday night and the resign call is going to the next full council meeting, the Tory veteran says there is too important work to be done before the next election in 2019 for him to resign.

With the council facing a black hole in its budget, the increasing pressures on adults and children’s services, and uncertainty over future Government funding and the prospect of increased partnership working with neighbouring authorities – particularly on major services like adults and children’s – Mayor Oliver says he intends to stay on until the next election.

The Tory group said in a statement after its meeting: “The Conservative Group on Torbay Council voted by a majority of over two thirds to expel the mayor from the group.

“A motion bringing forward a vote of no confidence in the elected mayor (endorsed by a majority of the Conservative Group) has already been submitted and will be brought to council for debate on July 20.

“It is regrettable that the group has seen the need to take this action, however it is their strong belief that the mayor has failed to carry out fully his duties in serving the best interests of the people of Torbay.

“The motion is very detailed, running to four pages, and will be is available on the council website when the agenda for the council meeting is published.”

Mayor Oliver said he would listen to the debate on the motion at full council but said: “At the moment I am just sitting and smiling and have no additional things to say about the motion.

“I was elected by 20,000 people not 20 councillors. I will listen to the members of the group and what they have to say. But my responsibility is to the people who supported my election.”

In response to the referendum last year which said the majority wanted a cabinet and leader system in the council, Mayor Oliver said : “By statute, the mayoral system finishes in April 2019. I’m not going anywhere.

“From now on you will see gradual change which is inevitable from a unitary council working on its own to something different. The budgetary pressures will decide how local government will be run in Torbay in future.

“While the mayoral system remains, until the next council election 2019, the structure will remain the same but there will be discussions this autumn as to how the changes will take place beyond that. The council will decide its future in discussion with its immediate neighbours and the wishes of our MPs.”

The major services would be run in partnership, such as children’s, adults and waste. Some changes could be made fairly swiftly he said.

A consultant’s report on possible changes should be published in September.

“Things will not be the same as they are now,” he said. “We have to see this as a challenge, and like all challenges there are benefits which flow from it. I see a dramatic change to create long term financial and political stability beyond 2019.”

At the same time progress is being made on the devolution of power to Devon and Somerset and the 17 districts, he said.

He said essentially Torbay was too small to succeed as a unitary. “It needs long term partnerships and arrangements. There have been various small scale agreements on services already with Teignbridge and Devon we are looking at some with Plymouth at the moment which have been beneficial to us all. But they are mainly backroom functions. These are massive changes on the horizon and we need to keep stability in the next two years and it’s important Government sees us being stable because of the huge responsibilities we have for example for the care of children and adult health.”

What can you do when an elected mayor upsets his (party) councillors?

Not much, it transpires.

Gordon Oliver, elected Mayor of Torbay and highly enthusiastic member of our Local Enterprise Partnership, has been upsetting most if not all of his councillors, who are finding it very difficult to do anything about it.

He got the job in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015. However, within the year, a public referendum had been organised on whether Torbay should have a Mayor was organised, and it was decided that, from 2019, the council would revert back to a Leader and Cabinet arrangement. Nothing could be done earlier than that.

Should the Local Enterprise Partnership ever be correctly constituted, as things currently stand, we would be forced to participate in an election for a Mayor of Somerset and Devon who would have a great deal of direct control over the two counties, deciding most things himself or herself and needing only votes from hand-picked colleagues to force through his or her decisions.

This is a situation similar to that where we were forced to accept a Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner, when only 22.8% of registered voters bothered to turn out and we ended up with Alison Hernandez, a former Torbay councillor. Who now wants to employ her mate as her Deputy. And who can, if she goes against the wishes of our Police and Crime Panel, do so – and again there is nothing they or we can do about it until new elections in 2020.

And where is her mate from? Torbay! And who is a Torbay councillor. Who has been chair of planning there for several years.

Quite a little power block now built up from there. Must be something in the water.