Bye the Bye

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					Bye the Bye - 9 September 2009

First essay:

The new elected Mayor for Doncaster, Peter Davies, has certainly ruffled a few
feathers and I can only congratulate him on all the favourable publicity he has
generated in the Tory Press.

Several Torbay residents have written to me with cuttings of various articles and
pretty much suggested I should be more like him.

My response has been along the lines: he is doing quite a lot of what I have been
doing in Torbay for the last few years. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

First on the list of his achievements is axing the Mayoral limousine. But we did that in
May and went a lot further beforehand in cutting back on the Officers and ‘Executive’
who supports the previous style Mayor.

The big argument against having an elected Mayor, in the 2005 referendum, was the
cost. In fact, it has cost us less than the previous Leader and Cabinet system, if you
include the cost of supporting the old style ceremonial Mayor.

Like the Doncaster Mayor, I have kept a very close eye on the cost of twinning visits
and when the current Council Chairman, Martyn Hodge, and I visited Hamelin in
June we paid our own way.

I do not believe in ‘jollies’ at the taxpayers expense and I have discouraged other
twinning invitations, from Tenerife for example, however pleasant it may have been
to go there.

The Doncaster Mayor wants to reduce the number of Councillors and therefore make
savings in the allowance budget. My understanding is this is determined by the
Boundary Commission and in any case Doncaster has substantially more Councillors
than Torbay.

However, it is a myth to think one person can do everything and the overseeing of
the running of the Council is a joint responsibility of Councillors and the Mayor. Half a
dozen Councillors serve in my Cabinet and I would be lost without them. In addition,
Councillors, not the Mayor, have responsibility for Overview and Scrutiny, Planning,
Licensing decisions, Harbours, some Transport issues as well as undertaking good

work in their wards. They also serve on outside bodies such as the Police Authority
and the Health Care Trust.

Torbay has 36 Councillors and it would be unrealistic to think we could manage with
much less.

Of course, the big vote winner for the Doncaster Mayor was to say he would do the
job on half the previous Mayor’s salary. As I have previously pointed out, if you are a
sixty something retired senior teacher, with a substantial pension, then you are in a
very different financial position from Yours Truly, who is still paying off the mortgage
at Bye Towers!

Do we really want the race for political office to be a Dutch Auction, conducted
between the rich and retired?

When his honeymoon is over and the easy headlines have been forgotten, Peter
Davies will be judged on his record of improving services and leading regeneration in
Doncaster, a place, like Torbay, where the last thirty years have not been kind.

Already, I find it surprising he has had nothing to say about Children’s Services there,
especially as the two youngsters from Edlington, convicted of torturing other children,
were in the care of Doncaster’s Children’s Services. No fewer than five children have
died whilst in the care of Doncaster Children’s Services in recent years. What are his
thoughts on that?

Finally, according to the Daily Mail, the Doncaster Mayor ‘does not use a computer -
all his emails are printed out by his staff’.

So there you are, he does seem to need support staff, even if he has cut back

Second essay:

Crime and disorder is too serious an issue to play politics with. During the last four
years I have developed a good working relationship with our local Police and have
been pleased with the effort made to reduce crime and maintain Torbay as a safe
place for one and all.

For all our social and economic deprivation, crime figures are relatively low in Torbay
and serious crime figures are still falling. In particular, progress has been made in the
Harbour area of Torquay, especially late at night, as a result of the Council, the
Police and the Community all working together.

Tough decisions have been made with licensing, the Police have a dedicated ‘night
time economy’ team, there is the Safe Bus, and for the last year, or so, we have had
a wonderful group of Street Pastors.

However I still get regular letters and emails from unhappy bunnies who somehow
think I could simply sweep away all the pubs, bars and nightclubs. I generally
respond by inviting them to join me in a late night stroll or even a night on the town,
but, so far, nobody has taken me up on this offer.

It is complete nonsense to say the Harbour is a ‘no go’ area after six o’clock, or
whenever, and one of the changes during the last few years is the increase in family
friendly restaurants and more ‘up market’ and stylish bars.

The atmosphere is very different to four or five years ago, although the Harbour area,
which should be the town’s show piece, would benefit from further investment and
regeneration. Thankfully various schemes are now coming forward.

However, elsewhere in the town, anti-social behaviour and low level crime is still
causing substantial nuisance, especially in the Torre/Belgrave Road neighbourhood
which is a prime tourist area.

Although I sometimes have to remind people I am not Mayor Giuliani, and have no
direct policing powers, I have participated in two recent Town Hall meetings, held to
address these issues.

The second meeting, just last week, reviewed progress since July. There has
certainly been a lot of action by the Police and our Safer Communities Team which

has resulted in a reduction in crime - despite earlier concerns, reported crime in
Tormohun has been at a lower level in 2009 compared with the previous year.

The one and only member of the community present (I was expecting a rather larger
turnout) spoke of ‘a dramatic improvement ….. absolutely wonderful ….. grateful to
Torbay Council’.

One particular property, a so called house in multiple occupancy, is under notice to
improve; some troublesome residents there and elsewhere have moved out; there
has been a high profile campaign against alcohol misuse and a large scale operation
against Class A drugs, which has resulted in arrests.

The Police are working directly with landlords regarding the management of certain
properties. It was an eye opener for me to learn some landlords actually recruit
tenants who have been involved in crime. The Police indicated new ‘Crack House
Laws’ may need to be used.

Of course, we all appreciate this kind of high profile campaign might not be sustained
and after a few months the situation returns to ‘business as usual’. That is why our
Housing Team and Town Hall lawyers are looking at planning policies, to see if we
can avoid these problems in the first place.

In the longer term, you cannot sweep people away and the only solution is to provide
opportunities such as training, health programmes and suitable employment, to help
people turn their lives around.

One of the most exciting projects in Torbay, the Town Centre Enterprise Project, to
be sited on waste land by Castle Circus, is intended to do exactly that. Work should
commence early next year and the concept of the project is already gaining national
interest. Torbay is not alone in facing these problems.

Next week’s Cabinet meeting at Torquay Town Hall will be preceded by a Question
Time session at 4.30pm. If you have something to ask, or simply want to get
something off your chest, please register your interest and telephone Democratic
Services on 207013.

My next Caravan Consultation will be on 23 September 2009 at St Marychurch and I
shall be present from 12noon until 1.30pm.

Future Caravan Consultations will be held on 21 October at Brixham and 10
November at the Cherrybrook Shops, Broadsands. Come and say hello.

Nick Bye
Mayor of Torbay


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