Torbay budget cut proposals target 'most vulnerable'

Torbay's most vulnerable people could be seriously affected by £22m council budget cuts proposed by Mayor Gordon Oliver, charities claim.

His draft budget includes drastic reductions or withdrawal of support for the homeless, people with learning difficulties and those with mental health issues.

Before releasing the details, the Devon mayor warned the cuts would be painful.

One housing charity described the reductions as "absolutely devastating".

The Leonard Stock Centre in Torquay has been told its £300,000 grant will be cut by £150,000.

The Shekinah Mission and national housing charity Chapter 1 are among the charities involved in running the centre which provides accommodation for 24 homeless people, many of whom have mental health problems and complex needs.

Chapter 1 is also involved in two other housing projects in Torbay for vulnerable people which could lose almost all their funding.

The Jatis Project provides accommodation and support for people with drug and alcohol issues in the Bay, while Reaching Out South West helps people with mental health issues.

Scott Caldwell from Jatis described the proposed cuts as "insane".

"To suggest that 75% of the budget is cut is insane in my opinion and family members will be affected," he said.

'Tough conversations'

Chapter 1 said the proposals in the draft budget appeared to affect the most vulnerable people in Torbay.

"This is absolutely devastating - everyone is reeling," a Chapter 1 spokesman said.

"Its a very sad day for Torbay. These cuts will affect the most vulnerable who don't have the loudest of voices.

"Our desire to help will not go away, but there is only so much you can expect from volunteers.

"All we can do is hope there is a realistic consultation about these proposals because even if you withdraw the funding, the people are still there - they don't just go away."

Other proposed cuts include withdrawing supported employment for people with learning difficulties, cutting funding for sheltered housing for older people. and withdrawing funding for accommodation for offenders on licence.

Mr Oliver, who declined to be interviewed, said "significant" government grant reductions, meant Torbay Council had to save £22m over the next two years and no service would be immune.

"The scale of the challenge in achieving the central government savings which local MPs voted for, sadly means no service is immune and there have been some very tough conversations," he said.

"There are certainly no easy answers in this budget - it has and continues to be, a painful process."

A public meeting will be held at the Riviera International Centre in Torquay on 2 December and local people will be able to have their say on the council's website.

The budget proposals will be reviewed in January and the final decision will be made in February.

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