ANGRY councillors who say ‘the future of Torbay council is at stake’ claim they are being blocked from seeing a vital new report.
A row erupted over the timescale of the efficiency plan which will give details of cutbacks and savings, enabling the council to receive the next four years’ funding from central government.
The overview and scrutiny committee demanded mayor Gordon Oliver keeps them updated with the detailed efficiency plan after hearing they would not have sight of it until eight days before final decisions are made.
The council is required to have an efficiency plan in place by September 2016, to receive a four-year revenue support grant settlement from the Department for Communities and Local Government. It has to published and sent to DCLG by October 14.
However, the overview and scrutiny committee were angry when they were told they would have just eight days to scrutinise the plan before making recommendations to full council.
Cllr Chris Lewis said: “The future of Torbay Council is at stake. We are making lots of cuts and we should have started this work months ago. How can we have just eight days to look at it?”
Mayor Oliver told the committee: “We have spent months working on this. Officers have been left to make their judgement as to how to balance the books correctly.”
However, the report would not be ready before July.
Then, before the full report can be shared by councillors, it would have to go to the mayor’s executive group in August, before coming to overview and scrutiny eight days before full council has to vote on it.
But councillors are asking for the report to be ‘drip-fed’ to them to enable them to scrutinise the details of cutbacks.
Cllr Alan Tyerman said: “We are going around in circles here. After the August meeting it needs to come to overview and scrutiny as soon as it can so we can understand what is in the plan. I feel we are getting muddled here, but we need to know what is in the plan. We have to have involvement in this vital piece of work. If we only have sight of it at the last minute it won’t work.”
Torbay Council chief executive Steve Parrock said there were 42 pieces of work involved.
But, Cllr Nick Bye replied: “It feels like there is some political blockage in sharing this important work.
“It is going to be a pile of poo anyway, but the danger is we won’t be allowed to have an impact.” Cllr Bye felt there was a political reason why councillors were being blocked, but mayor Oliver said: “There is no Agatha Christie plot here I am aware of.”
The committee unanimously voted information be shared to them as early as possible on elements of the plans which are non-controversial. And that as soon as it is complete and gone to the mayor’s executive group, it be shared with them formally.