Funding cut 'would shut down riviera tourist firm'
A split in Torbay Conservatives over proposals by Mayor Gordon Oliver to cut public funding of the English Riviera Tourism Company by 100% in two years, has been publicly aired for the first time.
Deputy mayor Dave Thomas and Mr Oliver's new interim tourism councillor, Dave Butt, both told the tourism industry update meeting they cannot support slashing the tourism company (ERTC) funding by £500,000 over the next two years as currently proposed.
ERTC chairman Chris Hart told 300 people at the Riviera International Conference Centre that the scale of the cut would force the firm to close, just as visitor numbers were on the rise and record numbers were using its website.
Mr Thomas said he did not believe the ERTC could escape entirely from the £22 million of cuts facing the council, with the brunt being felt by non-statutory services like tourism. But he and Mr Hart said they were hopeful "positive" negotiations could reach a satisfactory conclusion before the mayor's budget is published next month. Mr Hart said they were arguing that tourism support should be one of the priorities for discretionary spending in the council budget because of the £400 million and 11,000 jobs it brought to the Bay. It was estimated in 2011 that for every £1 spent by the company, £34 came to the area. The resort employs the highest percentage of people in tourism in the country.
Mr Hart said at the Wednesday meeting: "If the mayor's proposals were implemented we would have no option but to close the company down, though we believe strongly this would not be in the best interest of the tourism industry or the local economy."
Mr Thomas said there had not yet been a Tory group meeting on the issue, but added: "I could not support effectively a 100% cut taking funding down to zero because that would close the ERTC tomorrow."
Mr Butt said he did not support a 100% cut. "We have to look seriously at some type of cut over the next couple of years but I don't support the proposal to remove the budget completely." Mayor Oliver was not at the meeting.