People of Ukraine are in our thoughts - David Worden

North Devon Gazette

I’d like to start my column this week by thanking the Councillors and members of staff at Torridge District Council who took part in raising the Ukrainian flag at Riverbank House. The flag is a symbol of the strength of feeling amongst Councillors and the residents of Torridge that the people of Ukraine are in everyone's thoughts.Â

Three things of note to write about this week the first of which is taking up a considerable amount of officer time for what on paper appears to be a simple task. This refers to the Governments recent announcement to give all Council Tax payers in Bands A-D a £150 Council Tax Rebate to offset some of the recent rises in energy costs. The criterion for payment was having a liability for Council Tax on April 1, 2022.Â

Central Government instructed Councils that this rebate should be a physical payment and therefore simply reducing Council Tax bills by £150 for Bands A-D wasn’t an option available to the Council to pursue. With this in mind the Council have been working on a process to make a bank transfers to accounts where we hold bank details for people i.e. those paying by direct debit. This will cover around 19,775 households or 70% of the 28,225 that reside in band A-D properties. The remaining 8,450 will need to be contacted, asked to supply their bank details, the bank details will then need to be checked and verified as demanded by the government and a mechanism to pay them implemented. This doesn’t cover the discretionary part of the scheme for band E-H properties and where households may be on low incomes which will have to be verified through an additional process – another potential 4,900 properties to be considered.Â

So overall not as straight forward as you would imagine, nevertheless we hope to start making the initial payments from April 2022 onwards. The quickest and easiest way to pay your council tax is by direct debit. It’s a secure method and you can pay over 10 or 12 months, more information can be found here

On a slightly more upbeat note Great Torrington’s ‘Castle Hill Work Hub’ was officially launched last week and is the latest addition to the Devon Work Hubs network, made possible by funding from the Heart of the South West LEP “Getting Building Fund.” The bright, modern facilities will hopefully prove to be the perfect location for people looking to work in a relaxed but professional space. In particular it may suit people that have been working from home or where businesses have decided not to continue with their traditional offices during the pandemic. Petroc’s and North Devon+ business support programmes will also be available through the hub. Facilities include a meeting room for 6-8 people, 15 workspaces as well as a collaboration area and kitchenette. There is an opening offer of a free days trial and more information on the flexible rental periods can be found on the website Excellent Wi-fi, free tea and coffee and printing and copying facilities to boot may be the icing on the cake!Â

Also in the news is that our officers have been working hard on a scheme to pay Pubs Cafes and Restaurants another top up grant from the remaining pot of money used to support all hospitality and leisure related businesses during the Omicron phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. This sector was particularly hard hit with many cancellations during what should have been their busiest time of the year, over the festive party season, and Councillors were keen to use any remaining sum to support those affected. The previous pay-outs to all businesses totalled around £1.4 million and the targeted top-up grants will be paid from this week onwards to all of the Pubs, Cafes and Restaurants operating in Torridge to use up the remaining balance of £250,000. Around 90 businesses will receive a share of this money and once again I would like to thank our officers for implementing the decision by Councillors so quickly and efficiently.Â