Council Leader sets out Devon’s stall to new PM

County Hall

Posted on: 24 July 2019

The Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr John Hart, has written to new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, setting out some of the county’s biggest challenges facing Devon residents.

In his letter, Mr Hart makes no apology for adding to the PM’s already groaning in-tray, describing not only matters of concern to Devon but to millions of people across the country.

On education, he reminds Mr Johnson of his campaign pledge to pump-in an extra £4.6 billion and to level up funding for rural schools.

Cllr John Hart sat at a desk

Cllr John Hart

It is “a very welcome start,” says Mr Hart. “However, your Government will need to do more to tackle the education funding crisis that is doing much damage to our schools.

“We cannot expect our schools to go on producing the future young talent of our country whilst denying them the resources required to meet even their core responsibilities,” says Cllr Hart.

On social care, Mr Hart says that council’s children’s services faces unprecedented demand for services for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

“This year alone, we have had to off-set a near £10 million overspend on children’s care services from other budgets and pump another £1 million into special needs education,” he said.

“We back the Government’s reforms of special needs education, but as is often the case when Whitehall sends local government something new, the batteries are not included in the package.”

Mr Hart continues, Devon has seen an 81 per cent reduction in core funding from the Government since 2010, leading to the council cutting over 2,700 jobs and spending more than £600 million less in revenue and capital budgets.

And on the local economy, Mr Hart emphasises his support for SMEs and microbusinesses in the region.

“Devon’s economy is worth over £16 billion, the largest of any local authority area in the South West,” he says. “We need to give these smaller companies a helping hand to upscale, innovate and develop new markets. We have to invest more in R&D, skills and exports to make the most of our great opportunities in our clean energy, advanced engineering, marine sciences and agritech sectors in Devon.”

And he reminds Mr Johnson of the strategic importance of upgrading the whole A303/A358/A30 corridor, which would help to create 21,000 new jobs in the region.

Finally, Mr Hart calls on the Government “to step up its investment and devolve that funding to ensure it is forensically targeted to achieve maximum success.”

“I hope we will have the opportunity to host your first visit to our county as Prime Minister in the near future,” writes Mr Hart, “and we can show you not only the challenges but also the great opportunities that exist here in Devon.”

2 comments on “Council Leader sets out Devon’s stall to new PM

  1. Paul Wilson says:

    Good to see the proposed investment in local small businesses, It’s the proposal that the ‘helping hand’ comes from local service providers of will that investment leak back out of the local economy?

    Also, many are asking why no mention of the biggest challenge facing us all – Climate Change Emergency?

    • Hi Paul. Thanks for this. Re climate. It’s not a definitive list at any stretch. The climate emergency is a priority, and to avoid any doubt in anyone’s mind, it is without argument one of our chief concerns. As you may know, in addition to the important steps that we’ve taken (and are continuing to take) to reduce our own carbon emissions, we’ve also formed the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group. That group, which is a mix of business groups, councils, and public sector bodies in Devon, is working together to reduce carbon emissions, and to create a Devon Carbon Plan. We’ve previously put aside £250,000 to encourage organisations, communities and individuals to do more to reduce global warming, and that’s being matched by the University of Exeter and an application for further grants.

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