County Hall needs ‘more power’ to tackle deprivation

Posted on: 12 October 2015

Council leader John Hart says that if the authority had more power and a fairer funding deal from Whitehall, it could better tackle youth employment, low pay and deprivation in the county.

Cllr Hart’s comments follow the release of the English Indices of Deprivation Report 2015 by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The report measures relative levels of deprivation in 32,844 neighbourhoods in England, cross referencing income, employment, education and skills, health and disability, crime, barriers to housing and services and environment.

The report highlights some areas of Devon as ‘deprived’.

Cllr Hart said: “Devon’s beauty can often mask the fact there is real deprivation in our county.

“Unlike urban areas where deprivation can be concentrated in specific pockets, in Devon deprivation is often spread out across our sparsely populated rural communities as well as in our cities and towns.”

As a consequence, he said, it was more difficult to provide services to those who needed them: “We have to design our services to be delivered closer to where people live.

“That costs money, and it’s why we consistently campaign with MPs and the Government for a better balance between national funding for rural areas as against the bigger conurbations where deprivation is more visible.”

Another factor influencing levels of deprivation is low wages and high property prices – and Cllr Hart said working with other local authorities was the best way to deal with these challenges.

He said: “Our devolution bid to Government from Devon and Somerset’s local authorities identifies our desire for more powers to help our young people and young families remain in the places where they grew up in decent, affordable homes.”

The key, he said, was to boost wages by attracting higher-paying jobs to Devon and he highlighted Devon County Council’s ‘significant’ investment in developments such as the Science Park in Exeter.

He said: “Just last month we celebrated our £2 million investment in the new business park at Okehampton which will provide excellent facilities for the creation of jobs in West Devon.

“And we have spent £1.2 million on improving Roundswell roundabout in Barnstaple to open up development land that could lead to 3,000 extra jobs.”

He said the council also aimed to capitalise on the Met Office’s decision to site its ‘super computer’ here by ‘creating the climate’ for more investment from high-tech firms, paying good salaries.

Cllr Hart said one of the county’ strengths was its high number of entrepreneurs and higher than average level of self-employment.

He added: “We want to do all we can to aid our entrepreneurs whose companies will be the employers of tomorrow.

“We will continue to press the Government to help us improve our transport infrastructure and we will push on with our plans to get the A30/A303 brought up to standard to provide an alternative to the M5.”

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