Spending boost for Devon County Council services

Posted on: 11 February 2016

More than £8 million extra will be spent on services in Devon next year after county councillors won a battle with Government over funding for rural areas.

Local Government Secretary Greg Clarke confirmed this week that Devon would get an extra £8.4 million in rural support and other grants for 2016/17 on top of the provisional settlement he had announced earlier.

It makes Devon County Council the fourth highest beneficiary in the country after robust lobbying from council leader John Hart and the county’s MPs.

The authority’s Cabinet meets tomorrow (Friday) to decide how to allocate the extra money, which will be held centrally.

It is proposed an extra £5 million will go into strengthening resilience in social care for elderly and vulnerable people as Devon’s population continues to age.

A further £1.5 million will be set aside to fund the county’s response to severe storms with an extra £1 million spent on highways drainage, safety defects and hedging.

And £1 million will be set aside to fund more efficient and cost-effective working using new technology. In addition £40,000 extra will go to support the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Devon County Council leader, John Hart, said: “I am delighted the Government has listened to our robust lobbying about the high cost of providing effective services to people in sparsely populated rural areas.

“We have campaigned consistently for greater resources to be devoted to rural areas like Devon which regularly lose out to urban areas up country when it comes to national spending priorities.

“I would like to thank all our Devon MPs who have supported us so consistently at Westminster in challenging Ministers.

“We still face a very tough budget settlement with some very difficult decisions. But this extra, one-off money will mean we can better support the people of Devon.

”We will use the additional money to support our growing population of elderly and vulnerable residents and to boost the resilience of our road network after the repeated soakings we have suffered over the past months with successive gales blowing the leaves off the trees and clogging our drains.”

Devon is now set to spend over £443 million on services in the new financial year.

The budget includes a £16.1 million boost for under pressure care services. The People budget will rise to £316.1 million – up 5.4 per cent on the current year.

But there will be a reduction of £3.4 million in Place services which cover highways, libraries and the economy – down from £97.3 million to £93.9 million.

The budget for the Corporate Services department, which provides backroom support, will fall by 8.8 per cent from £36.7 million to £33.4 million

County Treasurer Mary Davis will tell the Cabinet tomorrow that between 2011/12 and 2015/16, Devon’s spending has reduced by £174 million as a result of national austerity measures.

The budget is based on a council tax rise of 3.99 per cent. That is just over £46 a year extra for the average Band D council taxpayer taking their bill for county council services to £1,207.62.

This does not include council tax bills for police, fire, district and parish councils.

The overall increase includes a 1.99 per cent rise in the general council tax with 2 per cent extra to help pay specifically for adult social care.

Councillors decided last month to accept the Government ‘s offer to increase council tax by two per cent to help pay for adult social care.

This will raise just under £6.5 million which will help pay for the Government’s increase in the minimum wage. That will cost the county council over £7 million more in care costs in 2016/17.

The majority of this cost relates to those who care for vulnerable adults.

Mr Hart said: “This has been a difficult decision to take.

“We are well aware that many people in Devon are living on fixed incomes or low wages and any increase in their living costs is unwelcome.

“But the rise in the minimum wage will boost incomes – especially for many of the care staff who do an absolutely vital job looking after our elderly and vulnerable adults.

“George Osborne offered all upper tier councils the opportunity to earmark an increase in council tax especially for adult care in his autumn statement last year.

“At the same time our Government grant was reduced again and without taking advantage of this offer, we would have to make even more severe cuts than we are considering in the budget.

1 comment on “Spending boost for Devon County Council services

  1. Alan Burn says:

    Welcome as this increase is, it’s disappointing that the government is only handing out these extra funds to Conservative administrations. I am sure that John Hart – a decent and non-partisan leader – recognises this, though it would be unrealistic to expect him to admit this in public.

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