Just over six months ago, my deputy Cllr Philip Skinner and I took over the reins at East Devon District Council. There has certainly never been a dull moment, a situation unlikely to change as our government looks to distil order from the challenging relationship with our European neighbours.
As 2018 draws to a close, I want to reflect on some of our achievements and priorities for the New Year, as our council continues its drive toward ensuring the health, safety, prosperity and happiness of all East Devon residents and businesses.
A safe, secure and affordable home for all, the right size and in the right place
Christmas is a time when concern for those unfortunate to be homeless in our society is most widely demonstrated, yet support by our council never waivers throughout the year. As homelessness grows across the UK, we have increased our resources to help. Working with many agencies, including food banks, we provide a safe ‘roof’, supported by advice on benefit entitlement and debt management. We are grateful for the help of Devon Partnership Trust in our support of homeless people with additional mental health needs.
We expect to complete the purchase of a former bed & breakfast to house single people, in rooms with en-suite facilities. A further 12 properties have been added to our council-owned housing stock of over 4,200 properties in the first half of the year. This means 9,000 people enjoy safe and secure discounted rented accommodation, provided by East Devon District Council.
I would like to add personal thanks to our tenants, who pay 98% of all rental payments due. This means that we can spend over £9million each year, to maintain our stock of council properties to a high standard, using local work people we insist our contractors engage.
An economy which works for all
East Devon benefits from close links to Exeter, the Growth Point, Enterprise Zone and the main airport serving the South West.
Agriculture and tourism are particularly important outside the West End.
Looking ahead, we need to increase the quality of local employment opportunity, to attract and retain working age residents. We will continue to deliver this through:
- Accelerating delivery of 10,000 new jobs across four sites in the Exeter & East Devon Enterprise Zone. (Exeter Science Park, Skypark, Exeter Airport Business Park and Cranbrook).
- A new business support programme worth up to £30,000, delivering workshops and support to existing and pre-start businesses, to enhance productivity and encourage mobile working.
- Regenerate Exmouth Seafront, Queens Drive (Phase 1), Grenadier Estates Watersports Centre (Phase 2), due to open in 2020, with temporary operators (Phase 3) to mitigate the effect of an otherwise vacant site on the Exmouth economy.
- Delivery of the new road to create new car parking space, in preparation for the water sports centre.
I am particularly pleased to hear chef Michael Caines is planning a food outlet and cookery school within the water sports centre. This is sure to further boost visitor numbers to a revitalised Exmouth.
Services that East Devon wants
The East Devon District Council service most valued by our residents is probably our kerbside collection of waste and recycling from 69,400 properties. In 2018 we improved kerbside refuse and recycling to include a widely requested ‘green’ waste collection service.
Our enhanced kerbside recycling, which now includes cardboard, tins, mixed plastics and numerous other household items, coupled with a reduction in residual waste collection to three weekly, now means that East Devon recycles as much as 60% of it’s household waste. We are leading the way in the protection of our environment, as the best performing council in Devon and one of the leading UK councils, already comfortably meeting EU targets set for 2030.
None of the residual waste collected from the kerbside is sent to landfill, rather it is used to generate energy.
The warm 2018 summer meant that our sea front litter collections and facilities were pushed to their limit. In response, we have reviewed plans for 2019 and intend to improve our sea front litter collection service, to support our valued tourism business and attract more visitors to our stunning beaches by conserving and enhancing our beautiful natural environment.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all
The first quarter of 2019 will mark another chapter in the history of East Devon District Council, as we complete our move from ageing premises at The Knowle in Sidmouth to Blackdown House, our new purpose-built offices in Honiton.
Our dual bases in Honiton and Exmouth are ideally located to help us further improve service delivery, offering efficient modern facilities more conveniently placed for our customers.
Finally, I should like to personally thank all our dedicated staff team and my member colleagues, for their help and support in my first year as Leader.
Merry Christmas to all associated with East Devon District Council. Let’s look forward together to an exciting and challenging New Year ahead.
Cllr Ian Thomas
Leader, East Devon District Council