Multi-million pound boost for Devon’s roads
More money will be spent on Devon’s roads as well as adult social care, health and children’s services, according to the county council’s proposed new budget.
The budget for 2018/19 will be discussed by the Cabinet on Friday and will then have to be ratified by the full council meeting next week (February 15).
The draft budget published before Christmas calls for an extra £13 million to be spent on adult care and health. That’s a rise of over 6 per cent and will take the total care budget to £227.8 million.
And on Tuesday the Government announced an extra £2.2 million to support adult social care in Devon.
The budget will also see an increase in spending for children’s services of 5.5 per cent or £6.5 million taking the total budget for children to £125.5 million.
Councillors are also now being recommended to accept the Government’s offer of an extra one per cent rise in council tax to spend on dedicated highways work.
In addition, Ministers this week increased Devon’s share of the Rural Services Delivery Grant by £1.5 million which will also be spent on roads.
So now an additional £6.5 million is being proposed for patching, drainage, potholes and other road maintenance work.
The original draft budget proposals called for a reduction of 2.7 per cent or £1.5 million for highways, infrastructure and waste to take account of a number of new contracts which have generated major efficiencies.
Chief Officer for Highways, Meg Booth, said the council had signed a new contract for highways work in 2017 and changed the way its depots were managed. Savings had also been made through installing LED units on street lights.
“The savings are being delivered from procurement,” she said. “There are no proposed savings’ cuts.”
In all, the target revenue budget for the county for 2018/19 will be £477.391 million.
County Treasurer Mary Davis will tell councillors, even with these increases, the budget will be hard to deliver against rapidly rising demand for services.
“Innovative work with partner authorities will be needed to manage demand for social care,” she says in a new report.
“And a new approach to service delivery and commissioning will be required to try to ensure the needs of the young and vulnerable are met.”
Council leader John Hart said: “Our vital health and social care services for adults continue to be under immense pressure both in Devon and nationally.
“In Devon we have some of the highest proportions of people over 65 and people over 85 in the country and they need and deserve our help and support.
“We also believe it is imperative to do the best we can for our children and young people to give them the best possible start in life.
“We have always said our priority is to protect the most vulnerable in our society and I believe this target budget will help to do that.
“But demand for these services continues to grow at a relentless pace.
“That’s why the leaders of all the political parties on the county council have this week taken the unprecedented step of joining together to plead with the Government for more funding for adult social care and children’s services.
“And we are delighted that the Government has recognised our case with the extra money for adult social care and the rural delivery grant.
“That will go some way to easing the pressures but a long-term solution to the issues in health and social care still needs to be found.
“Before Christmas, when I had a series of consultation meetings on the budget, I was left in no doubt that the condition of our roads was a number one priority for many residents.
“This year we have re-negotiated a number of contracts and made considerable efficiency savings.
“We’re also working smarter and greener, for example installing LED lightbulbs in our street lighting.
“But many people want us to spend more on our roads and that’s why I want to take up the Government’s unexpected offer of an extra one per cent on the council tax to be dedicated to our highways.
“We are very conscious that many people living in Devon are on fixed and low incomes. But this is likely to be a one-off increase and it will mean an extra £12.68 a year for the average Band D council taxpayer.
“We’ve had a very wet winter and it will mean we can really get to grips with many of the problems on our roads.”
Councillors are being recommended to approve a rise of 1.99 per cent for general services with a further one per cent dedicated to roads.
They are also likely to accept the Government's offer of a two per cent increase to spend directly on adult health and social care but will defer a further one per cent rise to 2019/20.
In all councillors are being asked to agree a 4.99 per cent increase in council tax for the coming financial year.
This equates to an extra £63.27 a year for the average Band D council taxpayer or just over £1.20 a week.
This means Devon will be charging £1,331.19 for a Band D property.