9. What we have already achieved
Our achievements against the last Council Plan have been noted in our annual reports from 2013/14 and 2014/15.
We are particularly proud of the following achievements:
● As a shareholder of the Exeter Science Park Company, the council and its partners have secured over £10m of Growth Deal and Regional Growth Fund monies to invest in the Science Park Centre and infrastructure. This in turn has helped to secure the c.£100m investment from the Met Office in its next super computer which is due for completion in 2016.
● At SkyPark the third strategic employment site is nearing completion.
● Leisure, culture and entertainment: our Thelma Hulbert Gallery received the ‘Winner of Winners’ Award from the Devon Tourism Awards 2014.
● Sidmouth’s Manor Pavilion Theatre’s Summer Season continues as the last standing repertory season in the UK with huge commercial success following the appointment of West End Director Paul Taylor Mills.
● Our current recycling rate is 44 per cent and is improving particularly in the areas where we are carrying out extended recycling trials.
● Our new town of Cranbrook with over 1,000 homes already occupied was a finalist in national Royal Town Planning Institute Awards and won two Insider Housing Top 60 awards for best affordable housing project and the top prize and best project overall in the country.
● We have delivered our highest ever number of new affordable local homes for local people in one year totalling 388. There is also a significant number planned for delivery in 2015/16.
● Across the district, we are managing record numbers of planning applications totalling 1,221 in 2014/15.
● Our success in collecting Council Tax remains consistently high and last year we collected 98.83 per cent Council Tax.
● Our rent collection rate is is consistently high and we collect 99.7 per cent of rent due. In addition we spend £9m on works to our 4,243 council homes each year (over £2,000 per home) and our tenant satisfaction is consistently high.
● We have maintained a Local Welfare Support Scheme which provides funding for local food banks and individuals who are vulnerable.
● Significant reductions in the number of households on the housing register and homeless approaches through expanding housing options and homeless prevention initiatives.
● Our decision to sell the seafront site and ensure a high quality hotel development is showing results for Exmouth as the new Premier Inn opened its doors and is proving popular and successful creating 44 jobs for local people in Exmouth.
● Seaton Jurassic construction Phase One was completed in July 2015. Work has now commenced on the internal exhibition materials and an opening of the centre is planned for spring 2016.
● Bigbelly bins and recycling stations have been rolled out on seafront areas helping to keep the environment clean.
● We have granted key planning permissions which help support our
visitor economy such as the Tramway Infrastructure, improved facilities at the popular Donkey Sanctuary and Sidmouth’s Harbour Hotel.
● We have achieved two Green Flag awards for outstanding parks.
● In 2014 our countryside team helped to deliver a new country park in Cranbrook.
● The countryside team attract 2,000 school-age visitors, arrange 50 public events every year and are working with our most socially deprived wards funded by Natural England through the Naturally Health schools project. The team have also embarked on a new commercial partnership with River Cottage HQ.
● We have worked with local communities to deliver a significant number of recreational and sports facilities across the district using Section 106 funding.
● Our Home Safeguard community alarm service achieved accreditation by the Telecare Services Association for a fourth year.
● Our Council Tax and business rates team and our housing benefits team were both given national awards: Benefits Team of the Year and Revenues Team of the Year, winning Silver and Bronze awards respectively. Both teams are maintaining top performance not only compared with other Devon councils, but nationally.
● Our licensing service maintained their Customer Service Excellence accreditation through 2014/15.
● We established a cost-effective in-house pest control service.
● We gained the South West Charter for Member Development (Charter Plus Standard) in April 2014.
● We have offered seven apprenticeships within the council to help provide opportunities to local young people and demonstrate the value of apprentices to other businesses.