Paul Diviani

Paul Diviani sends New Year message to East Devon residents

In the darkest, nay, dampest, days of winter, I always feel driven to think positively of the future. It seems so long since 2008 when the financial world changed and with it the world of local Government.

Over the years, we have always been a cautious Council and that has largely paid off when the going got rough. We have protected our frontline services and cut and trimmed our back office requirements. Our satisfaction ratings are the highest they have ever been with the exception of planning – but the latter is replicated right across the country as we all try to come to terms with the new planning guidelines and the need for growth.

As a country, we are still living beyond our means but the Chancellor is tackling the deficit and the Coalition’s predictions are coming true. Whilst the belt tightening continues the economy continues to improve and the future is looking very bright. We are fortunate to live in a beautiful place, which others want to share. Not only do we need more housing but the massive unmet demand puts enormous upward pressure on house prices and, at over 11 times average earnings, distorts the supply of local houses for local people.

I welcome the Government’s stance on localism as outlined by Secretary of State Eric Pickles’ in a message shortly before Christmas when he asserted that:

Patterns of local government should reflect England’s local identities and traditions. We will champion England’s long-standing towns, boroughs, cities and counties, and will continue to oppose the imposition of artificial regional structures.

As a rural designated area – even though we include Exmouth, East Devon’s largest town – we are part of the District Councils’ Network and have been fighting hard for fairer funding. Whilst the Government appears to acknowledge our entitlement, they have still a long way to go to redress the imbalance with our big urban colleagues. We have nevertheless got the funding we predicted when we started our budget-setting process, so yet again we will be able to balance our books for the coming fiscal year. Members and Officers have worked diligently on your behalf and will continue so to do.

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone Good Health, Happiness, Peace and Prosperity for 2015.