Leader warns of financially challenging conditions

For the last five years, East Devon District Council has frozen its share of the Council Tax, keeping bills down for its residents while still providing first rate services. 

Due to continued reductions in the central government grant to district councils, the council unanimously decided last night (Weds 24th Feb) to increase Council Tax by £5 a year for 2016/17 which amounts to less than 10p per week for the average property.

That means a typical Band D householder will pay East Devon District Council (EDDC) £126.78 a year for all its services – which is still the lowest in Devon and amongst the lowest in the country.

The council takes just 8p in every pound of the total Council Tax bill with the rest of the money going to Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Police,  Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service  along with town and parish councils.

Despite a financially challenging climate, the council is continuing to provide excellent value-for-money services and projects, from quality housing and regeneration to coastal protection and supporting local town economies.

Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of EDDC, said:

Everyone at East Devon continues to work hard on behalf of all East Devon residents under extremely challenging financial conditions. With further reductions to the grant we receive from central government for 2016/17 and beyond, this sets a clear pattern of having to be even more business-like, efficient and self-sufficient.

This includes reviewing our fees and charges across the board with all EDDC owned assets, ensuring that they provide a proper return for residents that will enable us to maintain the services they value most. It is never truer than now to say that 'money does not grow on trees' and whilst some decisions we take may be unpopular with some people, we must consider the best interests of everyone in East Devon.

Our local development plan has recently been found to be sound by the Planning Inspector and our local economy is thriving in parts of the district, particularly the 'West End'. However, we must also make sure that our other towns prosper too, providing the jobs and day to day services that go hand in glove with new homes that are being built.  

There is no room for complacency and we need to provide the conditions for developing economic growth with well-paid jobs and initiatives, such as the construction of business units encouraging small businesses to start up, grow and provide jobs which contribute to the local economy.

We continue to work with other local authorities to find more efficient ways of improving EDDC services provided to our residents. Budget cuts to county councils and in some areas of the NHS are putting additional pressure on EDDC to provide 'prevention rather than cure' measures in place where we can.

As part of our health and well-being agenda, we are making a positive difference to people’s lives with facilities provided by the council such as the Seaton wetlands looked after by our excellent Countryside team, the nationally acclaimed, award winning Thelma Hulbert Gallery, together with support to LED in providing sport and leisure facilities. 

Talking to many constituents, it is clear that they support a modest increase of £5 per household, the first in five years of prudent financial management,  which is something they are prepared to accept as necessary to protect services EDDC provides and I will ensure that their money is spent wisely and appropriately.

The council is proud of many achievements in the last 12 months and highlights include:

  • Strong employment growth at the West End of the district with the council’s third strategic employment site Skypark nearing the completion of its infrastructure,
  • As a shareholder of the Exeter Science Park Company, securing more than £10m of Growth Deal and Regional Growth Fund money to invest in the Science Park centre,
  • Delivering the highest ever number of new affordable local homes for local people in one year totalling 388,
  • Investing in a Jurassic Coast discovery centre which opens next month,
  • Winning national planning and housing awards for the council’s new town of Cranbrook,
  • Working with local communities to deliver a significant number of recreational and sports facilities across the district using Section 106 funding,
  • Achieving a Gold Investors in People award.

East Devon has also developed a new Council Plan, which together with its Transformation Strategy, maps out how it aims to delivery its strategic priorities and deal with future funding gaps to protect front line service delivery from 2016 – 2020.

Important information for Council Tax payers

More than 67,000 Council Tax bills will be sent out to East Devon households around 9 March. Read more about your Council Tax.

Residents should also be aware that the Council Tax charge is split between Devon County Council, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall,  Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority, East Devon District Council and your town or parish council.

If you have a query regarding the amount charged by any of these organisations then to save yourself time, please contact the relevant body direct. As our phones will be extremely busy during the middle of March you may prefer to email us at counciltax@eastdevon.gov.uk

The easiest way to ensure your Council Tax is paid on time is to set up a Direct Debit online. You can choose to pay on the 1st, 17th or 25th of the month.

A council spokesman added:

If anyone thinks they are going to struggle to pay this priority bill then the earlier they talk to someone the better. Contact the council and we may be able to reduce the amount of Council tax you have to pay, or change the date you have to pay it. We also offer free independent and confidential help and advice.