Annual report 2016/2017 reveals that East Devon District Council ranks among the best councils nationally in terms of service delivery

What a year it’s been for East Devon District Council, with a number of ground breaking changes taking place in the way the council delivers its objectives. From an innovative new district wide recycling service and outstanding performances for housing and council tax benefit claims, to building affordable, quality local homes for local people and moving forwards with regeneration plans to transform Exmouth and Sidmouth.

Homelessness is a problem that is being continually addressed by the council’s Housing teams, who are ensuring that the numbers of people living in temporary accommodation remains as low as possible and that people in need are housed as quickly as possible.

Developing innovative approaches to service delivery and income generation, as well as continually striving to be an outstanding council is also highlighted in the report, as is the fact that the council listens to its residents and actively seeks out their views. 

In the foreword to the Annual Report 2016/2017, East Devon District Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Williams, emphasised his pride in leading a workforce whose focus was to provide the best possible service to its customers and reconfirmed the council’s commitment to delivering the ambition and priorities outlined in the Council Plan.

I am delighted that we are performing well in critical areas. For instance our Housing and Council Tax benefits claims have been processed in under six days throughout the year and we successfully collected 99.1% of Council Tax due. This is our best performance to date and means that East Devon is the best in Devon and ranks among the very best nationally in this important aspect of our service delivery.

The Residents’ Viewpoint Survey has been pivotal in helping us to deliver against one of our core values - to be innovative and always improving. Your calls for more recycling opportunities directly influenced council strategy in this area and as a result, East Devon has dramatically increased its recycling rates. I look forward to your comments in the 2018 survey, so that you can continue to help us to improve our services to you.

In the Annual Report Councillor Paul Diviani, the council’s leader, made reference to the amount of work the council has been undertaking to support communities across the district, especially in the areas of health and wellbeing. He mentioned that in Cranbrook, East Devon will deliver:

…a broad range of health and wellbeing activities based around our five priority themes of healthy schooling, new models of care, physical activity, innovative health messaging and a healthy ‘built’ environment. Our housing service and Countryside team have also worked hard to deliver healthy activities for all residents to enjoy.

Councillor Diviani also pointed out that:

District councils deliver 86 out of 137 essential local government services and the King’s Fund regards us as being the most efficient as we are closest to the people and closest to the action. We have a proven track record of devising innovative solutions to transform public services and we take a lead role in collaboration with other providers.

Highlights at East Devon District Council 2016-2017

• April 2016 – our Countryside team reveals an action-packed events guide for 2016
• May 2016 – the Community Development team do an outstanding job organising the Littleham Community Festival
• June 2016 – Community consultation launched to help shape how Cranbrook develops
• July 2016 – the council grants planning permission for the new giant Lidl distribution centre
• August 2016 – an eight-week consultation was launched on the draft East Devon Villages Plan 2016
• September 2016 – East Devon and Sidmouth Town Council commission a scoping study for the regeneration of the Port Royal area in Sidmouth
• October 2016 – official opening of the council’s innovative low energy social housing property in Exmouth
• November 2016 – the council owned Seaton Jurassic visitor attraction scoops a Federation of Small Businesses’ award for place making
• December 2016 – occupancy of the East Devon Business Centre rose from 55% to 95%
• January 2017 – the new Mamhead slipway is opened in Exmouth
• February 2017 – the roll-out of our new and improved recycling service begins in Exmouth
• March 2017 – the third East Devon community orchard is opened in Millwey, Axminster

Council priority one – Encouraging communities to be outstanding
In the Council Plan 2016-2020, the council has undertaken to create more balanced communities, capable of solving local problems in a sustainable way, such as with Neighbourhood Plans. We are also working towards creating more good quality local homes for local people and improving the health and wellbeing of people living in our communities. Some of the council’s key achievements for priority one include:
• Building 126 affordable homes in 2016
• We have spent £7million on repairs and improvements to our tenants homes
• Preventing homelessness is a priority for East Devon and we are providing a wide range of accommodation options and timely housing options advice

Council priority two – Developing an outstanding local economy
East Devon is working towards creating an economy that attracts inward investment and which stimulates start-ups and new business, as well as supporting existing businesses. Our key achievements for this priority include:
• Through our procurement strategy we are encouraging more local businesses to do business with the council – 97% did in March 2016
• East Devon has been responsible for the Enterprise Zone going live in April 2017
• We have witnessed real momentum in the commercial property market within East Devon with Lidl’s new massive Regional Distribution Centre beginning construction, as well as two new office buildings at Skypark and the first pub at Cranbrook

Council priority three – Delivery and promoting our outstanding environment
Protecting and enhancing our natural and built environment is one of East Devon’s key priorities and it is the council’s mandate to ensure there are abundant leisure opportunities and quality open spaces available, as well as further reductions in the waste that East Devon produces. The achievements that we have made for this priority include:
• Without doubt one of this council’s outstanding achievements has been the roll-out of across the district of our new innovative recycling and waste collection service. Since the service was rolled out, our households are now recycling more than ever before and latest figures show us that, on average, 57% of East Devon’s waste is being recycled - an increase of 15% compared to the beginning of this year
• The 2016 summer season at Manor Pavilion Theatre was the most commercially successful to date with record ticket sales and is establishing itself as a key regional theatrical venue
• Working in partnership with the Environment Agency and regeneration teams we have gained approval for £18m of funding to protect over 1,500 homes and businesses in Exmouth against flooding

Council priority four – Continuously improving to be an outstanding council
The council is working towards a culture that promotes continuous improvements, innovation, commercial thinking and new ways of working. The progress that we have made in this area includes:
• Our website provides a self-service facility to customers who can now access services online if they wish to
• For the past financial year, our Council Tax collection rate was the highest in Devon and nationally we are ranked as the 18th best for collecting Council Tax. We also have the lowest arrears out of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset authorities
• We carried out 956 food hygiene inspections and have dealt with 139 reported accidents. We currently have 1,299 registered food businesses displaying a food hygiene rating score

The full version of the Annual Report 2016/2017 can be viewed on the East Devon website.