Leader’s Christmas and New Year message
I thought that it would be appropriate for me to use this opportunity, not only to wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year but importantly, to take this opportunity to set out some detail about the financial context for East Devon District Council over the next few years; the challenges we are facing and the innovate approaches we are taking to ensure that we continue to provide quality services and ‘balance the books’ going forward.
Like all other councils up and down the country, East Devon District Council is feeling the effects of the annual reductions in the Government’s Revenue Support Grant (RSG). The four year financial settlement arrangements mean that EDDC will receive £0.127m in RSG for 2018/19 - a 76% reduction on 2017/18. Future grant reductions combined with other budgetary pressures mean that the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) is currently predicting a budget deficit of £0.735m in 2018/19, rising to £3m by 2020/21 and potentially to £5.4m by 2027/28.
Despite these increasing financial pressures, EDDC is proud not to have cut front line services. We are determined to avoid the downward spiral of cuts, cuts and more cuts! Like other councils, we have had to recognise that to keep core service delivery intact, we are increasingly reliant on income generated from business rates, new homes bonus and critically, from income that we generate ourselves. This means developing a more innovative and commercial mind-set in our decision making particularly where it relates to service delivery and the management of our assets.
Our journey has already begun. Guided by the principles and key themes in our Transformation Strategy 2018 – 2028, we are taking a long term view of our finances and the economic context in which we are operating. Our aim is to develop greater financial resilience so that we can safeguard council services both now and in the future. The Transformation Strategy sets out our approach:
- WorkSmart – reducing our office accommodation footprint and working more efficiently. This means more mobile and flexible working supported by the right technology in the right place at the right time. The relocation of EDDC from Knowle, Sidmouth to Exmouth Town Hall and Honiton is set to save the Council £6m over the next 20 years.
- Open for business – responding to the increasing number of our residents who wish to transact on-line; improving our efficiency as well as the customer experience through investment in a digital platform. Progress so far means that our customers can now access 200 on-line services. Further investment in digital services will mean more efficient integration of on-line services across all our IT systems creating a better customer experience as well as improved efficiency.
- Systems thinking – ensuring that our services are designed around ‘what matters’ to our customers and communities; cutting out wasteful and costly processes. This approach has seen our benefits service reduce its cost base while becoming one of our flagship services and the 4th highest performing in the country.
- Focus on income generation – ensuring that we are maximising the use of our assets through commercial thinking. With a greater focus on commercialisation, we are working towards generating income through a green waste service; taking a more commercial view of new lease/rental arrangements, delivering a greater provision of business units across the district; business development activities and a fundamental review of our assets with Town and Parish councils.
- Active pursuit of alternative service delivery methods and models - we already make significant savings through sharing corporate services such as IT, audit and procurement. We have also set up a housing company which is focused on delivering housing provision across the district as well as having huge potential to generate significant income. We also want to explore greater community involvement in service delivery.
Our ambition is to be an outstanding council, which works together with local people to create great value services and an outstanding community, economy and environment for East Devon, both now and for future generations.
Everything we do is aimed at making East Devon a place where people want to live and work, as well as a top destination for visitors to come and enjoy.
Have a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Cllr Paul Diviani,
Leader, East Devon District Council.