In 2010, when the Government announced its comprehensive spending review, councils across the whole country were put under great pressure.
Here in Devon, the County Council is having to find over £200m of savings. This has meant we have had to look at everything we do, and we know that there are some very difficult choices and decisions to be made.
We have to prioritise. Some services are statutory, and we have to deliver them, and must continue to do so. There are others that we do not have to provide, even though we might believe in them strongly.
Different ways of delivering
To help maintain some of these important local services we have had to be radical in looking at different ways of delivering them. And it is clear that a new partnership with local communities might offer one solution to keeping certain services running – services that we all value.
We have seen that various areas of the county have different needs, and local capacity to respond varies. But we recognise that, where we can, we should let go of some of our responsibilities and devolve them to those local communities who want to take ownership of certain services.
Making it happen
There is an enormous will to make this happen and we have already had many ideas and proposals from individuals, groups and whole communities who wish to run or support services, such as a library or a youth club.
We are also looking carefully at getting the most from the many local buildings we have across the county. These assets belong to local people. Some may be too small or no longer fit for purpose, while others may be underused. But they could be valuable resources to be used for local benefit, and many communities are already coming forward with their own ideas of how to run and manage these spaces better.
In spite of the difficulties and challenges we face, there are enormous opportunities. It is very encouraging that so many communities in Devon are strong enough to take hold of this agenda to deliver services that will best suit the people in their unique locality.