Devon County Council today approved a new budget with more money for vulnerable children, adult social care and health, and potholes.
More than £37 million extra will be pumped into vital services with an additional £21.7 million for adult care and health and £11.4 million more for children’s services.
In addition, there will be £600,000 extra to tackle the county’s potholes and road drainage and a £600,000 hardship fund for residents who have been hard hit economically by the pandemic.
In total the council’s spending will be almost £580 million in 2021/22.
The average Band D council tax bill for Devon’s services will rise by 4.99 per cent to help pay for it – that’s 1.99 per cent for general services and 3 per cent dedicated solely to adult care.
It means the Band D bill will rise by £71.82 to £1,511.28 – the equivalent of £1.38 a week extra.
Council leader, John Hart, said:
“This is a good budget for the people of Devon.
“It provides significant additional resources to adult social care and health, children’s services and highways, which are the things that matter most to our Devon residents.
“Caring for the elderly and disabled, children and the vulnerable are our highest priorities.
“We know that we have immense pressure on both our adult and children’s services and this budget means we can maintain and improve what we are offering.
“We will still support rurality, rural buses, and highways but we will also look to invest in our green agenda. We will continue to invest in LED lighting on our streetlights, saving money but also cutting our carbon emissions. There will be more charging points for electric cars, solar panels on the roofs of our buildings and we are looking for more land to plant trees to offset our carbon footprint.
“We are very conscious that many people living in Devon are on fixed and low incomes but every year we have to balance imposing more costs on them with the need to ensure our most vulnerable residents get the help and support they need and deserve and all our residents get the best services we can provide.
“This budget means an extra £1.38 a week for the average Band D household and I believe that is justifiable so we can both maintain the services we provide and endeavour to improve them.
“The backdrop to the budget is one of huge uncertainty and risk – we do not know how long the pandemic will continue or what the longer term impact on the economy, public health and demand for services will be.
“Key to the authority’s financial resilience are our reserves and, compared to other county councils, Devon is just above half way in the league table.
“I am pleased to say that the county treasurer has again been able to confirm that our reserves are adequate.
“The budget does not include any addition to our reserves for next year, all available money has been used to invest in our services.
“Our reserves will not be used to support ongoing service costs as this is unwise, but we will be using reserves to invest in economic recovery, public health and service transformation. Even after this investment, at the end of next year, reserves are expected to remain at a prudent level.”
County Treasurer Mary Davis told councillors:
“The budget for 2021/22 includes significant investment in core services to support the most vulnerable people in Devon.
“It must be noted however that we are in unprecedented times and the authority faces significant risk of increased demand for services, increased costs and reducing funding. We face a challenging future in every respect, and it will not be an easy path to navigate.”
Devon’s Chief Executive Phil Norrey said when the budget-making process began last year the county was looking at a shortfall of £100 million to maintain its services.
“With prudent management and making use of our reserves, we have reduced that gap significantly,” he said.
“Reserves are money we keep for a rainy day and this is certainly a rainy day.
“Our whole emphasis through the budget process has been on those who have been most badly affected by Covid.
“We want to support the most disadvantaged and some 73 per cent of the budget spend is on the most vulnerable.
“We’ve not only been thinking about the short-term pandemic but the longer term issues as well, in addition to how we are going to lead the economic recovery in Devon.”