EDDC's response to Herald phone-in result

PUBLISHED: 10:07 10 February 2010 | UPDATED: 00:53 16 June 2010

EAST Devon District Council says it is grateful for the feedback from Midweek Herald readers, received at a time when councillors are tackling the delicate balancing act of setting a budget for the next financial year.

EAST Devon District Council says it is grateful for the feedback from Midweek Herald readers, received at a time when councillors are tackling the delicate balancing act of setting a budget for the next financial year.

A spokesman said the council faces some of the most "challenging circumstances experienced for some considerable time".

The council's response:

l Cutting staff wages, particularly senior employees.

The pay of the majority of council employees is tied to a national agreement and so it would not be possible for EDDC to take unilateral action to reduce staff pay. The pay of senior employees is calculated using a formula linked to the chief executive's salary - which, in turn, is recommended by the South West Regional Employers' Association and is based on current market rates. EDDC is currently considering an arrangement whereby it would share senior managers with a neighbouring council. If implemented, this would save money for both councils.

l Closing the final salary pension scheme (if the council offers this).

The pension scheme is subject to national agreement and so EDDC could not take unilateral action. There would be no short-term gain from such a move.

l Readers felt staff at Knowle should pay a nominal fee for parking on-site.

A councillor recently proposed this but could not find a seconder for the idea. EDDC encourages staff who live close enough to cycle to work, but many live at considerable distances from Knowle and the public transport service is poor compared with, say County Hall, in Exeter, which is served by two rail stations and a comprehensive bus route.

l Readers were unhappy with existing charges at public car parks and do not want to see any further increase.

This is at variance with the findings of EDDC's recent online survey, in which a majority of respondents were in favour of raising car park fees and our proposed improved season ticket deal for residents.

l One reader suggested an annual meeting where budget proposals are put to the public vote.

EDDC does consult residents on spending - as witness recent participatory budgeting events on Section 106 funding; we also invited residents to take part in the online budget survey in January.

l Two readers said EDDC had stored up problems for itself by not increasing council tax last year.

Other organisations did raise council tax last year - among them Devon County Council, the police and the Fire and Rescue Service.

However, EDDC was not the only Devon council to freeze council tax last year. This was done in good faith and out of consideration to residents, many of whom were facing hard times due to the impact of the recession on jobs and family budgets. It was not possible, at that time, to estimate just how big would be the impact on the council's income from lost fees and lower interest on investments.

Interest rates look set to remain low for some time yet, creating further pressures. Additionally, Government funding is expected to be dramatically reduced in the future and hence we are looking to share services creatively to ensure services are impacted as little as possible.

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