'Affordable homes are priority for the new year'

Housing. Picture: Getty Images

Housing. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Earlier this week, I was up early as ever when I became aware of the sound of a waste collection truck pulling away beyond our house.

Hauling on some trousers, and almost getting my feet into a pair of Nikes, I tottered up the street after it. We’d forgotten to put our grey bin out the night before, and they’d arrived unusually early.

With a three-week gap before the next collection, I was desperate. 

The crew could not have been kinder. They carried on loading but gave me the minute I needed to dash back for the bin, which was duly hoiked up on the hooks, inverted, emptied, and returned. I thanked the crew and was rewarded with a smile.

Not for the first time, I felt very grateful for a group of people who do their job week in, week out so uncomplainingly, when in large towns and small villages alike there are hazards for them everywhere.

This year, one hazard might have been criticism from members of the public. Frankly, it has been a mighty struggle to maintain a regular service at some points, yet almost entirely the East Devon public has been kind and considerate. 

They understand labour shortages, the effect of the pandemic, the vast increase in refuse volumes to be collected because of nearly two years of home shopping.

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So, I’d like to offer two special votes of thanks as leader of EDDC this Christmas, please.

First, thank you to our hard-working staff who keep the Waste and Recycling service going in difficult times. And second, thank you to the public of East Devon, for bearing with us and for being so often kind in your comments to those who do the difficult job. 

We know and appreciate that you pay for this service through your council tax, and thank you for your patience.

The other day, my Cabinet friends were having a look at what the district council actually costs you per household per week.

Broadly, and you can see this broken down in your annual council tax bills, East Devon costs each household about £4-£5 per week. That is about a pound or so a week per person living in a house.

What is not always clear is what each household actually gets for that. Well, the Waste and Recycling for a start. Then there are the huge outdoor parks and spaces we look after. We provide a sports and leisure service through LED, and public toilets in most communities. We have responsibility for Canute-like labours protecting the physical coast line from Seaton to Exmouth at a time of climate change.

We are also responsible for planning - always the area for most potential controversy. This can be about a new porch, or a barn conversion, or a new estate of 15 houses, all the way up to the Local Plan we are undertaking at the moment. 

This is to identify where we might have to allow building of homes up until 2040 to meet the government-imposed target of roughly 900 homes per year.

Beyond that, we have a large council housing stock to maintain and a housing waiting list we long to be able to satisfy. At this time of year, the spectacle of people being unable to afford a home to call their own is especially affecting.

I am delighted to report that in January a new Housing task force is getting going with a new dedicated officer to help us meet this demand.

Without doubt, we must provide homes which can be afforded in as many and as speedy ways as possible. The promise from government is that there may be funds to help us with this, especially from the green recovery initiatives. This will be the key focus for my administration this year (Oh, and the council provides local democracy too).

A very happy Christmas to all.