'Robust' council to tighten its belt
PUBLISHED: 16:14 05 January 2009 | UPDATED: 22:49 15 June 2010
The Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr Brian Greenslade, has warned that this year will see a tough budget for the council due to the challenging economic climate.
The Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr Brian Greenslade, has warned that this year will see a tough budget for the council due to the challenging economic climate, but has given his reassurance that the Council is financially robust and able to protect vital public services while keeping council tax to a minimum.Compounding the Council's difficulties is the under-funding that it receives from the Government. The Council receives a staggering £31million less funding for public services, equating to £41 less per every person in Devon, than the average for English counties.It receives the least funding for schools of all south west authorities, ranking it 146th out of 149 local education authorities in terms of its actual schools grant; despite the fact that 80% of schools' costs are exactly the same here in Devon as they are in other areas of the country where they receive substantially higher Government funding.The council, at a meeting of its executive, has held preliminary discussions about their budget for 2009/10, and, while it is clear that belt tightening and driving down costs are very necessary, it was agreed that every penny of the dedicated schools grant will be allocated to Devon's schools.Support to stimulate Devon's economy is also likely, as too is further investment in services to support the growing number of elderly people in the county.The final decision on budget, and the level of council tax needed to fund it, will be made by the council on February 19, once it has received confirmation of the funding from the Government.Until then, the council is holding a series of consultation meetings with the business community and other special interest groups to help the Council decide its spending priorities for the new financial year.The public are also asked to contribute to the discussion, and to submit their views on how the council should be allocating its new budget, via their website, www.devon.gov.uk.Devon County Council provides over 85 per cent of the public's local council services and its £1.1 billion budget funds schools, roads, care services, libraries, children and young people's services, libraries, recycling centres, street lighting, public transport, economic development, housing, consumer protection and environment services for 750,000 people in Devon. Councillor Greenslade said: "The county council is not immune to the consequences of the economic downturn and our income has been hit as a result. However the county council is in a reasonably robust financial position, especially as we have no investments in Icelandic Banks."While we have to ensure that the vital services that the public need are protected, and play our part in trying to sustain the local economy, we must tighten our belts and drive down costs and keep council tax levels down at this very difficult time for all."We also have to recognise and prepare for the years ahead when it is most likely that public spending will be constrained in a way it has not for some time."While there is still a lot of detail to work through before we set the County Council budget in February, the targets agreed by the Executive should provide the financial framework to deliver a tight budget in a tough world which will still give Devon people the type of services they need from their County Council.
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