Manifesto 2013 - 2017
In 2009 the Conservatives were voted into administration at Devon CC with a substantial majority. We went to the polls with ten clear pledges and we believe that we have delivered on these promises.
We promised to:
Keep Council Tax down, cut the County’s debt and freeze Councillor’s allowances
There has been no increase in Council Tax for the last three years; Councillors’ allowances have been frozen and Committees cut, saving over £100,000 per annum; County debt has been reduced by nearly £90m. In addition we have restructured our services to reduce waste and bureaucracy, whilst at the same time offering a more strategic service at the front-line. This strategy and these economies have put Devon in a good shape to cope with the reductions the Government has found necessary to make in funding local government.
Campaign for better funding for our schools
We have continued the campaign to Government to remove the anomaly between the funding each child is allocated in Devon compared to some areas of the country, particularly the north of England and the London boroughs. Working with the F40 group we have certainly won the battle of making Government understand how unfair the present situation is but we still need to win the war to receive a fairer distribution. We have taken a national lead in encouraging smaller schools to federate and use their resources in a more effective way, sharing an Executive Head and an administrator and these federations are working well. Standards are also rising in our schools at both primary and secondary level. Some of our good and outstanding schools opted to become academies but they have still wanted to remain within their Local Learning Communities, their Primary and Secondary County organisations and to have seats on the Education Forum.
Provide better care for elderly people
The Conservatives at Devon CC recognise that most elderly vulnerable and disabled people welcome the opportunity to live an independent life, as opposed to an institutionalised setting. Consequently, we have given vulnerable elderly people a personalised care package tailored to their needs but also offering them choice in how that care is delivered. Currently we help 18,956 adults to live at home, and support 3,564 in nursing or residential care. The Conservative administration at County Hall have not only invested in providing extra care housing but we are also providing extra dementia beds in our community, especially by enhancing the facilities in three of our residential homes. We have set up an Adult Safeguarding Board to monitor the safety of vulnerable people.
Support local businesses to protect local jobs
Employment in Devon has risen recently in spite of the national trend. The deal we have been awarded to speed up Broadband and make it more available county-wide is helping local businesses and encouraging local people to set up on their own. We recently opened a new Skills Centre in Newton Abbot which will encourage the young people of that area to develop and improve their skills. Where possible as an authority we buy locally to protect local jobs.
Create new jobs by attracting new businesses and providing training
The plans for the new Science Park and Sky Park in Exeter are now well underway and they will attract new business. We have also worked with our local FE Colleges, Exeter and Plymouth Universities and the new Flybe Academy to provide the kind of skills and training which is attracting high-tech new businesses to locate to Devon. The number of young people who are not in Education, Education or Training (NEETS) is much lower in Devon than the national average.
Improve our roads and pavements
In spite of suffering the two of the worst winters in living memory we have invested an extra £20m on improving roads and pavements. Our local service teams have been relentless in filling the hundreds of potholes that have appeared after every heavy downfall of rain and many of our pavements have been treated with bitumen slurry to make them safer for pedestrians. We are also seeking to replace four bridges that were severely damaged during the flooding events. After Devon became snow-bound in the December of 2010 we supplied extra grit bins and set up a county-wide snow-warden scheme to help communities become more resilient in dealing with any future snow events.
Support and promote tourism in Devon
We reformed Devon Tourism to provide a more comprehensive service for our valuable tourist industry. We have promoted local food in local restaurants and encouraged walking, cycling, sailing holidays and farm stays. We have opened new cycleways around the County including the spectacular Drakes Trail, 17 miles of off- road cycling between Tavistock and Plymouth. The last section of the Exe Estuary trail between Dawlish and Exmouth is due to be completed later this year. Devon has also hosted a stage of the Tour of Britain Cycle Race for the last 5 years generating over £12m into our local economy. We are spending nearly £6m on a state-of the art water sports and recreation centre at Haven Banks in Exeter for residents and tourists.
Provision of more affordable housing for local people
Recognising the county-wide need for more affordable housing we have worked in partnership with the District Councils to find suitable sites and appropriate funding to provide housing at affordable prices, either for rent or shared equity. The new town, Cranbrook in East Devon, is well underway and there are several new settlements in Exeter, particularly in the Topsham/Countess Wear area. The new structure at Devon CC has encouraged a more corporate policy which has made it easier for us to work in partnership with District planners, providing the right kind of infrastructure to support development, such as roads, rail connections, jobs and school places.
Reduce waste to landfill
Devon has improved its recycling performance in the last four years. In 2011 it won the National County Award with a figure of 55% for recycling. Last year saw the opening of the reconstructed recycling centre at Pinbrook Road, Exeter and Devon has achieved a 77% recycling rate across its network of recycling centres. It has also made savings of £1.96m since April 2011. Food composting has been set up in 80 schools across 8 Local Learning Communities.
Tackle crime and anti-social behaviour
Working in partnership with the police and health we have increased awareness of domestic abuse, supported the victims and worked with the perpetrators. We have reduced figures for youth crime, especially reoffending and made a joint appointment for our Youth service to be merged with the Youth Offending service. We have amalgamated Trading Standards with Somerset CC, creating a more flexible service which will save almost £2m over the next five years.
Devon, in partnership, piloted early intervention for families in crisis before the scheme was rolled out nationally and we have not closed any Children’s Centres. We have not only retained all our libraries but invested and improved facilities in a number. We have also created the Devon Heritage Centre and were an early signatory to the Military Covenant supporting our armed services.
Finally, the current Conservative administration took the County Council out of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) three years ago and the money saved has been re-invested into front-line services for the people of Devon.
Although the County Conservative Group are proud of their achievements over the last four years they recognise that there is still a lot of work needing to be done to make Devon the County they would like it to be. They are thus seeking the opportunity to be elected for another four years as the Party of administration to continue this good work. As a consequence they have set out 11 new pledges which are as follows:
1. Give value for money
The Conservatives are mindful that there will not be any new money from Government and that they need to give value for money, especially in terms of front-line services. They will continue to seek back office savings, working where possible with partners to give a seamless but more cost-effective service, removing any duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy, and making the best use of modern technology.
2. Reduce the County Debt
of debt has resulted in Devon County Council reducing its borrowing by nearly
£90m over the last four years. We are pledged to follow this sound financial
policy for the next four years and continue to reduce debt where possible.
3. Dispose of surplus assets
Restructuring has created a reduction in staff accommodation and offered an opportunity to dispose of buildings owned or leased by Devon CC. The release of some of these buildings will improve the Revenue Budget of the County Council and the sale of buildings will support the Capital programme. By working in partnership with other local bodies and sharing work place solutions we intend to make further savings.
4. Maintain the County Highways
The road network continues to be under pressure following the unprecedented number and severity of storms experienced in 2012/13. The promise is to preserve a safe and functional highway network to support the economy of Devon. Extra money is being put into gullying and ditching to improve drainage. A new pay mechanism with our maintenance contractor has been set up from April 2013. This focuses on effective and innovative partnership working, and will be carefully monitored. We have agreed to repair the Grand Western Canal, Tiverton, at a cost of £3m. We are also a partner with Torbay in building the Kingkerswell By-Pass/South Devon Link Road at a cost of over £100m.
5. Campaign to improve Rail networks
Devon has led the way in a coordinated approach to increase our rail and road resilience. We cannot have, in the 21st Century, a repeat of the Christmas flooding which meant that the South West was isolated for days. We are working with our neighbours: Somerset, Cornwall, Plymouth and Torbay in lobbying the Government and Rail Track for infrastructure improvements to both the Paddington and Waterloo lines. Both lines need investment to improve services – Waterloo with extra passing points, Paddington with better flood management.
We are also working to improve the A30/A303 – especially in Devon between Ilminster and Honiton.
6. Faster Broadband
Devon and Somerset have been promised a £94m investment from Government for faster Broadband by the end of 2017. This will provide a minimum of 2mbps for anywhere in Devon by 2016 and 90% of businesses and homes will achieve a superfast speed of 24 mbps by 2016 and be connected to fibre optic. There is a further promise that by 2020 Devon will be 100% superfast. This will make a huge difference to communications in a county with the geographical spread of Devon and be a huge boost to business.
7. Raise skills and create jobs for young people
We are concerned that the greatest export from Devon is young people. We therefore intend to remove the barriers to growth and to encourage new businesses to set up in Devon, particularly those that can offer high-tech employment. We will work with our FE Colleges, Universities, Skills Centres and Academies to raise the game for young people ensuring that we have a workforce trained for local employment, especially in high skilled jobs. Recently we opened a new Skills Centre in Newton Abbot and we will be seeking to develop more centres in other areas of Devon. Recent Government policy has given the responsibility for careers advice to schools but we will continue through our services to young people to ensure that Devon children are given wise advice which will help them to realise a career that fulfils their potential.
8. Improve Care Homes—supply 300 beds for dementia sufferer
The Conservative administration considered it important to retain these care homes and to refurbish ten of them at a cost of over £10m. The first three of these homes, Mapleton, Woodland and Davey Court, have already started being updated for dementia care. The population of Devon continues to get older and we are aware that dementia may become more and more of a problem as time goes on, we therefore need to ensure that we have the facilities to cope with future demands. This will also require a new partnership with health.
9. Improve our partnership with health
Recently Devon CC set up a Shadow Health and Well Being Board. On April 1st the Government brought in new legislation for Health and Well Being. From now on a Commissioning Group based on local doctors will commission health services for patients. It will be an opportunity for Health Trusts, such as Hospital Trusts, to provide some of these services. However, the commissioners can let a contract to whoever they consider will be able to deliver the service they need, which may not necessarily be a Hospital Trust, or local community hospital. The Government is looking for some serious savings in this system. In order to provide a seamless service to our vulnerable residents, Devon CC needs to see how they can form constructive partnerships with health providers and commissioners to ensure that people in our community get the best possible service. The Conservatives are aware of the issues involved and will set a target to ensure that local residents have the best service that can be provided, whether it be “Hospital at Home” or “re-enablement” through a marriage of social and health care through the county, voluntary or health system.
10. Work proactively to eliminate landfill of Devon waste
In spite of the fact that Devon is a top performing County for recycling a significant amount of waste ends up in landfill, costing Devon £13m per annum. In future this will continue to rise by £8 per tonne. As a consequence energy from waste plants are being developed in Exeter and Plymouth. The Exeter plant at Marsh Barton was started last year and is scheduled to open next year in June 2014. The Plymouth plant has a similar time scale. In the future Devon needs to look more carefully at green energy production. Some of our schools, like Okehampton College, have led the way on this in a manner that acts as an excellent example for the whole authority. Devon Conservatives will be looking at what is viable both economically and strategically to create the most sustainable green energy in Devon.
11. Support Parishes and Towns through local funding
The Conservative Group at Devon CC has a reputation of supporting the towns and parishes through Locality funds for Local members, and the introduction of TAP (Town and Parish) funds which has proved very popular, especially with our rural parishes.
Promoted by L Baker on behalf of Devon Conservatives both of 9c Mill Park, White Cross Road, Woodbury Salterton EX5 1EL