Councillors in Devon are planning a council tax rise of nearly five percent to fund a big boost in spending on the elderly, the vulnerable and the county’s roads. To be fair, many roads are a disgrace, with poor drainage unravelling the patching up work that takes place, and facilities for caring for the elderly in very rural locations seem variable.
The ruling Cabinet agreed to recommend a 4.99 per cent council tax increase to next week’s budget meeting.
That will comprise a 1.99 percent rise for general services, two percent for adult social care and one percent dedicated to drainage, patching and potholes on the county’s roads. The increase will add £63.27 to the average Band D bill or just over £1.20 a week.
But it will mean more money for hard-pressed adult care and health, services for vulnerable children and vital road maintenance.
The budget provides an extra £13 million for adult care and health. That’s a rise of over 6 percent and will take the total care budget to £227.8 million. In addition, the Government has announced an extra £2.2 million to support adult social care in Devon.There will also be an increase in spending for children’s services of 5.5 percent or £6.5 million taking the total budget for children to £125.5 million.
Councillors are also now being recommended to accept the Government’s offer of an extra one per cent rise in council tax to spend on dedicated highways work.
In addition, Ministers this week increased Devon’s share of the Rural Services Delivery Grant by £1.5 million which will also be spent on roads. So now an additional £6.5 million is being proposed for patching, drainage, potholes and other road maintenance work. In all, the target revenue budget for the county for 2018/19 will be £477.391 million.
County Treasurer Mary Davis told councillors, even with these increases, the budget would be hard to deliver against the rapidly rising demand for services.
“Innovative work with partner authorities will be needed to manage demand for social care,” she said. “And a new approach to service delivery and commissioning will be required to try to ensure the needs of the young and vulnerable are met.”
Council Leader John Hart said: “Our vital health and social care services for adults continue to be under immense pressure both in Devon and nationally. In Devon, we have some of the highest proportions of people over 65 and people over 85 in the country and they need and deserve our help and support. We also believe it is imperative to do the best we can for our children and young people to give them the best possible start in life. We have always said our priority is to protect the most vulnerable in our society and I believe this target budget will help to do that. But demand for these services continues to grow at a relentless pace. That’s why the leaders of all the political parties on the county council have this week taken the unprecedented step of joining together to plead with the Government for more funding for adult social care and children’s services. And we are delighted that the Government has recognised our case with the extra money for adult social care and the rural delivery grant. That will go some way to easing the pressures but a long-term solution to the issues in health and social care still needs to be found. Before Christmas, when I had a series of consultation meetings on the budget, I was left in no doubt that the condition of our roads was a number one priority for many residents.This year we have re-negotiated a number of contracts and made considerable efficiency savings. We’re also working smarter and greener, for example installing LED light bulbs in our street lighting.
“But many people want us to spend more on our roads and that’s why I want to take up the Government’s unexpected offer of an extra one percent on the council tax to be dedicated to our highways. We are very conscious that many people living in Devon are on fixed and low incomes. But this is likely to be a one-off increase and it will mean an extra £12.68 a year for the average Band D council taxpayer. We’ve had a very wet winter and it will mean we can really get to grips with many of the problems on our roads.”