A personal view from East Devon Leader Paul Arnott.

It is hard to believe it’s only fifty days or so since Mr Sunak called a general election. Six weeks of fevered debate ensued.

In a later article I will visit the role of the polling and tactical voting companies and the distorting effect their unregulated work had on the election in which I was a candidate for Exmouth and Exeter East (EEE). For now, I will just say that a ludicrous initial prediction by the Financial Times that the LibDems would only win 3% of the vote in EEE appeared on thousands of Labour leaflets pushed through doors, even when Labour knew full well that the FT had realised their error and had revised this up to have the LibDems as possible winners! (The initial FT mistake was based on the tiny LibDem vote in 2019 when most LibDems lent their vote to Inde Claire Wright.)

In a new constituency where the question on most doorsteps was “how should I vote tactically to ensure a non-Conservative win?” this single item of outdated disinformation, promoted lavishly online too by Labour, did for the LibDems and led directly to the public quite understandably unsure who to vote for. The non-Conservative vote was then split between Labour and the LibDems and the result was a win for David Reed for the Conservatives.

David won fair and square and as Leader of East Devon District Council I have already invited him to meet our senior management to build a collaborative relationship. It is essential that the LibDem winner in Honiton, Richard Foord, now works with David on behalf of the 140,000 people who live in the district. That collaborative style is what my leadership has always been about. Despite some student politics in one part of the Labour EEE campaign, my excellent working relationship with the Labour leader of Exeter City Council remains important too.

Now, what will a Labour government mean locally? The party made the following promises in its manifesto:

· Multi-year finance settlements for local councils, and an overhaul of the business rates, with changes to the audit system

· Deeper devolution by combined authorities, with a review of governance and flexibility for those with good financial management

· A National Care Service , focusing on “home first” care

· Partnership working over hospital discharge and neighbourhood health centres

· A fair pay agreement and the professionalisation of adult social care

· An update of the National Planning Policy Framework, and an increased number of planners

· A raft of new towns, with the biggest increase in housebuilding in a generation and new planning powers for combined authorities

Readers can see that these pledges, if met, could have many implications for East Devon, from the conditions around our own adult social care challenges to, with “neighbourhood health centres”, offering a potentially brighter outlook for Seaton Hospital, whose future I helped to secure at East Devon Council by registering it as an “asset of community value”, securing the position for local providers who may with to take it on if the NHS Trust in the region ever tries to sell it.

Here in East Devon, we need to repair our social housing stock neglected by the Conservatives and build more. Will the new government understand that and, more importantly, will it work across the country collaboratively to achieve it? We shall see.