Devon County Council announces council tax rise

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5978.

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5978. - Credit: Terry Ife

Devon County Council has approved a 4.99 per cent council tax rise as part of budget proposals that assign more money for vulnerable children, adult social care and health and potholes. 

More than £37m extra will be pumped into vital services for 2021/22 with an additional £21.7m for adult care and health and £11.4m more for children’s services. 

In addition, there will be £600,000 extra to tackle the county’s potholes and road drainage and a £600,000 hardship fund for residents who have been hard hit economically by the pandemic. 

But the average Band D council tax bill for Devon’s services will rise by 4.99 per cent to help pay for it – meaning the Band D bill will rise by £71.82 to £1,511.28 – the equivalent of £1.38 a week extra. 

Councillors rejected an amended budget proposed by the Independent Group that would have seen only the three per cent rise in council tax for adult care charged, as well as proposals by the Liberal Democrat Group that would have seen more money taken from reserves and spent on highways, the economy and mental health provision. 

Putting forward his proposed budget, Conservative leader of the council, Cllr John Hart, said: “This is a good budget for the people of Devon. It provides significant additional resources to adult social care and health, children’s services and highways, which are the things that matter most to our Devon residents. 

“Caring for the elderly and disabled, children and the vulnerable are our highest priorities and we know that we have immense pressure on both our adult and children’s services and this budget means we can maintain and improve what we are offering. 

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“We will still support rurality, rural buses, and highways but we will also look to invest in our green agenda. We will continue to invest in LED lighting on our streetlights, saving money but also cutting our carbon emissions. There will be more charging points for electric cars, solar panels on the roofs of our buildings and we are looking for more land to plant trees to offset our carbon footprint. 

“We are very conscious that many people living in Devon are on fixed and low incomes but every year we have to balance imposing more costs on them with the need to ensure our most vulnerable residents get the help and support they need and deserve and all our residents get the best services we can provide. 

“This budget means an extra £1.38 a week for the average Band D household and I believe that is justifiable so we can both maintain the services we provide and endeavour to improve them. 

“The backdrop to the budget is one of huge uncertainty and risk – we do not know how long the pandemic will continue or what the longer term impact on the economy, public health and demand for services will be. 

“Key to the authority’s financial resilience are our reserves and, compared to other county councils, Devon is just above half way in the league table. 

“I am pleased to say that the county treasurer has again been able to confirm that our reserves are adequate. 

“The budget does not include any addition to our reserves for next year, all available money has been used to invest in our services. 

“Our reserves will not be used to support ongoing service costs as this is unwise, but we will be using reserves to invest in economic recovery, public health and service transformation. Even after this investment, at the end of next year, reserves are expected to remain at a prudent level.” 

He added: “Against a backdrop of increased demand and cost pressures, it is necessary to reluctantly propose an increase in council tax this year which will provide £17m of additional funding and the budget strikes a balance between service needs and affordability 

“This is a budget for the people of Devon, we are investing in the people of Devon, and it is a progressive budget for Devon.” 

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