Making Devon a better place
We pulled out all the stops this year to help boost Devon’s economy in a bleak financial climate. Our success in attracting funding for new strategic infrastructure projects such as the South Devon Link Road, the Exeter Growth Point, redevelopment of Exeter city centre and superfast broadband will all attract new jobs and make Devon more competitive.
Development to the east of Exeter is coming on apace with work on junction 29 of the M5 complete and well underway on the Science Park and Sky Park. It is hoped this will create a further 10,000 jobs. Work has also started on site at Cranbrook, a self-sufficient, low carbon new community close to these skilled employment opportunities.
The Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme has secured £50m to roll out faster broadband which will enable business to compete on a level footing and make Devon a more attractive proposition for re-locations and start-up.
We have been able to work closely with communities like Okehampton on projects such as “Okehampton Works” to address particular local challenges and developed new Enterprise Hubs to support new and growing businesses.
In other areas too, our record has been a good one. We have recycled more waste than any other county, continued to manage and maintain our roads including restoring hundreds of miles of road damaged by severe weather, and successfully restructured our libraries to reduce management costs and keep libraries open.
In 2011/12 Devon recycled 58.6% of all household waste, another record year:
Publicity campaigns have also helped to steadily reduce the amount of waste that Devon’s households produce. At 493kg per household for 2010/11, this reduction was ahead of our target of 519kg.
Looking ahead, Exeter’s new £45m Energy for Waste facility will process 60,000 tonnes of household waste, diverting waste from landfill and creating energy.
Our essential everyday operations are huge, but often taken for granted. We have been quietly improving our roads over the years, so recent budget cuts have necessitated some rethinking about services. More streetlights have been switched to part time operation, some road maintenance schedules have been reduced and one recycling centre has been closed.
Pressure on our budget has also been increased by the wettest summer on record with flooding causing an estimated £5m of damage to our road infrastructure, we are currently assessing the costs of additional autumn flooding.
In spite of this, last year we were able to repair 130kms (80 miles) of road through 800 schemes across the County. And record levels of activity saw the number of potholes reduce from 2000,000 in 2010 to 130,000 in 2011.
Elsewhere, we have continued to invest in the County’s cycle network with the opening of the £2.1m Gem Bridge as the centrepiece of Drake’s Trail from Tavistock to Plymouth. The route is just part of a cross channel network stretching from Ilfracombe to Southern Brittany.
Developments are also providing a focus for community life. Cullompton’s new Hayridge Centre is a purpose-built 21st Century environment for information, advice, learning and culture, replacing two existing Council buildings, the library and the adult learning centre. The Centre offers WiFi and computers, adult learning and a Work Club. Since opening in September, library membership has doubled.
Cullompton is just a part of wider investment in our libraries with a major redevelopment now open in Newton Abbot and plans agreed for Totnes and Exeter Central.
We are also working to help communities to help themselves and devolve more direct power to local people. 57% of Parishes are now involved in the snow warden scheme and 50% now have their own community emergency plans.
On a larger scale, Ilfracombe is now one of the first national Neighbourhood Community Budget pilots, enabling partners and the community to tackle local issues in new and creative ways.
Ultimately management of services and ownership of buildings may be transferred to communities if they choose. In the meantime our elected Members are using their personal budgets to fund local schemes.
And we are playing a key role in supporting the needs of our communities, devolving greater control, enabling local people to identify local priorities, plan the services they need, and to manage those services directly, if they wish to do so.
More than ever before the Council is doing what it can to support local community action and kick-start local projects. £2.8 million has been made available to support local initiatives, via their local County Councillor, with further funding available to community groups to improve local buildings such as village halls and community centres.
This year, we’re also giving £1.8 million to voluntary organisations to bring about real improvements in villages and towns, and devolving meaningful decision-making powers and resources to local groups so that they find solutions to their local needs.
And record crowds and TV audiences watched this year’s Tour of Britain providing a major boost for the local economy. The Devon stage of the Tour, which was hosted by the County Council, saw 125,000 people attend, generating more than £3m for local businesses. This was also the first year the cycle race was broadcast live, with daily TV coverage attracting almost a million viewers in Britain and valuable exposure across Europe, Ireland, Australia, USA, Canada and Africa.
Supporting Devon’s People
Across the whole range of services for children and young people, vulnerable adults and the elderly we have needed to look very carefully at what we do and the way we commission, manage and deliver services.
In some cases, like Integrated Children’s Services, this will lead to the transfer of staff to an external agency in order to best provide the kind of joint health and social care service that both parents and professionals want to see continue.
In other cases such as our Youth Services, a radical restructure has been needed to reduce management costs and help us to better target resources on those young people that need our help most.
Despite undoubted budget pressure we have responded positively to new national initiatives on issues like earlier intervention with the most troubled families and supporting people with dementia. We have also topped the region in the provision of personalised budgets to extend choice and control.
We have been able to invest an extra £11.2m in providing 300 dementia care beds in up to 10 new Centres of Excellence. Other work will help towns and villages to become “dementia friendly” so that people can remain part of their community for as long as possible.
Elsewhere, pioneering new services have actually saved money whilst giving people what they want and fostering greater independence. We have worked with our health partners to innovate with a focus on reablement and improving community-based services.
We now receive around 170 referrals per month and the results are excellent; over the last year 73% of clients required no ongoing service and 16% required a reduced service. A year on, 69% of clients have not needed more social care. This is expected to save £784K this financial year alone.
Working closely with the NHS, Devon has introduced a ‘Hospital at Home’ service in East Devon. This provides people with care, support and treatment in their own home at times when they would otherwise have needed a stay in hospital.
We have also worked hard to improve carers’ services over the last year, together with NHS colleagues.
Carers – in 2010/11 we:
- Delivered 3,029 carers’ health and wellbeing checks
- Arranged short breaks for 4,000 carers
- Opened a working age carers’ benefit entitlement service
- Increased investment in the ‘Looking after Me’ expert carers’ programme
Choice and control helps to improve people’s overall health and wellbeing. As a result of concerted effort over recent years Devon is now the regional leader in provision of Personal Budgets, with nearly 60% of people who use care services having their own budget. A survey carried out in 2011 revealed that direct payment users feel ‘better’ or ‘a lot better’ in many ways.
Identifying vulnerable children and preventing future harm by referring them at an earlier stage to the most appropriate service is key to protecting vulnerable children. Our pioneering multi-agency partnership with the Police, NHS Devon and other statutory and voluntary partners via the Devon Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) continues to go from strength to strength and is now being held up as an example of good practice nationally.
We have started a new scheme to speed up the adoption process. Children are placed with carers who will try to reunite them with their birth family, but who will adopt them if this proves impossible. Children in care now have more opportunities, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, the Climb Hi club and the Dash Challenge which engaged children in care in healthy sports and hobbies. More has been done to support people on leaving care, including a website to enable them to access services they need.
Resources are also beginning to be more targeted on intervening earlier with the most troubled young people and their families to prevent bigger costs later.
In our schools, we have continued to maintain good performance. The County ranks joint 56th out of 149 local authorities, with 76% of pupils gaining Level 4 in both English and Maths, compared to a national average of 74%. Devon has seven schools in the top 200 primaries in the Country.
Our education system is undergoing revolutionary change offering an opportunity for innovative approaches to education to develop. We are working with everyone affected by these changes to ensure that pupils with the greatest needs are supported, and that no communities in Devon are left behind. Local government continues to be responsible for many aspects of education, for example in ensuring that there are sufficient school places for every child.
In the wider public sector context, we are working with our partners to support the newly elected police commissioning arrangements, and have established the Shadow Health and Well-being Board, a forum for key leaders from the health, public health and care systems to work together to improve the health and wellbeing of the population and reduce health inequalities.
Helping us to deliver
We have reduced our net revenue budget by £31m over two years and our budget consultation, Tough Choices, enabled communities to tell us their priorities for public services.
The tough financial climate remains at the forefront of our mind, with our finance services advising politicians and senior officers on budget decisions. We have remained within budget during these very difficult times, and we are looking to maintain this stability by investigating the potential of different financial sources and options.
Our Corporate Services took a £10m share of our drive for efficiency savings with ICT, Finance, HR and Payroll, and Legal and Communications, each helping to deliver the 25% reduction through a major efficiency programme. Against this backdrop of cuts, these services continue to provide the Council with the high level of support needed to help us through times of change successfully.
Invaluable advice is provided by our legal team, particularly important at a time when we have seen an increase in challenges through the Judicial Review system. To enable more robust procedures, we are improving our engagement and consultation processes to further support the operational framework of our business.
Our Vacancy Management Strategy, which effectively placed a freeze on recruitment of all but essential front line services, reduced our workforce by almost 2,700 posts and saved the Council in the region of £30m. We also made changes to our terms and conditions, saving £1.6m a year. Our Employment Strategy is being refreshed to reflect the future challenges facing the organisation, with a focus on encouraging and supporting leadership, innovation and empowerment among staff as we look to deliver more with less.
We are rolling out a new desktop to ensure our technology is fit for purpose and continually looking at new ways of using technology to support our business
Our Estates Strategy has also been agreed which will radically reduce occupied floor space, focusing activity in five core strategic centres and creating a range of community focused Devon hubs and Specialist Service Delivery locations.
During 2012 Construction Framework South West (CFSW), which we host, reached a landmark £300m worth of construction projects in partnership with 29 organisations. CFSW also won the Constructing Excellence South West’s ‘Integration and Collaborative Working’ award.
We have led the way nationally in our approach to community assets which has seen the transfer of two buildings held in trust to community organisations, and the evaluation of three bids which have seen disposal of assets at less than market value.
Behind the scenes we work hard to ensure Devon gets the best deal possible, lobbying our local politicians and Westminster to recognise the needs of the county which has led to funding for major projects such as the South Devon Link Road and bringing broadband to rural areas.
We are also becoming more open and transparent, with information about our expenditure, performance and customer satisfaction online. By making use of this information to share opinions, compare performance and offer feedback, people are better placed to exercise their right of choice and to challenge their local services.