Posted: 19.11.21 at 14:40 by Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall
A new vision setting out how Devon can become the best place to ‘grow up, live well and prosper’ has been backed by councillors.
Devon County Council’s plan for 2021 to 2025, the term for the current Conservative-led administration elected in May, details how it will help the county recover from COVID-19 to “create a fairer, healthier and more caring place".
The council’s priorities over the next four years include responding to the climate emergency, being ambitious for children and young people, supporting sustainable economic recovery, tackling poverty and inequality, and improving health and wellbeing.
A report presented by chief executive Phil Norrey to the council’s ruling Cabinet said: “COVID has presented local government with new and unprecedented challenges. Devon County Council has worked as part of Team Devon over the last 18 months to address widening gaps in income, health and opportunity in the county.
“Against this backdrop, it is important that local public services maximise opportunities to provide the best outcomes for Devon.
"This means finding sustainable ways to support the health and wellbeing of everyone in Devon; strengthening our local economy; protecting and enhancing our environment; and providing value for money for the Devon taxpayer.
“Since the May 2021 election, the cabinet has made it clear that over the next four years, the council will be focussing on recovery and renewal, to make Devon a fairer and more equal place.
"The priorities for the new council have therefore been developed to help Devon achieve the overall ambition to become the best place to live well, grow up and prosper.”
The report sets out how the council wants to be “trusted, inclusive and innovative” in the eyes of the public and its staff.
Mr Norrey continued: “The issue of public trust in democratic institutions is absolutely paramount.
“It’s the thing that is the hedge against all other forms of government – we know they’re all worse, despite democracy having its imperfections.
"But that trust is really important and that our communities can feel that we’re on their side and that we’re doing things in their best interests – not in our best interests – I think is going to be a critical thing for us over the next four years.”
Reacting to the vision, leader of Labour group Councillor Rob Hannaford (Exwick & St Thomas), said: “I think this is a very progressive document. I wouldn’t go as far to say, to get anyone into trouble, by saying it’s quite a Labour document, but certainly I’m very comfortable with it and I think it’s a good piece of work.”
He also praised the language used in the report, saying "some of the words in here are ones we don’t often see in our public debate”, such as child-friendly Devon, compassionate and caring.
But on the issue of inclusivity, Cllr Hannaford told members: “We should not assume that all of our staff are in a good place” and that it needed to be an issue looked at inside and outside of the council."
Opposition leader Councillor Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Exminster & Haldon) broadly welcomed the document: “I think it does dovetail well with probably most district councils, particularly, for example, Teignbridge where our priorities are homes, jobs and climate change.”
However, he urged the county to be aspirational with children’s attainment.
“The better the education people have, the more they achieve in their education, the better they are going to thrive and survive in the world of work. I think that’s something we would all recognise," he said.
The Cabinet unanimously approved the strategy, which will also be considered by the scrutiny committee. An associated annual plan will be published alongside the budget each year to hold the authority to account.
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