Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The District Council is trying to "achieve savings/ efficiencies and to continue to protect front line services" - which will probably mean "huge increases in Council Tax whilst rampant developments start to cover our beautiful countryside and Exeter grows exponentially in order to meet the huge Local Plan targets for new homes."

Tomorrow's District Council cabinet will be looking at its budget:

Budget Monitoring report 
– Month 6 - (pages 101-106) 
This report gives a summary of the Council’s overall financial position for 2016/17 at the end of month six (30 September 2016). 

It does recognise that there are problems - despite the hideous jargon:

Financial Plan and Transformation Strategy (2017 – 2022) and the Government’s multi-year finance settlement offer 
The Strategic Lead, Finance presented this report to update members of these two key documents for approval; Finance Plan and Transformation Strategy 2017 – 2022. Details of these documents were debated by the Budget Working Party on 14 September 2016, who agreed in principle with the proposed direction being outlined. 

1. that the Financial Plan and Transformation Strategy be approved 
2. to apply to Government to accept the multi-year settlement offer and to submit the Financial Plan and Transformation Strategy to meet the requirement of an efficiency plan. 

It was good practice in managing the finances of the Council to produce a Financial Plan looking at the future direction of the Council’s budgets. By looking at the Council’s budget over a longer period, action can be taken that would influence the direction and shape of future service delivery within a balanced budget. 
The Transformation Strategy identified key strategic themes that underpin the transformational activity that helps achieve savings/efficiencies and to continue to protect front line services. 
By accepting the Government’s multi-year settlement offer this gave the Council certainty over elements of Government funding for the next 3 years, which would help ensure it has plans in place to deliver balanced budgets over the period of the Financial Plan 2017/18 to 2021/22 

Agenda for Cabinet - Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Going over budget by a couple of million in its Exmouth project doesn't help:
Futures Forum: Regenerating Exmouth seafront >>> cabinet report Wednesday 9th November >>> demonstration Saturday 12th November

The Audit and Governance Committee considered the District Council's accounts in September - and found them wanting:
Audit and Governance Committee - Statement of Accounts 2015/16

This is comment from the East Devon Watch blog:


5 NOV 2016

“Going forward, the Council will continue to find it difficult to afford its spending plans against further government spending cuts, the added pressure of inflationary increases in costs and pay awards, continued low investment income, an increasing call on services, members’ ambitions to enhance and improve services and the wish to keep to moderate increases in Council Tax and other fees and charges.”


And no word yet if they have signed off last year’s accounts “after a formal objection was received from a local elector. We are in the process of considering this objection, which relates to the Council’s approach to recording and obtaining receipt of monies due to it from developers through agreements under s106 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.”

Messy situation for the next meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee.

Auditors say EDDC “will continue to find it difficult to afford its spending plans against further government spending cuts” say auditors | East Devon Watch

And this is comment on that piece:


5 NOV 2016

Comment reproduced from post below:

The leaderships approach to finances over the last decade or more has been driven by a single-minded dogma to avoid any rise in council tax, even to match inflation. They have achieved this by relying not only on the government’s normal grant, but also on the government’s New Homes Bribe (ooops, Bonus – which gives payments for 6 years for each house built) which in turn has driven the mind-boggling growth numbers in the East Devon Local Plan which could easily see overall growth of more than 35% – YES THAT IS NOT A TYPO, I DO MEAN GROWTH OF HOMES OF MORE THAN A THIRD – over the period of the current Local Plan.

(Imagine all the buildings in East Devon – in Exmouth, Budleigh, Sidmouth, Seaton, Axminster, Honiton, etc. etc. – all lumped together – that’s a lot of land built on. Now take a third of that huge area, and imagine all the green fields in East Devon that will need to be built upon to make that happen, a lot of which will be in our AONBs. That is the EDDC Conservative vision for East Devon.)

Anyway, back to the finances. So EDDC’s future financial plans were predicated on large income from the New Homes Bonus. But George Osborne introduced an austerity regime which decided to abolish not only the normal grant but also the New Homes Bonus, so now the EDDC’s finances have a huge hole in them (made worse of course by the vanity projects they are undertaking like the no-longer-cost-neutral move from the Knowle).

And that is why we have seen a 4% increase in Council tax this year, and likely to see further increases in council tax way above inflation in the next few years.

Fortunately (????!!!!!), the government has thrown EDDC a lifeline by deciding to allow councils to keep all the local business rates as revenue – so we are now seeing EDDC allowing dubious business developments approved (like the recent Greendale application – submitted by a generous donor to the local Conservatives) and we should expect this to ramp up as the cash flow from the New Homes Bonus runs down.

Now back to the mental picture of 1/3 growth in homes – take the amount of land you have pictured for new homes, and add to it a significant growth in industrial buildings (like Sidford and Greendale). Terrifying isn’t it.

Of course, if you take have been watching EDDC’s actions, you will know that they have already rationalised this by joining (without any consultation with the public or indeed councillors) with Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council to form so called Greater Exeter. Think of Greater London and Greater Manchester and you will get the picture – huge sprawling joined up conurbations, with extensive suburbs to feed the businesses in the city centre. We are already seeing assaults on the green wedges that separate our towns and villages – so this is not as far from reality as you might think.

So there you have it. A double whammy – huge increases in Council Tax whilst rampant developments start to cover our beautiful countryside and Exeter grows exponentially in order to meet the huge Local Plan targets for new homes.

Black holes and green fields | East Devon Watch

See also:
“Greater Exeter” and its impact on housing and infrastructure in East Devon | East Devon Watch

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