One of my parishes has brought to my attention that an Ottery Councillor has been commenting on the likelihood of budget cuts.

All Councils have a wide range of statutory and discretionary services and all parishes are likely to be affected.

From a district perspective, statutory services include refuse collection, as you pointed out. The picture is not that simple though as the extent to which recycling, for example, is encouraged is discretionary. There is a financial imperitive to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill so our discretion is used to encourage more recycling rather than simply relying on the old black bin bag style of collection.

Discretionary services for EDDC include the provision of parks and gardens, leisure centres, nature reserves and the like. More often than not these are the ones the public appreciate and the Council enjoys delivering.

As Andrew Moulding and I have warned, the main danger for the County Council is that it has many protected statutory obligations to provide services such as the care of vulnerable people, education, social services, etc. Devon’s 8,000 miles of county highways, for example (by far the highest in Britain) will get less attention while we concentrate on maintaining the A & B roads. We constantly review and prioritise our services and never more so than now in order to make best use of resources. There will be very difficult decisions to be made but as John Hart Leader of Devon County Council has said, we have cut away the fat, cut into the flesh but we are now hitting the bone.

We are lobbying hard at District, County and Westminster for fairer funding for rural authorities, both in London and next week on Wednesday and Thursday when I shall be meeting with the Chairman of the LGA and other SW Leaders, as part of their campaign for “Rewiring Public Services” which recommends shrinking dramatically the size of Whitehall and transferring responsibilities to the most efficient part of the public sector, namely Local Authorities.

The Ottery Councillor and her allies in the political opposition groups EDA / SOS are running campaigns which simply do not deal in the facts, invariably giving half a misinformed story and making no useful or positive contribution to the debate. This is not the time for political point scoring; we are some way past that and need to concentrate on putting things right for all our sakes.

The process we are following at EDDC and DCC is to benchmark our income and our costs so as to ensure we’re assessing the full picture in our budget preparations. I’m reasonably confident that by the time the budget process is completed in February, much of the alarmist nonsence coming from the Ottery direction will have been shown to have been simplistic and misconceived. Of course, by then, they’ll have moved on to the next imaginary ‘big thing’ – we just need to trust to the good sense of the vast majority of those in Devon who see through it all!’

All Councils have statutory and discretionary services, the latter being those we and the public like to have but are not obligatory. We are obliged to deliver statutory services and the Government has said further cuts will have to be made to pay for the financial mess the coalition inherited. If we are to move beyond back office cuts and efficiency savings then the obvious target will be the “nice to do” – I will try and find a definitive list but the complexities are myriad.

As Andrew and I have warned, the main danger is with the County Council which has many protected statutory obligations to provide services such as the care of vulnerable people, education, social services, etc. Devon’s 8,000 miles of county highways, for example (by far the highest in Britain) will get less attention while we concentrate on maintaining the A & B roads. We constantly review and prioritise our services and never more so than now in order to make best use of resources. There will be very difficult decisions to be made but as John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council has said, we have cut away the fat, cut into the flesh but we are on the point of breaking the bone.

We are lobbying hard at District, County and Westminster for fairer funding for rural authorities, both in London and next week on Wednesday and Thursday when I shall be meeting with the Chairman of the LGA and other SW Leaders, as part of their campaign for “Rewiring Public Services” which recommends shrinking dramatically the size of Whitehall and transferring responsibilities to the most efficient part of the public sector, namely Local Authorities. So you won’t be seeing me on the 9th, so please accept my apologies.

The Ottery Councillor and her allies in the political opposition groups EDA / SOS are self-publicists running negative campaigns, invariably giving half a misinformed story and making no useful or positive contribution to the debate. This is not the time for political point scoring; we are some way past that and need to concentrate on putting things right for all our sakes.

Best wishes

Paul