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Devon householders hit with 4.99 per cent council tax hike

15:21 17 February 2017

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17TI 5965. Picture: Terry Ife

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17TI 5965. Picture: Terry Ife

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Devon County Council boosts social care spending but calls for ‘urgent review’ of Government funding in face of continued austerity and slashed budgets

Devon County Council (DCC) says it is ‘championing’ care for elderly and vulnerable people, despite a £23.3million cut in Government funds.

Members yesterday (Thursday) agreed to ‘step up to the plate’ and increase health and social care spending by £18.7million for 2017/18 in a bid to meet the ever-growing demand – with East Devon accommodating one of the highest proportion of over-75s in the country.

But householders will be hit by a 4.99 per cent hike in council tax – £60.30 per year for a band D property – to cover this and help mitigate the loss in Government funding that has seen DCC’s budget slashed by £267million in the last seven years.

Members of a full council meeting yesterday acknowledged the difficulties in providing basic services for residents in the face of continued hardship and issued a call for an ‘urgent review’ of Government funding.

The authority’s budget has been slashed by more than half since 2010 to meet austerity cuts and the £23.3million loss in money from central Government represents a decrease of 15.4 per cent from 2016/17.

DCC leader Councillor John Hart said: “This reduction has a very serious effect on the ability of this council to offer services to the people of Devon.

“There is need for a serious review of local government funding as the increased demands now being put on local government are not being adequately funded by central Government.”

On the council tax hike, he added: ““We have considered this increase very seriously indeed because we are well aware of the strain that household budgets are under.

“But health and social care is under intense pressure and we must step up to the plate and do our utmost to look after our frail elderly and the most vulnerable in our communities.

“I believe we are justified in asking for that to help protect and support some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Backing calls for a complete review of social care by the Government, deputy leader and finance chief Cllr John Clatworthy said: “It’s no good the Government reducing support on one hand and expecting local government to raise the additional funds locally on the other.”

Cllr Claire Wright argued Devon residents are the victims of yet another decrease in core funding and said while a council tax hike will help mitigate against the ‘massive cuts’, the extra income will ‘barely scratch the surface’.

Children’s services are set to receive a two per cent increase – amounting to £2.3million – for 2017/18.

Highways boss Cllr Stuart Hughes welcomed £2million of additional funding set aside for highways and rural roads, and £500,000 for highways drainage, saying it will go some way towards addressing problems on the county’s rural network.

The proposed final budget was voted through at yesterday’s meeting.

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