New East Devon Council Leader’s vision for the future
PUBLISHED: 16:23 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:23 17 May 2018
Cllr Ian Thomas says portfolio resources and responsibilities need to focus more closely on council priorities and aspirations
The newly elected Leader of East Devon District Council has revealed his plan for transforming the authority.
In his speech to last night’s (Wednesday, May 16) annual meeting, Ian Thomas said he was making changes to the portfolio structure and councillor appointments to recognise two immediate challenges.
He said: “The first challenge is to focus portfolio resources and responsibilities more closely on council priorities and aspirations. Since I joined East Devon District Council, in 2009, portfolio structure and responsibilities have remained largely unchanged. Yet the environment in which we deliver services and the way our funding is secured, have changed beyond recognition. In 2010 we received approximately a third of our general fund income via Government Revenue Support Grant – we now receive nothing.
“Further pressure on public sector finance is inevitable, an imminent end to austerity unlikely and Brexit the focus of our national leaders.”
He said change would accelerate, driven by advances in technology and communication, central government priorities, and economic and demographic pressures. “It is therefore essential our member organisation is focussed, yet flexible and nimble, that we understand risk and maintain sound governance,” he continued.
To support this aim, Cllr Thomas has added two new portfolios to the council’s Cabinet - asset management and transformation. He has also strengthened the key Overview Committee, Budget Working Party and Capital Strategy and Allocation Panel.
Cllr Thomas said that the second challenge “is to ensure all 59 members are genuinely motivated and engaged, that we all contribute our skills and experience positively to the future of our Council and services we deliver on behalf of East Devon residents.”
For this reason, he said he would enhance the scope of portfolio holder ‘think tanks’ to become portfolio teams.
“Closer, two-way communication between think tank members and Cabinet, through portfolio holders, will encourage more effective collaboration and understanding,” he continued.
Additional lead members have also been appointed, each with an important area of specialist interest.
Cllr Thomas said: “Lead members now work within a portfolio team, rather than in isolation, to further build member experience and enhance council resilience, through the sharing of knowledge and skills.
“The structure proposed is an interim step. During the next council year, we will review both member and officer organisation structures, to ensure that resources are focussed on key council priorities, mandatory services, and the discretionary services our residents’ value.”
Cllr Thomas, who represents Trinity ward, led tributes from members to the former leader, Cllr Paul Diviani, and outlined the considerable achievements he had made during his tenure.
Cllr Philip Skinner, who represents Tale Vale ward, was elected as deputy leader of the council.
Cllr Andrew Moulding, who represents Axminster Town ward, was re-elected chairman of the council with Cllr David Key, who represents Otterhead ward, re-elected as vice chairman.
The following councillors have been appointed to the Cabinet:
Strategic Development: Cllr Paul Diviani
Economy: Cllr Philip Skinner
Sustainable Homes and Communities: Cllr Jill Elson
Environment: Cllr Tom Wright (deputy Cllr Marcus Hartnell)
Corporate Services: Cllr Alan Dent
Transformation: Cllr Iain Chubb
Asset Management: Cllr Geoff Pook
Finance: Cllr Dean Barrow.