Residents give verdict on Devon

ITS official! Devon is a great place to live with over 88 per cent of residents satisfied with life in the county – one of the highest ratings in the UK.

ITS official! Devon is a great place to live with over 88 per cent of residents satisfied with life in the county - one of the highest ratings in the UK.

Satisfaction with a wide range of County Council services is high. But overall satisfaction with the authority has fallen in line with a national trend affecting all councils.

The figures are part of the national Place Survey published this week. This large-scale public opinion survey was conducted across all local authority areas in late 2008.

Initial figures for Devon show that low levels of crime (50%), health (43%) and housing (33%) are identified as the top issues that help to make the county a good place to live, followed closely by 'green' issues such as clean streets, public transport and access to the countryside.

The survey shows that local people are happy with individual services including recycling centres (77%), parks and open spaces (70%) and libraries (69%). 70% think the County Council is working hard to make Devon cleaner/greener and 65% to make it safer.

71% also believe that older people in their area get the services and support they need to live at home as long as they want. Three quarters say the County Council treats everyone fairly and even more (79%) say their personal experience is that they are treated with respect and consideration.

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But overall, only 43% say they are satisfied with the way the County Council runs things and only 30% think it provides good value for money.

Only 42% of people say they feel well informed about public services in general and 72% do not think they can influence decisions affecting their local area.

However, the survey also shows that Devon communities are very much alive and well.

69% of people say they feel a sense of belonging to their immediate local neighbourhood or community and levels of civic participation and volunteering are bother higher than the national average.

82% think Devon is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together and 80% think people treat each other with respect and consideration.

70% of people also say they feel safe when out after dark in their local area with only 5% saying they feel very unsafe.

Responding to the figures, County Council Leader John Hart said:

"People love this county, feel good about their communities and appreciate local public services. But this does not translate into overall satisfaction with the 'council'," he said.

"Across the country the satisfaction ratings for all local councils have fallen and the position in Devon is no different. But we should not use this as an excuse.

"I want residents, Devonians new and old to feel proud of their County Council and know they are getting good services and good value for money.

"We will need to work hard to reconnect with local people. That means we have to communicate better and show we are prepared to listen and act on local concerns. And we have to encourage many more people to get involved in making local decisions about their communities."

Services that people feel most dissatisfied with include local bus services and sport and leisure facilities.

The things people think most need improving in Devon are more activities for teenagers (38%), road and pavement repairs (33%), affordable housing (32%), traffic congestion (32%) and wage levels and the cost of living (23%).

Councillor Hart said these were all areas of priority for the new council.

"Our aim must be to improve Devon's economy and encourage employers to provide more, well-paid jobs for local people," he said.

"We have promised to work with district councils and other organisations to provide more affordable housing where people need it because we know the county's low-pay economy prevents many hard-working families getting that first step on the housing ladder.

"And we are determined to improve our highway repairs so that potholes and other defects are properly repaired the first time and we don't have to make costly return trips to put jobs right.