·        Keep Council Tax down; cut the County’s debt and freeze Councillor’s allowances

     We are deeply concerned about the rising costs of Council Tax which has become a very aggressive tax under three Labour Governments.  So many people are now finding it difficult to pay this tax, especially those affected by falling interest rates, raids on pension funds,  and  poor returns on stocks and shares.  Some of our Conservative controlled District Councils, like East Devon, have set a zero increase this year, but it is a pity that in spite of a good settlement from National Government this year, the Liberal Democrat administration in Devon have set an increase of almost 2.8%.

    They are also proposing a spending bonanza in which they would prefer to spend reserves rather than reduce Council Tax.  In recent years  they imprudently borrowed more than they needed on the grounds that they could borrow at 4% but invest at a much higher  rate.  However, in the current economic situation this debt scheduling has come to an end and they are faced with either paying back at a higher rate than they can borrow or spending the money on capital schemes.  Like Gordon Brown , they have chosen to do the latter on the grounds that this will stimulate the local economy and the frightening thing is that they are threatening to borrow even more money in the future.

     Currently Devon County Council has an Executive of 8 members.  However, these Executive members have another 7 members to support them at not much less than the salaries of the Executive Members themselves.  At Executive meetings it is rare for the support members to stay for the whole meeting and some fail to put in an appearance at all.  The Independent  Salary Review Panel has expressed concern about the amount of  money that Devon CC is paying in Special Responsibility Allowances to members of the administration.  The Conservative County Team would freeze councillor’s allowances, reduce the number of councillors receiving  Special Responsibility Allowances  and  continue to avoid agreeing to councillor’s becoming part of the pension scheme.

·        Campaign for better funding for our schools

         Devon lies near the bottom of the Cinderella ladder for Dedicated Schools  Funding. Compared to the national average we get £349 less per pupil per annum, but  compared to Bristol we get £659 less per pupil.  Can this be fair?  In spite of this, standards in Devon are quite high but how much higher could they be if our children received proper funding?  It is our brighter children who are losing out, and again this seems unfair.  When John Hart was the Executive member for Schools he campaigned hard against this anomaly and took an army of parents, governors, teachers and officers to 10 Downing Street to complain about the unfairness of this situation.  Since then not much has happened but the situation continues in spite of Tony Blair’s promises.   The Liberal Democrats in County Hall have not continued this campaign with the vigour which was required and a new Conservative administration will not rest until it has resolved this anomaly.

  ·        Provide better care for elderly people

       Devon has an increasing number of elderly people and this situation will continue.  Mindful of the costs of residential and nursing care the present government is supporting a strategy of independent living.  Many elderly or disabled people would welcome the opportunity to live an independent life, as opposed to a life in an institutionalised setting.   However, this is not always too easy and can be a very expensive call on local resources.  In the future the Conservatives will support extra care living in sheltered situations.  We will also support those voluntary organisations who offer an excellent support service to vulnerable people, providing day care, drop in centres, etc.

     In the Rainbow administration from 2001-2005 it was recognised that Devon needed to provide better capacity for residential care to fit the current  regulations, especially in the area of elderly mentally infirm.  However, four years on, after considerable cost, the present administration have failed to resolve this situation and  an early resolution is required.  It may be that current providers can offer greater capacity or it maybe that we need to attract a bid from  a large national housing trust to forward this modernisation plan, but what the Conservatives realise is that the situation cannot continue as it is today—it needs to  move on.

     We also realise the value of carers.  A good number of older people are looked after by their spouse or partner.  Sometimes these carers are as old, or even older than the people they care for.  As such, they are often equally vulnerable.  If they become ill we not only end up caring for their cared one but for the carer as well.  Consequently, we need to provide carers with as much support as we can possibly manage.  Sometimes carers are young children and as such this provides another area of cconcern, to ensure that they have sufficient school time, opportunities and are not bullied as a consequence of their supportive role.

  ·        Support local businesses to protect local jobs

        We need to develop skills in our areas to protect local jobs.  In some cases this may mean suitable apprenticeships, acquired through our local Further Education colleges,  local schools or local business.   The Conservatives realise that what is most important is that schools and colleges lay on courses that relate to the jobs which are relative to their area.  We also recognise the  importance of quality career’s advice in our local schools and the need for pupils to make themselves available for the workplace.

  ·        Create new jobs by attracting new businesses and providing training

     We will develop Skypark and the new Science Park in Exeter .  This will attract new business and provide extra opportunities in the job market.  Some of these jobs will require new training skills and we will work with Exeter University , Plymouth University , the new flybe Academy for engineers and  Further Education Colleges.  We will also encourage new business to locate in North Devon and work with the  Plymouth and Torbay Unitary authorities to stimulate their economy and develop appropriate skills.  

  ·       Tackle crime and anti-social behaviour

      Compared to the national average Devon is a low crime area but many residents have a fear of crime.  We will work with the police   to reduce cold-calling, promote Neighbourhood Watch and support the new police community liaison groups.  We will also provide youth services which harness the energies of young people and discourage anti-social behaviour.  Under the Conservatives the Trading Standards Department will  be encouraged to become a vibrant force which will tackle fraud and  monitor fair trading.  We will also work with  Drug and Alcohol Support groups to reduce addiction and the effects of anti-social behaviour displayed by some addicts. The Conservatives will support the work to reduce domestic violence.

  ·        Improve our roads and pavements

Sixteen years of underfunding and this year’s severe winter have played havoc with Devon ’s roads and footways.  Huge potholes, some the size of moon craters, have appeared in our roads causing a danger to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.  In March, this year the number of potholes was  nearly three times greater than in normal years. The roads in rural areas  are showing marked deterioration and require urgent attention.  Recent criticism from the Conservatives has goaded the Liberal Democrats into finding more money to repair the roads and footways and empty gullies but this is a mere  drop in a ocean much larger sums are needed to rectify all the years of neglect.  The Conservatives are committed to prioritising  highway maintenance in Devon .

  ·        Support and promote tourism in Devon

Devon is both a beautiful and interesting county and tourism is one of our most important industries.  We will promote green tourism  such as walking, cycling, sailing and farm stays.  We will also support our wonderful coastal towns to create a year-round industry built around the arts, festivals and special interest  holidays.  We also have some wonderful restaurants and eating places which promote our excellent local food.

       Exeter Airport is a busy little airport but the Conservatives believe that we should be encouraging more visitors to come to Devon than “exporting”  Devon ’s residents to holidays abroad.  We also believe that we need to improve our rail and bus services in Devon to encourage visitors to visit Devon   using  public transport.  We will continue to lobby for the long overdue dualing of the A303. The Conservatives will market the delights of Devon vigorously to promote the tourist industry.  

  ·        Work to provide more affordable housing for local people

 In spite of a low wage economy house prices in Devon are very high and there is a great need for more affordable housing.  The Conservatives will work in partnership with the District authorities to find suitable sites and appropriate funding to provide more housing at affordable prices, either for rent or mixed equity.   In this way we believe we can reduce the lists of local residents who are desperately waiting to be housed.

    We will also work with the District Councils to find suitable sites and funding to build extra-care housing to provide independent living for the learning disabled, the mentally ill and older vulnerable people who need to be close to support services.

  ·        Reduce waste to landfill

Devon has a good record for recycling but we need to improve our record for reducing waste to landfill, which is not only environmentally undesirable but expensive when we are required to pay  Landfill Tax.   The Conservatives believe that it is important to develop more biological facilities to dispose of food and biologically disposable waste.  District Councils would then be encouraged to make separate collections of this kind of waste to feed these plants and to create renewable energy. 

   We are also concerned about the disposal of recycled goods and the costs of recycling. In the present market the income for recycled goods has dropped and sometimes recycled goods are travelling long distances away from Devon to be disposed of.  The Conservatives will consult with other authorities responsible for waste disposal to see where there is good practice which they may be able to copy. 



Promoted by L Baker on behalf of Devon Conservatives both of 9c Mill Park, White Cross Road, Woodbury Salterton EX5 1EL


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