OPINION: A busy and productive year for North Devon Council
- Credit: Roger A Smith
2021 was a busy and productive year for North Devon Council. We saw significant increases in the demand for council services across the board and this could well continue this New Year.
In addition to maintaining services during the pandemic the following highlights a few of our achievements during 2021:
- restructured our senior management team as a step towards increasing our capacity and strategic direction,
- carried out consultations with the public on several issues,
- continued to respond to the pandemic by issuing business grants under the various national schemes,
- supported our communities by developing local schemes to provide direct assistance and also administering Hardship Schemes,
- made progress with the commercialisation agenda set by members by buying Green Lanes in Barnstaple,
- increased our accommodation provision for those made homeless or threatened with homelessness,
- invested £100k in a local scheme, Business Boost, to provide business and financial support to local businesses,
- secured significant sums of external funding for projects,
- introduced a new system for purchasing and maintaining our waste and recycling fleet,
- commenced work on the Ilfracombe Watersports Centre,
- continued work on the new North Devon Leisure Centre,
- strengthened our links with our partner organisations,
- set up a joint committee with Torridge to review the Local Plan,
- encouraged everyone to support our local businesses and to buy local wherever possible.
2022 will throw up many challenges but I am not anticipating a slowdown in what the council is doing. However, as yet we do not know the full extent of how we will be affected by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
My oldest daughter, Lisa works in an intensive care unit in a London hospital and she reports that not only are more patients being admitted but also many of the staff are currently off from work having tested positive. Much has been said about getting our booster vaccinations as quickly as possible and I hope that our council staff will be able to keep safe and maintain our core services.
Many continue to work from home but that isn’t possible for some like the parks, waste and recycling teams.
The impact of loss of trade because of Covid is already being felt by the hospitality and leisure sector across North Devon. It’s good news that in a few weeks’ time North Devon Council will be in a position to give further financial support to some businesses.
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The Chancellor has announced that there is to be a support package and we are currently waiting the full details of what it entails. The software will then be written and we will be able to distribute funds to those who qualify. Businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises. In addition, funds have been announced for the Additional Restrictions Grant. Details will be announced on our website to ensure as many businesses in our area can benefit as possible as these grants are a vital life line during these uncertain times.
This year we also have some exciting projects to progress including the scheme around the Future High Street funding in Barnstaple and the development of Seven Brethren and some important work to do around issues such as housing and the environment.
We will also be working to build in the required capacity and resource to deliver the forward-looking programmes we are developing. All of the new Heads of Service have been working with members to draw up projects to help make a difference. More details about this will emerge in the next few weeks.
Like the staff I am keen to get on and achieve benefits for North Devon so despite all the possible negative unknowns I am really excited about what the future will bring. May I wish all readers a happy, safe and prosperous 2022.