Council leaders take stock

The leaders of North Devon and Torridge district councils look back on the year and toward the challenges ahead.

THE leaders of the region’s two district councils have both issued Christmas and New Year messages as they look back on a busy year and forward to the challenges ahead.

Both North Devon Council Leader Councillor Brian Greenslade and Torridge Leader Councillor Barry Parsons said they hoped the people in their districts had enjoyed a happy Christmas, together with their good wishes for 2012.

Mr Greenslade said 2011 had been a “hectic” year, with elections followed by a new joint Liberal Democrat and independent administration, but he said they had set “a cracking pace” and kept a firm hand on the council budget for 2011/12.

“The budget for 2012/13 will come before the council in February,” he said.

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“My colleagues and I are planning to freeze our share of the council tax. We also plan to freeze most of the charges made for services, such as basic car parking charges, to try to help residents in this particularly hard economic period.

“In the next four years we believe North Devon Council will have to find cuts of �1.9 million to balance the books. We are actively at work squeezing down the council’s overheads to try to maintain as many front line services as we can.”

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He said the council was still working to improve the lot of residents. Examples included cancelling proposed charges for the first household bulky collection in any one year and introducing some free time in car parks at Newport Road, Pilton Street and Fremington. Parking was free in NDC hourly car parks between 2-6pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the two weeks up to Christmas.

In the next three years he said increasing affordable housing and economic regeneration were the council’s key areas. Proposals include housing at Lovacott, a new supermarket for South Molton, regeneration schemes at Bear Street and Queen Street in Barnstaple plus some exciting public sector led ideas for Ilfracombe.

TORRIDGE Council Leader and Conservative Councillor Barry Parsons said he looked back on 2011 with pride, both that his communities had re-elected him and that he had been chosen as the new Leader.

“In today’s world we face some very real challenges, many of which, certainly, during my life-time we have not faced before,” he said.

“Especially important that we look after one another and stand and work together in all things. My leadership is based on this premise.

“I have challenged the historical rejection that Torridge and North Devon district councils work together. This is despite the leadership in the two councils not being of the same ‘colour.’ I have every confidence we can make considerable strides together.”

Mr Parsons said authorities need not downsize: “We should not only look at efficiency savings but generating income, especially from natural resources, which are rich and plentiful in this part of the world.

“A classic example is shipping of timber to Europe, already reaping significant returns and will in time give greater financial assurance not only to the council, but to the people it serves.

“People ask me how I intend Torridge to change for the better. I respond by asking them to take a look around and see some of the changes already taking place.”

He said as a “can do” council it had already created positive changes, including permission for Atlantic Village to expand, providing a platform for a new agri-business park and retail store in Holsworthy, hosting the Atlantic International Watersports games and preparing for the regeneration of Jubilee Square in Bideford.

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