Devon County Council agrees to 4.99 per cent rise to pay for ‘vital health and social care services’ but appeal for extra education funding is turned down

Devon County Council has set its share of the council tax at just under five per cent for the coming year.

At a full council meeting on Thursday, councillors voted 39 to 20 to approve the 4.99 per cent increase for the year 2017-18.

That included a three per cent rise ring fenced for adult health and social care, as allowed by the Government.

A 1.99 per cent rise was agreed for general services such as education, caring for children, roads and economic development.

That equates to an extra £60.30 a year for the average Band D council taxpayer or £1.16 a week.

A Liberal Democrat-led amendment calling on the Conservative council to replace a £2.2million ‘shortfall’ facing local schools following an education budget cut by the council’s cabinet of £2.2m – on top of less Government funding – was defeated.

A similar motion made by Labour councillor Jill Owen, urging the council to challenge the Government about the lack of funding for Devon, was also rejected.

After the meeting, DCC leader John Hart criticised the £267m cut in funding Devon had received from the Government in the past seven years and said there was need for a ‘serious review’.

He said: “The increased demands now being put on local government are not being adequately funded by central Government.”

Speaking of the council tax increase, he added: “We have considered this increase very seriously indeed because we are well aware of the strain that household budgets are under.

“But everyone knows that health and social care is under intense pressure and we must step up to the plate and do our utmost to look after our frail elderly and the most vulnerable in our communities.”

But Barnstaple county councillor Brian Greenslade condemned the decision not increase education funding. He said: “I cannot believe that Conservative county councillors who attended the North Devon executive meeting and wept tears over the loss of funding for our schools, and heard headteachers explain the impact this would have, all voted to make this cut.”

In total, the health and social care budget has been increased to £216.5m, a 10 per cent increase, while the children’s budget has increased by £2.5m to £118m and the highways and waste budget has been reduced by £2m to £56.4m.

Two weeks ago, North Devon Council put its council tax up by 2.98 per cent while Torridge District Council proposed to increase its share by 3.6 per cent.