Residents give verdict on Devon

IT S official! Devon is a great place to live with more than 88 per cent of residents satisfied with life in the county – one of the highest ratings in the UK. The figures have been published this week as part of the national Place Survey, a large-scale p

IT'S official! Devon is a great place to live with more than 88 per cent of residents satisfied with life in the county - one of the highest ratings in the UK.

The figures have been published this week as part of the national Place Survey, a large-scale public opinion survey that was conducted across all local authority areas in late 2008.

Initial figures for Devon show that low levels of crime (50 per cent), health (43 per cent) and housing (33 per cent) 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 per cent), parks and open spaces (70 per cent) and libraries (69 percent). More than two-thirds of those asked (70 per cent) think Devon County Council is working hard to make Devon cleaner and greener


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Three quarters say the council treats everyone fairly and even more (79 per cent) say their personal experience is that they are treated with respect and consideration.

But overall, only 4 per cent say they are satisfied with the way the county council runs things and only 30 per cent think it provides good value for money.

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Only 42 per cent of people say they feel well-informed about public services in general and 72 per cent 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.

Sixty-nine per cent 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.

Eighty-two per cent think Devon is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together and 80 per cent think people treat each other with respect and consideration.

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

Responding to the figures, Devon 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'.

"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 per cent), road and pavement repairs (33 per cent), affordable housing (32 per cent), traffic congestion (32 per cent) and wage levels and the cost of living (23 per cent).

Cllr 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.

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