OPINION: Paying tribute to hardworking North Devon Council staff

North Devon Gazette

It was a pleasure recently to take part in the presentation of long-term service awards to several of the council staff.Â

Members who have worked for North Devon Council for 25 years and in one case 40 years were recognized and thanked.Â

As leader of the council, I am very proud of our staff and the dedication that they show to their work. You will appreciate it hasn’t been an easy time for staff during the pandemic and many have had to adapt to working from home, substantially increased demand and/or carrying out entirely different roles.Â

Services like the waste and recycling teams have continued to collect the bins despite the risk from Covid. There has been the odd occasion when a round hasn’t been collected on the normal day because of factors outside of our control such as drivers having caught the coronavirus.Â

On the whole though, the waste and recycling unit has been able to provide a reliable service and this has been reflected by the many presents that crews have received from grateful residents this Christmas.Â

Please remember that the waste and recycling collection days will change over the Christmas and New Year period. If you are unsure of the days of collection, please check on our website. In addition, there will be no garden waste collections between Monday 27 December and Friday 7 January but they will return to normal from Monday 10 January.Â

It would be unfair for me to just single out one department for praise as so many have been amazing in the jobs that they have been doing and have been extremely flexible and accommodating in assisting where needed. Getting millions of pounds worth of grants out to help businesses survive during lock down this year was a major task but it had an important positive impact on the economy of North Devon. Still our financial and customer service departments are helping with various hardship grants in addition to their normal work.Â

Our economic development and legal teams have been extremely busy with projects such as the Barnstaple Future High Street regeneration and the acquisition of Green Lanes. The Ilfracombe Water Sports Centre and the new North Devon Leisure Centre are also progressing well with support from officers such as our Property and Procurement teams.Â

The planning department has been at full stretch as there is a national shortage of qualified planners and some of our staff have recently retired. We have some new staff but the demand for the planning services is currently very high.Â

The housing department has assisted hundreds of families, prevented around 500 households from becoming homeless and has provided temporary accommodation for those who have had nowhere to live. In addition, we have accommodated over 50 rough sleepers. It has been an extremely challenging year with house prices rising and a chronic shortage of long term rented accommodation.Â

The comms team has been particularly busy endeavouring through many different media channels to keep everyone up to date with all the various activities we have been involved with at NDC. They have also been producing the Live Love Local bulletins urging residents to support local businesses and events.Â

Some of the customer service team often work just outside my office and occasionally I hear them dealing with phone calls from residents. I am amazed at how skilful and knowledgeable they are about the council services and how they assist the callers. They are truly a real credit to the council.Â

In addition, our new senior management team has been extremely busy organizing their new departments and producing plans for the next financial year and beyond which members are considering at strategic workshops.Â

We are so fortunate in having such a great team of staff and councillors who deserve the Christmas break. Council offices are closed from 2pm on 24 December. The Amory Centre will re-open at 9am on 4 January and Lynton House and The Ilfracombe Centre will re-open on 5 January at 9am. Wishing all readers a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2022.