OPINION: The importance of partnership working for Team Devon

North Devon Gazette

Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic North Devon Council has had opportunities to engage positively and productively in a number of local and regional partnerships.

As part of the pandemic response NDC has been actively working with the other Devon District Councils and the County Council in what has become known as Team Devon. The partnership working has been very useful as we have been able to discuss mutual issues and formulate joint approaches and strategies for improving our whole county.Â

As a result, joint communications have been sent to Westminster on issues like housing, leisure and hospitality. Together we are a stronger voice to lobby both our local MPs and the government than the single voice of one relatively small district council.Â

As you no doubt realise northern Devon has some distinctive challenges and solutions need to be found which will help us to level up across the county and indeed with all of the country. So, with the rest of Devon, we are talking to government about the possibility of a county wide deal.Â

In the first round of the government’s levelling up agenda our area basically missed out as funds went in the main to the north of the country. NDC does not want us left behind as our area in the past has often been neglected by central government. There is a need to address the inequalities which are often hidden by our beautiful scenery and the rural nature of our area.Â

We face real challenges around poverty, housing, inferior broadband and connectivity of our communities, an ageing population, lack of skills and social mobility, opportunities for young people etc.Â

On the other hand, we do have assets and opportunities on which to capitalise. Northern Devon has the world-renowned UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which is advanced in key research into natural carbon capture and other initiatives intended to improve biodiversity and improve land management.Â

We have successful businesses such as pharmaceutical companies and with new enterprise centres and the work of Petroc there is much to build on. If we can agree a deal with government, I would want it to enable us to: have an effective dialogue with Government; exercise strong and visible leadership; and give all of the constituent partners a voice.Â

Whether our initial dialogue with government departments will result in a positive deal I don’t know but it is important that we do speak up for our area.Â

As a council we are committed to working with partners wherever possible in order achieve the maximum collectively for North Devon. For example, we appreciate the work of One Northern Devon concerning their great help in many of North Devon’s communities during the pandemic.Â

I believe that good working relationships with public, private and voluntary groups will pay dividends moving forward. For example, we have had positive discussions with the Torridge and North Devon Housing Crisis group plus other groups about the current shortage of particularly rented accommodation for residents in our area.Â

The pooling of ideas is extremely helpful in planning the actions we should take as an authority and helps in informing us of the needs of the community.Â

Opportunities remain for us to further develop working partnerships with neighbouring councils which I hope will be further explored during 2022. We have already appointed a shared Climate Change Officer with Torridge District Council and together we are now working to refresh the joint Local Plan.Â

We have also encouraged dialogue through a partnership with the private and public sector looking at North Devon’s Future which is another positive step forward.Â

Working together on a clear vision will become increasingly important in the face of the spending challenges that will inevitably emerge in the post pandemic landscape.Â

North Devon has great potential but it needs a team effort involving all our partners working together to improve the quality of life in our area.Â