by jackiebrodie on 19 September, 2017
The article below, was my contribution to the Highweek Herald in September.
“This month I thought I would tackle the thorny (sometimes literally) issue of weeds, overgrown hedges, blocked gutters, dirty road signs and all those other tidying up jobs which Devon County Council will no longer carry out. Perhaps I ought to explain first why they no longer do these jobs. You will be aware of austerity and falling Council budgets. Essentially central government funding of local Councils has fallen by approximately 40% since 2010/11, and is programmed to fall by a total of 77% by 2020. Council’s need to find other funds, or cut services or staff, or do things more efficiently. Whatever we pay in Council Tax comes nowhere near funding all of a Council’s duties. We will save for another time the discussion about whether the Council spends its money on the right things (that’s the political bit), but decisions made by the current administration, as part of the “Tough Choices” process carried out last year, have meant that DCC now only carries out works that it considers are a safety defect. What constitutes a safety defect is tightly and not very generously defined! That context is likely to be in place for at least the next 3 years whilst we have the current austerity programme nationally and locally.
I’m sure I’m not alone, in fact I know from my email inbox, I am not alone, in thinking that some of the town’s public areas, pavements and road signs in spite of the best efforts of some in the town, are looking untidy and unkempt as a result of this “tough choice” (although I must say Teignbridge District Council do a fantastic job keeping our parks looking fabulous all year round). However in a bid to find another solution to get hedges cut back, weeds removed from gutters, pavements weeded, and road signs kept clean, myself and Gordon Hook (County Councillor Newton Abbot South) are initiating the use of the DCC Community Enhancement Fund in the town, with the help of the Town Council. The fund will provide the equipment and training for volunteers. I hope that by Autumn we can have a regular group out and about in Newton Abbot carrying out these simple tasks. We are gathering the names of volunteers willing to help out. I envisage regular days/evenings when we undertake tasks from a works list. It would be great if you could get in touch with myself or Gordon if you were interested in volunteering. I envisage volunteers turning up as they were able and doing tasks they were comfortable with, with no pressure to make a long term regular commitment, although of course the more volunteers we have the more jobs we can undertake and the better our town will look. We will need a Coordinator as well, so please get in touch if you feel you would be able to take on that role.
In other news, I continue to be told that the construction of a pavement along Ashburton Rd linking the new estates to Mile End Road is imminent. As of early August the tendering process is underway, before appointment of a Contractor and then the programming of the work which will no doubt require a single lane closure. I share your frustration at the length of time all this takes! I am still pushing for the 30 mph limit on Ashburton Rd to be extended out beyond Cowslip Crescent. I have long advocated a 20mph default speed limit for residential streets and the town centre and have this topic on a Scrutiny Committee agenda for consideration at County Hall. Whether 30mph or 20mph, Community Speedwatch are also currently looking for volunteers. If you would like to find out more about what this involves please get in touch with me. Finally, work on the second phase of the east- west shared use cycle route along Ashburton Rd from Greenaway Rd to Oak Park Road takes place this Autumn.
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