THE newly elected Leader of East Devon District Council, Councillor Ian Thomas, has set out his vision for transforming the council and continuing to provide outstanding services despite the ongoing financial challenges facing all local authorities.
In his speech to the council’s annual meeting, Cllr Thomas said he was making changes to the council’s portfolio structure and councillor appointments to recognise two immediate challenges.
He said: “The first challenge is to focus portfolio resources and responsibilities more closely on council priorities and aspirations. Since I joined East Devon District Council, in 2009, portfolio structure and responsibilities have remained largely unchanged.
“Yet the environment in which we deliver services and the way our funding is secured, have changed beyond recognition. In 2010 we received approximately a third of our general fund income via Government Revenue Support Grant – we now receive…. nothing.
“Further pressure on public sector finance is inevitable, an imminent end to austerity unlikely and Brexit the focus of our national leaders.
“Change would accelerate, he said, driven by advances in technology and communication, central government priorities, and economic and demographic pressures.”
“It is therefore essential our member organisation is focussed, yet flexible and nimble, that we understand risk and maintain sound governance.”
To support this aim, Cllr Thomas has added two new portfolios to the council’s Cabinet – asset management and transformation. He has also strengthened the key Overview Committee, Budget Working Party and Capital Strategy and Allocation Panel.
Cllr Thomas said that the second challenge “is to ensure all 59 members are genuinely motivated and engaged, that we all contribute our skills and experience positively to the future of our Council and services we deliver on behalf of East Devon residents”.
For this reason, he said he would enhance the scope of portfolio holder ‘think tanks’ to become portfolio teams.
He added: “Closer, two-way communication between think tank members and Cabinet, through portfolio holders, will encourage more effective collaboration and understanding.”
Additional lead members have also been appointed, each with an important area of specialist interest.
Cllr Thomas said: “Lead members now work within a portfolio team, rather than in isolation, to further build member experience and enhance council resilience, through the sharing of knowledge and skills.
“The structure proposed is an interim step. During the next council year, we will review both member and officer organisation structures, to ensure that resources are focussed on key council priorities, mandatory services, and the discretionary services our residents’ value.”
Cllr Thomas, who represents Trinity ward, which includes Uplyme, led tributes from members to the former leader, Cllr Paul Diviani, and outlined the considerable achievements he has made during his tenure.
He said: “Seven years ago, Paul stood on this same stage to appoint his first portfolio team. How much has East Devon changed since then?
“Our growth point has made great strides. Cranbrook has become home to over 3,500 people in just six years. The Science Park is rapidly expanding, well on the way to achieving employment targets, within a valuable Enterprise Zone. Seaton and Exmouth regeneration projects continue to attract investment. Yet the East Devon District Council element of our council tax has barely changed. Our council achievements owe much to Paul’s leadership.”
Cllr Philip Skinner, who represents Tale Vale ward, was elected as Deputy Leader of the council.
Cllr Andrew Moulding, who represents Axminster Town ward, was re-elected as Chairman of the council with Cllr David Key, who represents Otterhead ward, re-elected as Vice Chairman.
The following councillors have been appointed to the Cabinet:
Cabinet member for Strategic Development: Cllr Paul Diviani
Cabinet member for Economy: Cllr Philip Skinner
Cabinet member for Sustainable Homes and Communities: Cllr Jill Elson
Cabinet member for the Environment: Cllr Tom Wright (deputy Cllr Marcus Hartnell)
Cabinet member for Corporate Services: Cllr Alan Dent
Cabinet member for Transformation: Cllr Iain Chubb
Cabinet member for Asset Management: Cllr Geoff Pook
Cabinet member for Finance: Cllr Dean Barrow.
Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of East Devon District Council’s committees are:
Overview Committee: Cllr Graham Godbeer (Chair) and Cllr Ian Hall (Vice Chair)
Scrutiny Committee: Cllr Roger Giles (Chair) and Cllr Cherry Nicholas (Vice Chair)
Housing Review Board: Cllr Pauline Stott (Chair), Vice Chair to be appointed by Housing Review Board
Strategic Planning Committee: Cllr Paul Diviani (Chair) and Cllr Mike Allen (Vice Chair)
Development Management Committee: Cllr Mike Howe (Chair) and Cllr Colin Brown (Vice Chair)
Audit and Governance: Cllr Mark Williamson (Chair) and Cllr John Dyson (Vice Chair)
Standards: Chairman of the Council – Cllr Andrew Moulding (Chair)
Interviewing (Chief Officers): Cllr Ian Thomas (Chair) and Cllr Philip Skinner (Vice Chair)
Employment Appeals: Cllr Philip Skinner (Chair)
Licensing and Enforcement: Cllr Steve Hall (Chair) and Cllr John O’Leary (Vice Chair)
Axminster – Cllr Ian Hall
Culture – Cllr John O’Leary
Exmouth – Cllr Bill Nash
Business and Employment – Cllr Mike Allen
Flooding – Cllr Susie Bond
Health and wellbeing – Cllr Cherry Nicholas
Member development and engagement – Cllr Maddy Chapman
Neighbourhood planning – Cllr Bruce De Saram
Building design and heritage – Cllr Helen Parr
Procurement – Cllr Colin Brown
Rural economy – Cllr Paul Carter
Sport and recreation – Cllr Mark Evans-Martin
Tourism – Cllr Jenny Brown
Youth – Cllr Ian Hall
Community safety – Cllr Brian Bailey
NPPF – Cllr Mark Williamson
Environmental Health – Cllr Maddy Chapman
Council housing – Cllr Pauline Stott
Affordable homes – Cllr Simon Grundy
Parks and open spaces – Cllr John Humphreys
Consultation – Cllr Helen Parr
Branding and marketing – Cllr Jenny Brown
Customer services – Cllr Pauline Stott
Estates and property services – Cllr Bill Nash
Commercial Property – Cllr Mike Allen.