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September 2020

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When this content has been published

Published on 30 September 2020

Cllr Alan Connett, Leader of the Council: report to Teignbridge Council on 30 September 2020

Link to Cllr Alan Connett's speech and notes of what he said

You can listen to Cllr Connett's speech on our YouTube channel, 23 minutes into the council meeting

Chairman and fellow councillors

I earlier set out the three key priorities for the council.

  • Climate Change

  • Jobs

  • Homes

Recognising we work within a number of externally imposed constraints and that we are not responsible for everything, we can make a significant contribution to addressing these three key challenges and the impact of Covid-19 on our community.

Climate Change

  • Robust policies within the developing Local Plan
  • Local Plan Carbon Calculator - has been updated to require all planning applicants to demonstrate significantly higher carbon reduction than current building regulations. This was not the case prior to Oct 2019
  • Electric Car Charging points in Chudleigh & Buckfastleigh with more to come in the four AQM (Air Quality Management) Areas
  • We have entered a Power Purchase Agreement with the Devon Energy Collective (a not for profit organisation set up to develop new large scale local renewable energy capacity. It’s an opportunity to support local jobs in local renewable energy production. This will offset carbon emissions from unavoidable electricity consumption)
  • Partner in Devon Solar Together Project (a group bulk buying scheme to give residents discounts and security in purchasing solar panels and battery storage) 
  • Partnership working with Action on Climate in Teignbridge
  • Appointed a Climate Change Officer
  • Investing in walking and cycling routes
  • We will strive to achieve and exceed the elusive 60% recycling ambition
  • Leading by example – introducing carbon reducing initiatives and encouraging greener travel within Teignbridge Council to reduce our own impact.
  • Encouraging more agile and home working to reduce travel to work
  • Teign Estuary cycle route between Newton Abbot and Teignmouth
  • Produced and published a carbon footprint for the financial year 2018/19
  • Officers developing a Carbon Action Plan which will have costed projects. This will then allow the council to balance the ambition to achieve the 2025 target with the reality of the new financial pressures we face.

Our 2025 carbon neutral target is really challenging and, of course, most elements of District's carbon footprint are outside our direct control.

Transport, how we all travel around, and how we heat our homes and energy wasted, are the big issues that need to be tackled.

There’s a huge need to retrofit existing properties and all new housing needs to be carbon neutral (as proposed in draft LP) and located near sustainable travel options.

We need to work with partners and we will need Government policy changes and individuals to act as well. 

Trees…..

  • Over 1500 trees were planted last planting season and 1500 planned for this winter.
  • A tree strategy is being finalised that will promote partnership work, working towards a 25% tree cover for the district and focussing on maintaining a good quality well connected tree stock with a healthy species and age structure.

We have embarked on the programme to plant 4,500 trees – but more can be done across our communities. Trees are lost for a variety of reasons including the impacts of Ash Die Back.

Would landowners across Teignbridge consider if there are small areas of land they would donate to help create local 'community copses' and 'neighbourhood woodlands' helping even more trees to be planted. Every community could be part of this, perhaps supported by their town or parish council tooJobs and economy

  • Future High Streets Fund bid – announcement expected this autumn
  • Premier Inn and Travelodge
  • Re-energise the Heart of Teignbridge approach to help create jobs
  • Sherbourne House
  • Support for TAAG and the Teignmouth cultural quarter
  • Accelerate Bradley Lane project
  • A dedicated page on Teignbridge website for businesses has remained up to date throughout to signpost businesses to the best place to get support information
  • Within the first week of launching, the Kickstart scheme has 35 placements on the register of interest and is looking into how to further support the scheme in house
  • Very challenging already without Covid-19 lockdown impacts or the impending impact from Brexit
  • Need to boost the level of wages in the district (out-commuting for better paid jobs)
  • Concerns over Growing youth unemployment
  • We have on-going commitment to improved broadband in rural areas to support businesses in those areas
  • Can we use CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) and Section 106 to help support jobs and training opportunities and re-skilling?
  • Our work on inclusion and diversity has resulted in unanimous agreement across the chamber in committing to reviewing our working practices and investing in driving forward change. One such change is ‘Empathy’ an arts heritage project designed in conjunction with local schools to facilitate discussion, the project is due to start in January 2021.

Homes

  • First ‘Teignbridge’ houses in 30 years – two houses at Drake Road, five flats at East Street
  • Working with communities such as Chudleigh identifying a scheme of investment for 13 first time buyers helping them pay their deposit with a repayment when they sell to reinvest
  • Warm home fund. We successfully bid for funding (£855K) to support improving heating measures to 300 households that are living in fuel poverty In Teignbridge. This will include delivering air source heat pumps as well as first time gas central heating and will include measures for 100 residents living in park homes
  • Work to start soon on Sherbourne House – 10 flats @ 60% market rent.
  • Using Teignbridge land to create more homes that are genuinely affordable to rent and run
  • Being clearer and firmer with developers about what we need – and not being afraid to ask for different or more
  • I have also asked our Housing and Planning teams to negotiate with developers for bungalows to be included in the ‘affordable’ housing mix.

We know older people ‘love their council bungalow’. It’s safe, it has space and it is all on one level. It will see them through…

Across Teignbridge, we estimate there are currently 55 households over the age of 55 on the housing register who are under-occupying a property too big for their needs.

Can we reinvent the concept of ‘modern council bungalows’ that will help us make even better use of existing homes while offering a great alternative for downsizers.

We provide mandatory disabled facility grants to adapt residents homes to meet their need, including non-means tested stair lift grants and top-up grants.

Using the Better Care funding we assisted over 200 residents in Teignbridge with adaptations. Working with Lendology CIC we provide low interest rate loans to help more residents in Teignbridge to carry out essential repairs and maintenance to their homes.

Energy Improvement support work - We support the delivery of energy efficiency measures to improve people’s homes and reduce the carbon footprint through the ECO scheme (Energy Company Obligation) and further supported over 400 (19/20)  low income households, who are in fuel poverty, by setting our own criteria to determine and tailor household eligibility to meet our local need.

We support the Local Energy Advice Programme (LEAP) who visited oved 100 households in 19/20 to provide advice and support for residents In Teignbridge, including fuel switching, money advice, signposting to grant schemes and small-scale measures.

We also provide a range financial and advisory support to landlords designed to improve housing conditions.

In terms of housing, we are of course not Masters of our own Destiny are we. The Government dictates how many houses must be built in Teignbridge and failure is punished.

Currently, the Government demand is that Teignbridge builds 760 houses a year.

That’s 140 more than the 2013 Local Plan they approved, and less than half the astonishing 1,532 Downing Street now demands in its consultation plans.

To be clear, we oppose the Government’s latest edict.

We do not believe the latest housing figure from a computer algorithm is right for Teignbridge or the communities within it. And I hope that across the Chamber all councillors will join us in opposing the Government’s plans.

That said, we do need housing. Housing that meets need, that is genuinely affordable to buy, to rent, to run.

Irrespective of numbers, all councillors should recognise that some development is going to be essential. We need to shape the vision for what we want our places to be like for the future and what the Council’s role is in getting there.

We need to blend a genuine need for housing with protecting the environment and our bio diversity ambitions…

I know colleagues on the Planning Committee will take account of that need and while none of us like the system Government has created, it is how, currently, we achieve the bulk of those ‘affordable’ homes.

So let none of us be in any doubt about the value to a child of a safe, secure warm home to their education and life chances, nor to their parents and carers in terms of being able to live a stable life, contributing to their community and holding down a job, or pursuing their own education and career ambitions.

A home is not a luxury… it’s a basic need of life and we need to say that more often – especially to those who have one, or more, and who say no new homes should be built!

GESP

Which brings me to the Greater Exeter Strategic Partnership

Last week, the Leaders of East Devon District Council, Mid Devon District Council and Exeter City Council discussed future joint working on strategic planning. They agreed to continue with their Local Plan arrangements and work co-operatively on joint strategic planning issues.

We made no such commitment

How Teignbridge Council proceeds will be a decision made by this council. A report and recommendation will go to Executive, followed by a recommendation to Council.

However, we do need to be mindful that there is a legal Duty to Co-operate and that this may well be best demonstrated through a new working arrangement of the four councils – but NOT a branded planning framework which appears to suggest decisions about what is built and where it is built are being made other than in this Chamber (Government instructions excepted)!

Teignbridge Council

As you will see in the papers for next week’s Executive, as a council we have been hugely affected by the drop in income as an impact of the Coronavirus.

In total, our income is down £7 million from fees and charges, sales and rental income. Further losses are predicted for council tax and business rates. The Government appeared to say it would stand by us…but the reality is Boris Johnson’s Government is not plugging all the gap.

We have therefore had to identify £2million of savings within the current year, and more will be needed in future years.

I say this to you now because, just as business is doing, we will need to transform the council.

We will need to stop doing some things and you’ll see the proposal next week to end the Rural Skip Service. It is no longer supported by Devon County Council and with costs rising it is simply no longer a service we can provide.

Council meetings will continue in virtual format until at least the end of this calendar year and, in all likelihood, for the remainder of the municipal year. We will review again in December.

As staff have adapted and developed the methods to work effectively from home, we are likely to model that into our permanent system of working, partly from home and partly from the office.

We will be reviewing our need for office space and will look to rent out the space we no longer need, to help bring in a rental income to support services, while creating well-serviced space for businesses.

We must adapt to our new environment. If we are to invest in our priorities and give the essential support to help our communities, then we MUST cut out cloth accordingly.

Finally, colleagues, I want to again give our thanks to all our staff for their hard work and commitment to keeping our services running.

  • 62,000 homes have their bins and recycling collected each week
  • Provided 250 food parcels for shielded and vulnerable individuals
  • Rough sleepers were supported and off the streets
  • Just review the O&S report in July to see how much we did during Lockdown 
  • 2,919 grant applications approved for the Small Businesses and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure funds totalling £33.8m
  • 661 Discretionary Business Grant applications approved totalling £1.9m
  • Waste levels were similar to those only usually experienced at Christmas but for months rather than a few weeks.
  • The garden waste collection service kept running as many turned to tidying their gardens during lockdown
  • We kept our public toilets open throughout the lockdown
  • We were able to reinstate all three leisure centres within a week of the permitted opening, operating on reduced opening hours but in accordance with the Covid-secure measures.
  • During lockdown we developed a bespoke leisure ‘app’ that has afforded our customers a convenient way to manage their bookings, enabling c.12,000 bookings from reopening until the end of August.
  • The provision of additional financial support to local foodbanks (£20k); funding for the CVS to provide a community hot food service (£2k), Westbank and the CAB (£20k shared); and providing assistance to the Meadow Centre, Buckland Community Centre and Chudleigh Youth Club by allowing a six month rental break (equivalent to 13K).

Ends….