It’s been a busy time here at North Devon Council recently, with lots happening and plans being made to further improve our services over coming months.
The new chapel at North Devon Crematorium has been open for a few months now and we are very pleased with this facility. I know that it is sad to lose a loved one however, we do hope to ease the burden by offering better surroundings for family and friends to say farewell.
At Barnstaple’s Pannier Market, we are trying to help our market traders by requesting that the doors to the market are closed at night. This would help traders to be able to set up quicker in the morning and cut out the anti-social behaviour that takes place in the Pannier Market during the evenings. This results in a lot of damage, often running into hundreds of pounds. To mitigate this and save the tax payer money we want to close the market in the evenings and we can then concentrate on making refurbishments.
We continue to finalise our sale of the two theatres; the Queens Theatre in Barnstaple and the Landmark in Ilfracombe. Once completed the Theatres Trust will take responsibility for the two theatres and they will have a very long lease. This will enable them to move forward and hopefully attract money that councils are not permitted to attract because of regulations which prevent local authorities from receiving certain outside funding.
Devolution – we are among 17 local authorities across Devon and Somerset who are asking the government for more powers locally. It is good that one year on we are still talking to each other and working hard together. Whether more powers will be devolved is questionable currently because with the change of minister following the summer reshuffle at central government. Nevertheless we are now speaking mostly as one voice and that will be a powerful voice for our region.
In April 2017 we will begin charging for green waste collections. I understand that whenever one looks to charge or increase charges the council inevitably comes under pressure from some quarters. Originally, Prime Minister Blair’s government gave some funding and a load of green bins to our council, along with many other councils. These were rolled out and the green bin collection began in around 2002. This is not a statutory requirement, in other words the council does not have to carry out this service. By law, black bin waste has to be collected, but not green waste. Our government grant has been reduced by nearly £4million and this means we can no longer afford to collect green waste without making a charge. Therefore, it is with sadness that we must out of necessity introduce a charge next year. Of course, households do not have to use the service, it will be optional and to use the facility it will cost £36 for a full year.
The refugee situation is shortly to come to the council’s Executive for debate and then to our full council, for no doubt further debate. There are always two sides to any story and it will be interesting to see how this moves forward.