Friday 11 November 2022
We produced a special Care and Health edition of our Connect Me bulletin this week. It included:
- Five ways to protect under 5s this winter
- Advice to help people with stress, as it's Stress Awareness Week
- Protect yourself and your baby from viruses
If you missed it, you can read it here.
Here's what else we've been doing and saying this week.
Devon remembers, this Armistice Day
Shortly before 11am, in the grounds at County Hall, Exeter, councillors and staff gathered to mark Armistice Day.
"At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent on the Western Front, bringing the First World War to an end," said Councillor Roger Croad, our Cabinet Member with responsibility for Armed Forces.
Armistice Day is also a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by our Armed Services personnel in the Second World War and in more recent conflicts around the world, including the Falklands War, which mark its 40th anniversary this year.
Councillor Croad, a veteran of that war, led today's exhortation:
"They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”
You can read the full story on our news page.
Only one in five councils feel confident financially
Only one in five councils say that they're confident that insolvency could be prevented without additional support in the upcoming Autumn Statement.
Most councils surveyed say it's 'likely or very likely' that they'll have to cut back on key public services.
Many would have to tighten eligibility for adult social care services and reduce reablement and community-based adult social care services.
Most say that they would have to scale back school transport services and cut support packages for young people with special educational needs.
Bus route subsidies, streetlighting, library provision and recycling centre opening times would also likely be impacted. As would action to address climate change.
We revealed last week that surging demand for care, continuing costs of the pandemic, rising costs and inflation, leave us needing to make savings of £73m this financial year, and another £75m next year.
Our Leader, Cllr John Hart says:
"Today's survey demonstrates that we're not alone. The predicament we have is reflected across the country, impacting on vital public services relied upon by millions, including the most vulnerable in our communities.
"We need the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to produce an economic recovery plan that is balanced, fair and equitable. And crucially, one that does not single out local government for cuts.”
You can read the full story on our news page
More help for communities during cost of living crisis
So far, we've given more than £250,000 to local projects, many of which are helping communities cope with the sharp increase in food prices and heating bills.
It's from our Growing Communities Fund, which this week we've opened up again for applications.
The extra funding is in response to the fastest rise in the cost of living for 40 years - the cost of food for example increased by nearly 15 per cent in the year to September.
Many of the 128 projects that we've helped so far directly help communities to cope with these financial pressures, offering local people a warm safe haven, produce food, distribute surplus food and essentials, food banks and classes showing communities how to cook nutritious meals on a budget.
Some of them - Sweetpea Small Holdings, in Exeter, for instance, which grows fresh produce and donates to local food banks - are mentioned in the news story on our website.
We're inviting applications now from local groups and individuals. Applications can be made online or for more information contact email@example.com or calling 01392 383379.
Trading Standards repeats warning about loan sharks
Steve Gardiner, Heart of the South West Trading Standards Manager, spoke to BBC Radio Devon this week about his concerns around the rising costs of living.
With households' costs rising, he says there's a danger of people turning to loan sharks for extra cash, which, he says, is happening in other areas of the country.
Often, what starts off sounding like an offer of cash to help tie you over, becomes high interest rates and intimidation that locks you into a circle of debt, he said.
And that he's seen some loan sharks charging Annual Percentage Rates in excess of 1,000 per cent.
His advice is to talk to your bank or building society, and if you can't borrow from them, there are Credit Unions, which are not-for-profit, that can lend to people.
The important thing is that they - the organisation you're thinking of borrowing from - must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority to offer, or broker, credit.
Asked, what should you do if you're already in debt to a loan shark, he said:
"Talking about it is one of the key issues in this situation. People are often very reluctant to talk about their financial predicament."
He recommends talking to the Illegal Money Lending Team, which has trained advisors who can help. You can call them on 0300 555 2222 or visit their website.
We'd like your views on electric vehicles
The sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles is expected to end in eight years, as we're encouraged to use electric vehicles (EVs), so having the infrastructure and capacity in Devon to support EVs is critical.
National Government is responsible for the roll-out of EV charge points, and websites such as Zap Maps show where the public EV charge points are and who's providing them.
But we're also involved and are working with district councils to put EV car chargers in public car parks and other locations.
We have a draft Devon EV Charging Strategy, setting out how and where we will need to intervene to help deliver the infrastructure, and we'd like your views on it please.
It includes details on numbers of current and predicted EV users, capacity, number and location of existing charge points, details about current local and national policy, and forecasts of future EV uptake and chargepoint demand.
You can give your views via our Have Your Say website.
And we've a webinar at 6pm on Tuesday 22 November, and another specifically for businesses at 6pm on Tuesday 6 December, that you can register to attend, by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
New digital support offered to small businesses
New online support is available to help small and medium sized buinesses to be more savvy with their digital skills.
It includes an online self-assessment tool, called the Digital Maturity Index, devised to enable businesses to gain an understanding of their digital strengths and weaknesses.
It also offers insights into digital tools that may help their business to develop and grow.
Once businesses have completed the self-assessment, they'll receive targeted information that can guide them to access funded digital training courses and resources or further advice from one of the project's expert digital advisors.
There's also a Digital Course Finder, providing an extensive database of digital skills training courses delivered by training providers across Devon, as well as online digital skills courses.
You can read more about the programme in the story on our news page.
Amended plans for North Devon Link Road
Rising costs and inflation are to blame for a decision we've made to amend our ongoing North Devon Link Road improvement plans.
Improving road safety while improving economic benefits to North Devon and Torridge economies - two of the main objectives to the scheme - remain very much a priority though.
The majority of the £67 million improvement programme is being paid for by the Department for Transport, but the work was costed back in 2019 when the economic landscape was very different.
Since then, the coronavirus pandemic, the rising costs of materials and energy compounded by the war in Ukraine, inflation, rising interest rates, have all served to drive up costs.
Put simply, £67 million no longer buys as much today as it did in 2019.
Costs for the main part of the work have risen by more than a quarter since then.
There's no more money available from the Government - we've asked - so we've had to look within the existing budget to see what can be done differently to reduce costs elsewhere, to meet the rising costs in the main part of the programme.
You can read more detail about the amended plan in the story on our news page.
Heating your home safely
The Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is advising households about staying warm this winter.
"If you need to heat only a small area of your home, a portable heater is more efficient and cost-effective," they say.
They recommend an electric oil-filled radiator rather than any other type of heater. And they should always be placed at least one metre away from curtains, bedding and upholstery, and switched off and unplugged before you got out or go to bed.
"Candles are not a safe or efficient way to heat your home," they warn.
They also advise that people have their chimney swept before the first fire, and to have it swept at least once a year, and every three months if burning wood.
And only to burn seasoned wood, because moisture in the wood can create tar in the chimney, which is flammable.
"Electric blankets are another great way to keep warm," they say, "but take care of them, check for wear and tear, and replace them after 10 years."
For more safety advice about heating your home, visit Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue's website.
Devon social workers awarded at prestigious ceremony
We were celebrating earlier this week after having three of our social workers receive awards in the prestigious annual Social Worker of the Year Awards.
The awards draw hundreds of entries each year, celebrating the work that social workers do.
Five social workers who work for our adults and children's services were shortlisted for awards, three of which were announced winners.
- Charlotte Elliott received the Gold in the Supporting Children in Education Award
- Lucy Hunt received Gold in the Adults Services Team Leader of the Year Award
- And Tom Woodd received the Silver in the same category as Lucy
Congratulations to them, and to Sarah Asprey and Natasha Round for being shortlisted for awards.