Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis on this year's budget and a low council tax proposal to support adult social care services

Being at the helm of a one billion pound organisation is a huge responsibility – especially when it’s your money as a Derbyshire council tax payer that we’re spending.

That’s why we work extremely hard all year round to ensure we spend your money wisely, where it’s needed most, funding high quality, vital services which people rely on.

Balancing the books is not easy as demand for our services grow – in particular for older and vulnerable people and children. Our budgets are under huge pressure and the money we have must go further every year.

As we come to set our budget for this year we’ve looked closely at the priorities you’ve highlighted in our recent residents’ survey, and we’ll do our best to deliver.

Our top priority is keeping council tax as low as possible so that we don’t add pressure to already stretched household budgets.

That’s why this year we’re proposing the lowest council tax rise for five years.

This two per cent levy is known as the adult social care precept – and the full amount raised from this – about £6.7million – will go directly to services for older and vulnerable Derbyshire residents.

There will not be any additional rise for other services – making this one of the lowest council tax rises in the country.

We’d love there to be no increase at all – but we believe this is the right thing to do as it will help to fund and protect these essential services.

To not take this levy may disadvantage us when it comes to future Government funding for adult care.

If agreed, the increase will mean an extra 40 pence per week for the average band B household.

We’re in a better position than we’d expected for the year ahead thanks to extra social care and special educational needs funding from Government.

But we must still save almost £19million in 2020-21 and over the next five years the savings target is nearly £65million.

It’s not an easy task, and we’ll be continuing with our call on Government to ensure Derbyshire gets its fair share of funding compared to other parts of the country.

There’s a lot to be positive about though, and the budget we’re considering is strong and will stand us in good stead for the years ahead.

We’ll continue to work hard to deliver best value for money for all our residents and aim to work even more closely with our district and borough colleagues and our communities.

This has to be a joint effort – and if we all work together we can continue to protect the services people rely on, look after our most vulnerable and ensure our communities continue to thrive.

Working together to tackle key issues

There’s no doubt our climate is changing and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent.

This isn’t something only experienced in Derbyshire, or indeed the UK. But in recent months our county has found itself at the sharp end, leaving myself and others to wonder what next, where and when?

Clearly action is needed on an unprecedented scale. By 2032, we intend to be carbon neutral in terms of our property, street-lighting and fleet. But there‘s a far bigger challenge facing us. The council’s own carbon footprint makes up just one per cent of emissions from Derbyshire as a whole. And this is where we intend to grab hold of the nettle and strive to make a real difference.

By teaming up with our district and borough council colleagues and Derby City Council, we intend to put politics aside and become leaders in the field when it comes to working with communities and businesses to support them to bring about change.

Climate change is an issue which faces us all and I’m pleased to have met with Leaders from other councils in Derby and Derbyshire on Friday. Not only do we agree this is an issue we can and should all be working together to address, but we agree there are other issues we could tackle by sharing expertise, experience and working more closely – to improve the lives of Derbyshire residents and potentially save money too.

This is the dawn of a new era for local government in Derbyshire. I’ve said before we need to keep an open mind as to what the future of local government may look like to deliver more cost-efficient services for residents.

We hope to show central Government a new way of working to be held up as an example for other councils to follow and a new model for attracting more government funding into the county without the need for overly bureaucratic reforms.

Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis reflects on an eventful 2019 and looks forward to the year ahead.

We’re nearly at the end of 2019 and I think it’s fair to say the last 12 months have been incredibly busy.

We were lucky to have a relatively mild winter compared to the Beast from the East the previous winter, but our roads took a battering in November after a month’s rain fell in two days. The subsequent floods left a trail of destruction, including potholes, cracked and damaged roads, landslips, silted bridges, blocked drains and gulleys and broken footbridges.

Our teams have been working hard on unexpected, urgent repairs which have had to take priority, but we haven’t taken our eye off the ball when it comes to potholes, and have fixed 53,000 this year alone.

The November floods affected dozens of homes and businesses and we made £100,000 available to help, and there was support from Central Government, backed by a visit from the Prime Minister.

The floods may have been déjà vu for some residents and certainly for our emergency planning team, as they came three months after the dramatic situation at Whaley Bridge. The eyes of the world were fixed on the High Peak town and the Toddbrook Reservoir dam above it, as it was feared the dam would fail due to damage caused by unprecedented heavy rainfall in August.

An emergency evacuation saw residents unable to return to their homes and businesses being forced to close for up to a week. The Prime Minister came to offer support – little did he know he’d be visiting again just three months later – and we worked tirelessly with our partners including the police, fire and rescue, the Army, district council and others to support those affected.

The community spirit and resilience of all involved in saving Whaley Bridge was second to none, and I’ve never been prouder of Derbyshire and its residents, or felt more privileged to be the leader of the county council.

While maybe not as dramatic, the months surrounding these events have certainly been productive and have seen us driving forward our Enterprising Council programme, reviewing services and ensuring we are providing the best value for money to all our residents.

We set a fair and balanced budget in February but there’s no doubt tough challenges still face the council, and the savings target for the next five years remains at £63m.

We’ll be setting the budget for 2020-21 shortly, and I’m aiming to keep council tax as low as possible. I’ll be in a better position to talk about this in January.

In other work, our community-managed library programme moves on apace with nine groups working towards taking over a library. We’ll be going back to communities during 2020 to help build confidence and encourage other groups to step forward.

The new year will see us renewing our appeal to families to come forward to share their lives with older people and adults with disabilities and mental ill health as part of our Shared Lives initiative, and we’ll be continuing to appeal for foster carers, with a focus on keeping siblings together.

childhood, leisure and family concept – happy little kids having fun in bed at home

Next year I’m especially looking forward to the launch of the Festival of Derbyshire in early spring, which will celebrate all things Derbyshire and truly show off what our wonderful county has to offer.

2020 will also see a major focus on our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, and working with others to follow suit.

Actions speak louder than words and our agreed Carbon Reduction Plan details how we aim to become carbon neutral by 2032 by reducing emissions from our own buildings, street lights and vehicles. This will run alongside the Environment and Climate Change Framework which sets out how we will work with other Derbyshire councils to tackle global warming.

We’ll be looking to communities to work with us on this and we’re hoping to launch an environmental grant scheme to support local groups with carbon reduction and climate change related projects. What this space.

This would be similar to our popular Action Grants programme. We’ve already awarded £632,000 to 712 projects across the county and there’s two more rounds before the scheme ends in May.

That’s just a taste of 2019 and we’re already gearing up for 2020.

While some of you are looking forward to a well-earned break, I’d like to thank our staff and all Derbyshire residents who will be working through the festivities, ensuring the rest of us are safe and sound.

Have a very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2020.

Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis talks about the clear-up operation in full swing across the county following the floods earlier this month.

The flooding clear-up operation continues across Derbyshire and our road workers and contractors are out across the county repairing the damage caused by a month’s worth of rain falling in two days.

While the water has subsided, it’s left a trail of destruction behind it, including potholes, cracked and damaged roads, landslips, silted bridges, blocked drains and gullies and broken footbridges.

We know around 200 properties have been affected and 116 businesses, and this must be devastating for everyone involved.

We’ve got as many of our road workers and contractors out as possible helping to clear up the damage but it’s a big task and will take time.

While this vital repair work is carried out, we’re asking our residents to bear with us as other routine roadworks may have to wait for a while.

Some of the damage caused will take longer to put right than others but be assured we’re doing all we can to put things right.

Flooding can have a devastating financial cost and, if residents or their businesses have been hit in this way I hope they are aware of the financial help they may be entitled to.

We’ve made £100,000 available to set up the Derbyshire Floods Hardship Fund for Residents and the Derbyshire Floods Business Hardship Fund, and homeowners and businesses affected can still apply.

Local charity Foundation Derbyshire has also set up a Derbyshire Flood Relief Appeal and, subject to funds, is currently providing grants of £200 to directly affected households.

People who would like to support residents and businesses can also make a donation to the same appeal at www.foundationderbyshire.org

People who cannot use their business premises or whose home is no longer habitable due to flooding may also be entitled to a Council Tax reduction or business rates relief from the Government. They can find out more at www.gov.uk/flood

There’s a wealth of advice and help on our dedicated flooding webpage and I’m encouraging anyone who’s been affected to visit it if they haven’t done so already at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/floodinginderbyshire

I know it’s been a distressing time for many of our residents and I hope, if you’ve been affected, you’ll take advantage of all the help and support that’s available.

Support continues for communities affected by floods

Bakewell Road, Matlock, 8 November 2019

As Derbyshire continues to experience heavy rainfall, we’re continuing our efforts to help communities recover from flooding and prepare for further disruption.

Staff have been working around the clock alongside the police and other agencies in tough conditions to support those affected after almost a month’s worth of rain fell across Derbyshire in just two days last week.

The effects of prolonged and heavy downpours were felt in communities across the county, including along the Derwent valley where the river burst its banks causing heavy flooding and the tragic and most saddening death of former High Sheriff of Derbyshire Annie Hall who was caught in flood water. Our thoughts and condolences are with Annie’s family at this most difficult of times.

A number of road closures are still in place across the county due to flooding and more could be put in place if current conditions persist.

We’re keeping our website updated with the latest information so please check online before you travel. And if you do need to travel, please don’t ignore road closure signs or drive into flood water.

We understand the impact that properties flooding can have on residents and small businesses, particularly in the run up to Christmas, which is why we’ve made £100,000 available to help those affected get back on track.

Anyone who was evacuated or whose home flooded will be eligible to apply for a one-off payment of £104 through the Derbyshire Floods Hardship Fund for Residents by calling the county council’s contact centre Call Derbyshire on 01629 533190.

And businesses with up to 50 employees can apply for an emergency payment of up to £300 through our Derbyshire Floods Business Hardship Fund. You can find the application form on our website.

We want to do all we can to help affected communities get through this difficult time and we’ll take stock after the waters have receded to see what additional help we can give businesses that may be necessary to ensure the local economy can recover quickly.

There is no doubt our climate is changing and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent.

It’s a global issue but recent events show Derbyshire is feeling the effects. Just a few months ago, Whaley Bridge was evacuated when Toddbrook Dam threatened to give way following heavy rain.

Clearly action is needed and we’re taking a stand with two significant carbon reduction policy documents to be considered at a meeting of Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet on 21 November.

One details how the council will reduce emissions from its own buildings and activities, working towards a target for the council to have net zero carbon emissions by 2032. And the second document sets out how the council will working with Derbyshire local authorities to deliver on the 2015 Paris Agreement, to which the UK is a signatory.

But our work doesn’t end here. As an Enterprising Council, we recognise the importance of changing as the world changes. Climate change is an ongoing issue which needs our ongoing attention and we’re planning to move further and faster than any local authority in the UK to achieve a sensible, credible and measured plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Your Council Your Voice

We’ve just launched a major survey – Your Council Your Voice – and we’re asking Derbyshire residents to give us their views on a wide-range of issues which affect us all every day.

It’s a new-look survey as this year we’ve combined our annual budget consultation with questions about a range of council services.

We want to know how often you use them, how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with them, and what you think about Derbyshire as a place to live. What do you think about your local area, are you proud of our county, do you think it’s safe and do people get on and work well together for the good of your community?

You’ll still be able to give us your views on council spending, how we prioritise our services and how we use our budget, and importantly, we’re asking how you think we could save money or raise additional revenue. We’re hoping you’ll take this opportunity to give us your ideas.

Last year nearly 7,000 of you took part in our budget consultation and gave us your views which was brilliant.

And because we’re covering a wider remit this year we’re expecting even more of you to have your say.

It’s really important to us that we know if you think we’re getting it right, so please take the time to fill in the questionnaire.

We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Tackling climate change together

Climate change is an issue at the top of all our agendas, which is why I was delighted to accept an invitation to take an active part in a Climate Change Summit organised by the Peak District National Park Authority.

Working Towards a Zero Carbon Peak District National Park was the theme for the day – with local leaders and industry experts coming together under one roof to discuss the challenges and put forward their ideas and practical solutions.

I was very interested to hear what other organisations are doing to work towards reducing emissions and achieving net zero carbon by 2050 or before, and what is very clear is that this must be a mutual effort with agencies working closely together.

Partnership working to achieve common goals is something the county council is very much on board with, and I was pleased to be able to address the summit and speak about what the county council is already doing to cut its carbon emissions.

I took the opportunity to announce Derbyshire County Council’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan which sets out our plans to achieve net zero by 2032, and our intention to adopt the Environment and Climate Change Framework – a commitment to work with Districts and Boroughs to achieve net zero by 2050 for the whole of Derbyshire.

I was able to outline our future plans and explain how we aim to meet those important targets, with a realistic, sensible, credible and measured programme of change, which I believe puts Derbyshire County Council ahead of the curve compared to other local authorities.

I emphasise the word `realistic’, because a huge effort and major behaviour change is required from all parties – that’s agencies, businesses and households.

Energy use must be cut by nearly half, the amount of energy being produced from renewable sources needs to quadruple and transport and heat will need to be electrified – but it’s the timescale that is all important.

The council’s plans are achievable over the timescale we have set out, but there is much work to be done when it comes to the county as a whole achieving net zero by 2050.

While I understand there is a desire by some to work faster and bring the date forward, to do so would require change at a speed which I believe is unachievable and not within the means of most organisations, businesses or households.

A good example is to look at a typical household which would have to make immediate changes for us all to achieve carbon zero by 2025. A new heating system would need to be installed, cars would have to be electric or given up in favour of more sustainable transport, cookers and lights would need replacing in favour of more energy efficient appliances and there would be a need to change to a largely vegetarian diet.

Our plans were first clearly laid out in our Derbyshire Climate and Carbon Reduction Manifesto which we launched in May, containing 14 pledges including how we will reduce the council’s own greenhouse gas emissions.

The manifesto also covers our aim to have electric vehicles forming part of our fleet by next January, our energy and waste strategies and the work we’re doing with local businesses. It even covers the work we’re doing with our counterparts in China around coalfield remediation and renovation.

Back to the Climate Change summit, where it’s important to note we’re already working closely with the Peak District National Park on climate change programmes. In particular a green transport initiative encouraging low emission travel and sustainable public transport, and the planned installation of several electric charging points.

The summit itself provided an opportunity for useful group discussions which helped to draw out actions which will deliver the greatest emission reductions across the National Park, and I certainly took away some ideas that we could consider for the county council and the county as a whole.

Following events like the Climate Change summit, it’s vital that we all move from words to action – and we will certainly be doing this over the coming months and years.