Exeter Labour Manifesto
Exeter City Council 2019-20
After nine years of Tory austerity, local authorities, and the public sector in general, continue to suffer further cuts, despite the Government’s claim that ‘austerity is over’. Because of the government’s dwindling central grant, Exeter City Council’s revenue budget is to be cut by a further £3.9 million over the next two years. It is expected that £1.5 million will be cut in 2019/20 and a further £2.4 million the following year.
In spite of these Government cuts, Exeter City Council continues to have one of the lowest rates of council tax in the country. For a band D property (2019/20), the proportion of the tax that goes to ECC is £2.97 a week which the Council uses to fund vital services such as:-
- Advice Services (including housing & benefits advice)
- Communities (including community development, facilities and support)
- Economic Development within the city
- Heritage, Culture & Arts (including RAMM, the Corn Exchange and support for the arts)
- Homelessness Support (including outreach and prevention)
- Parks & Open Spaces (including play areas, valley parks and waterways)
- Regulatory Services (including planning, licensing and environmental health)
- Street Cleaning (including graffiti, fly-tipping and dog fouling)
- Tourism (including Visit Exeter and Tourist Information)
- Waste Collection (including household waste, recycling, and trade waste)
The City Council also has a capital budget, funded through money from developments, the sale of assets which are no longer needed, and borrowing. This money can be used to invest in one-off capital projects, such as new buildings and major improvements to public spaces and community facilities but cannot be used to support day-to-day services or general maintenance of facilities or public spaces.
The City Council has already made significant savings and will have to make further savings between now and 2021 so that our Revenue budget from Government will have been reduced by 60% since 2012. This will continue to be a challenge for ECC, when trying to identify funding to invest in our public spaces, community facilities and housing. However, we believe that Exeter City Council should aim to do more, working with partners such as Sport England, local Police and community groups, to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our city:-
- Reshaping our city centre
We will bring forward plans to invest in a City Centre that meets the challenges of changing leisure patterns
- Building great neighbourhoods
We will strive to ensure that every resident has a home that is secure and affordable
- Tackling congestion & accessibility
We will work to make Exeter a city where active and sustainable travel is promoted
- Promoting active & healthy lifestyles
We will strive to make Exeter a city which encourages active and healthy lifestyles
Reshaping our City Centre
Traditional high street retail faces enormous challenges so we need to rethink the city centre to ensure it has a vibrant and viable future. This requires new investment in order to draw people into the centre of Exeter. To do this the City Council is planning a significant £300 million extension of the Bus Station/Leisure Centre site, which will include much-needed housing, office space, two new hotels and, at the centre of this new complex, a new multi-purpose performance venue next to the St Sidwells Point Leisure Centre.
The vision for the site, which will involve the redevelopment of the lower half of Sidwell Street, includes:-
- The potential for a multi-purpose performance venue with capacity for 1500 seated or up to 2500 standing
- 250 housing units on the present Civic Centre site
- A 10 storey four-star hotel and a budget hotel
- A new Office Quarter
- Potential to house the relocated Civic Centre
- A mix of housing and retail units fronting Sidwell Street
Building great neighbourhoods
Labour-led Exeter City Council has always sought to work as effectively as possible within the constraints set by this Conservative Government to provide quality housing for our residents. We have been one of the few councils in England to continue to build council housing despite severe restrictions imposed by this Conservative government. Since the cap for borrowing for council house building was finally lifted in October, after extensive campaigning by the Labour Party, we are now embarking on an ambitious and timely house building programme for social and affordable renting. We are proud to have been named as the council in the strongest position, outside of London, to be able to do this with an ambitious bid of £103 million. This will greatly improve our housing stock for Exeter people.
Under Labour, since 2013, 2437 homes have been completed, of which 477 are affordable. Exeter City Council has also secured social and affordable homes from developers through our planning policy, which is one of the strictest in the country.
Social rented housing is let at the lowest rents by councils and housing associations to those who are most in need. Typical weekly rent for a 2-bedroom City Council flat is currently £74.35, which is 10% less than the equivalent housing association home and 55% less than the equivalent private rented home.
Affordable rented housing is more expensive than social rented housing but less expensive than private rented. The Tory-Lib Dem Coalition defined ‘affordable rent’ as 80% of local market rates and restricted funding for new social-rented homes. As a result, the majority of local authorities no longer require developers to build any social-rented homes and only require them to build ‘affordable’ homes.
However, thanks to Labour, Exeter City Council was singled out for praise by the Homes and Communities Agency for protecting the delivery of new social housing. We require 35% of all developments over 10 houses to be social-rented and shared ownership.
Exeter Labour Group remains committed to providing social and affordable housing and continues to build more council homes. Construction has been completed on Chester Long Court in Whipton which consists of high-quality, low energy council apartments for the over 60s. ECC has also established an in-house development company, which will allow the council to take on development projects to build more housing and to retain profits which were once taken by private developers.
However, we face some big challenges. In 2016, the Tory Government imposed a council rent cut of 1% per year for four years. This saves City Council tenants less than 75p per week but slashed £7.9 million from our budget for building new council houses. Finding funding to build more homes will, therefore, be one of our main priorities.
Tackling congestion & accessibility
Traffic congestion is one of the biggest problems facing Exeter today with 40% of car journeys within city boundaries being less than 0.5 km. A growing population with more people living in, visiting and working in the city mean that this will only become a bigger challenge and a potential inhibitor to future economic growth. Any further development of land for housing and employment will potentially have a negative impact on our road network. Devon County Council, as the Transport Authority, is responsible for roads, traffic management and road safety. They have worked with us to manage the impact of traffic on the highway network and are implementing a range of congestion management solutions. Increasingly, financial constraints have restricted what can be done to mitigate the impact of continuing economic growth.
As Exeter continues to grow and we build the housing numbers required to support this growth it is critical that we continue to work closely with Devon County Council and our neighbouring authorities via the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, (GESP) to ensure that we can meet our vision of a connected city that is a great place to live. To help address this issue we have created a partnership with key city stakeholders to form Exeter City Futures (ECF), an independent Community Interest Company with a mission to make Exeter congestion free and energy independent by 2025.
ECF is building a strong network of partner organisations who are committed to this mission, setting out specific goals to reduce private car use, to increase shared and active transport and improve air quality.
Census data shows that in 2011 there were 37,000 people commuting to work in the city each day, leading to an increase of 28.5% in Exeter’s working-day population.
In 2017, Exeter was named as the fastest growing city in the UK (Centre for Cities). That same year it was named the slowest moving city in the UK with an average speed of just 4.6 mph during peak hours (The INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard)
Exeter drivers spend an average of 24.9 hours a year sitting in traffic congestion at rush hour (INRIX). Residents in the Greater Exeter area spend around £500 million every year on fuel for their cars. It is expected that 40,000 new residents will be living in the Greater Exeter by 2026 which could add 14,000 car journeys to the roads
Exeter City Council receives significant income from its car parks and congestion reduction schemes will have to address any reduction in revenue. We will continue to work with Devon County Council, neighbouring councils and Exeter City Futures to:-
- Create a strong collaborative environment that brings together councils, the private sector and communities to solve jointly the transport and accessibility challenges facing our city.
- Promote and support the use of open data, data analytics and engagement approaches to identify clear challenges to be solved through collaboration, co-creation and social enterprise
- Access innovative solutions to those challenges that meet the needs of people.
However, Exeter is already doing well compared to many other cities:*
- The majority of Exeter residents (55%) do not drive to work
- Exeter has the 4th highest proportion of residents who walk to work (22%)
- Exeter has one of the highest proportions of residents who use public transport
- Exeter has good rates of cycling compared to similar cities, although still significantly less than Cambridge, Oxford and York.
- Contrary to perception, between 2005 and 2015 traffic levels were flat or fell on nearly all routes
- Air quality has improved significantly across the city, probably due to cleaner vehicles
(*Data from Devon County Council)
Promoting active & healthy lifestyles
A quarter of the adult population of the U.K. (11.5 million people) is inactive, meaning they do less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise each week. In Exeter, some people are already more physically active than the national average and two years ago Exeter became the most active city in the South West. However, there are certain groups, such as those on low incomes or the unemployed and people living with disabilities who struggle to be physically active in their everyday lives.
Whilst Exeter is overall a healthy place to live, some areas in the city have poorer health outcomes than others and whilst prosperity overall in the city has grown in recent years the health inequalities gap between the most and least well-off areas has increased. Yet we know that active and healthy lifestyles bring wider benefits to individuals and communities and can help tackle wider problems. In particular, more people leading an active and healthy life could reduce health inequality, tackle congestion, improve community connections and reduce social isolation.
Our challenge is that the most recent Active Lives survey data shows 17% of people (18,900) in Exeter are inactive, taking part in less than 30 minutes a week of physical activity. In total, including children and young people, we estimate that over 30,000 residents are doing less than the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
There is a widening inequality gap for Exeter communities in terms of health, employment and access to services. Exeter has populations that face social and financial exclusion, particularly in the six wards which are in the top 20% most deprived in the country.
Some groups are at a significant disadvantage. The life expectancy at birth for residents in Topsham is over 86 years. This is more than 12 years greater than for those living in Sidwell Street where life expectancy is just 74.5 years. This is close to the maximum life expectancy inequality (16.7 years) between most and least deprived areas in England.
In December 2017, Sport England confirmed Exeter and the East Devon new town of Cranbrook as one of twelve places selected to work on a ground-breaking new approach to tackle inactivity. Through its ‘Towards an Active Nation’ strategy, Sport England aims to build healthier, happier communities and to discover a blueprint for tackling inactivity.
Around £100million of National Lottery funding will be invested in the twelve pilot areas over four years to make it easier for people in these communities to access sport and physical activity. Competing with over 100 other local authorities in the country, the Exeter and Cranbrook bid was selected as one of the national pilots due to our strong track record of partnership working in the city and the success of programmes such as Active Exeter and Wellbeing Exeter. The commitment of city leaders was also important in making Exeter and Cranbrook pioneering places that lead active lifestyles.
Over the next three years, we will work with Sport England and local delivery partners to focus resources on finding out how to get everyone more active in everyday life with a focus on:-
- people at the highest risk of physical inactivity and families on low incomes.
- people living within a 10-mile radius of Exeter who regularly commute to the city and those who use their car to drive to work, local facilities, the school drop-off or leisure activities
Modernising our leisure facilities and improving playing fields, parks and open spaces is our essential priority.
Exeter is already the most active local authority in England and by 2021 we aim to have built on that achievement with:-
- Year-on-year increases in physical activity levels and fewer inactive people. further
- An increase in the health span of citizens with a reduction in the years spent in frail condition
- Indications of future narrowing health inequality with more previously inactive people now leading active lifestyles.
- A new city centre swimming pool & leisure centre with improving facilities at Riverside, Wonford & Exeter Arena.
- A reduction in congestion through more people walking and cycling. Cycling to work doubled (from 6% to 12%), with 50% of people walking or cycling to work.
- Improved inclusivity and sense of community connectivity and belonging.
- Data and integrated analytics to understand how to get more people more active in everyday life.
- 10,000 Residents changing from inactive to a regular active lifestyle.
- 6,000 People at highest risk of inactivity becoming active.
- 4,200 More people choosing active travel for work.
We will continue our commitment to building new homes.
We will continue to deliver our Homelessness Strategy to tackle rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness.
We will prevent student development on council-owned land and we will bring forward a new student accommodation planning policy.
We will continue, through our representatives on the Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders committee, to seek improvements to pedestrian access at priority locations across the city and the adoption of a comprehensive cycle network plan for Exeter.
We will continue to support the roll-out of the electric bike network through the Planning System and all other available means.
We will invite local bus companies and other interested groups to work with us to design the best possible commercially viable network of bus routes that meets the needs of Exeter’s residents and commuters, using all available travel data.
We will continue to campaign for the Government to repeal Section 22 of the Bus Services Act 2017, which prohibits councils from setting up new bus companies.
We will continue to commit to part-funding and supporting the delivery of the new Marsh Barton train station.
We will continue to lobby for improvements to local, regional and intercity rail services such as the reintroduction of the Exeter to Okehampton line and a new line to Plymouth and Cornwall, and continue our support for the campaign to improve the Dawlish line.
We will progress and complete work on the new bus station.
We will continue to review Exeter City Council’s own Green Travel Plan and aim to become an exemplar in sustainable travel by 2020.
We will complete and deliver the new Leisure Centre and produce a new investment plan (Built Facilities Strategy) to improve our other leisure centres, with a focus on the areas of highest need as part of our strategy to reduce health inequalities.
We will offer free swimming in council leisure facilities to all children (under-7).
We will increase investment in our play areas (playing fields, pitches, lay areas, parks and open spaces) and work with children, young people (Youth Groups) and families to decide how this is done.
We will use Sport England funding to enable more people to live active lives in Exeter and reduce health inequalities by supporting those least likely to take part in physical activity.
We will continue to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency and recycling projects, to build on our success in reducing the City Council’s carbon footprint by a third since 2012. We will continue our commitment to implementing the Air Quality Action Plan (2018).
We will continue to work with Exeter City Futures and others to stimulate and support innovative solutions to Exeter’s biggest challenges, with a mission to make Exeter congestion free and energy independent by 2025.
We will continue to support the Exeter Youth Strategy for a Young-People Friendly City, where young people’s views are heard and responded to.
We will continue to invest in community development and community-led projects through a City-Wide fund.
We will continue to invest in arts and culture and recognise the benefits that they bring to our communities, economy, education and wellbeing.
We will continue to support and expand the City Council’s apprenticeship programme introduced by Labour.
We will continue to increase minimum staff pay in line with the Real Living Wage and will continue to lobby the Government for a fully-funded pay rise for local government employees.