My top priority going forward is our ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030 Exeter City Council Leader - Phil Bialyk
Exeter City Council Leader - Phil Bialyk

This is my first budget statement as Leader of Labour administration of Exeter City Council.

You’ll remember that my predecessor left his ten years of leadership with a warning that central government was in denial around the dangerous state of the local finances. He had to find £2.2million of cuts and additional income. I’m sorry to report that nothing has changed in the attitude of those making decisions in London.

Our medium term financial plan shows that, after 10 years of austerity, we may have to find savings of nearly a third of our net budget. This is the direct consequence of the Government terminating the New Homes Bonus and resetting the business rate, wiping out the growth we earned from business rates.

Yet, time and again, in the face of whatever national challenges are thrown at us, this Labour run administration delivers for this city. As Leader of the Council I believe that we have a climate emergency and delivering a Carbon neutral Exeter by 2030 is the most important thing for this city.

It matters to me personally and it matters to this administration and to this city.

How we can achieve this, as a small district council, will be the challenge for all of us. As residents of Exeter we all know what is important. There is an extraordinary amount of good work going on. I wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played a part. It is, our job as councillors to safeguard everything that is important to people today, whilst setting up a vision for Exeter, Our Exeter, that our children will be proud of.

We don’t often boast, because we aren’t complacent and know that we can always do more, and our residents deserve the best.

In fact, we often say that Exeter is a city that hides its light under a bushel, and then hides the bushel.

What the Council has approved is a balanced budget, to protect and maintain the services which the citizens of Exeter need the most, and pioneer transformational programmes designed to address active lifestyles, clean growth, active travel, innovation, housing supply and a carbon neutral city.

Exeter is a fantastic place and I am proud of what the city has achieved and the role that everyone has played in our success.

It is the third fastest growing city in the UK, with the third lowest unemployment rate.

The City Council has a good track record of working in partnership with Devon County Council, neighbouring districts and the private and voluntary sectors. Together we can successfully address the structural challenges we face, such as carbon reduction, inactive lifestyles, traffic congestion, housing and urban anti-social behaviour.

My top priority going forward is our ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030.

This needs to be more than just empty words, and this is why I am pleased we are developing a roadmap which is being led by our partners Exeter City Futures. This includes a number of key agencies within the city all working with the public and private sector to bring this about. We will need to be bold as we bring our plans forward, and there will be some tough decisions for us all to make, but the council will be leading these decisions.

We intend to build all our properties to Passivhaus standard, and we are embarking on a very ambitious retrofit scheme following a pilot of six council properties in Wonford.

We are also protecting green open spaces and doing everything we can to increase biodiversity. I am committed to delivering a net biodiversity gain from all developments, and to assist this goal we have delivered a partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT).

In addition to purchasing additional land for inclusion in the valley parks, we have transferred 346 acres of valley park to the DWT to increase biodiversity, and we are examining how Northbrook Approach Golf Course can provide a strategic link connecting the valley parks with the river. I do hope everyone will support our budget going forward and share in our aim of continuing the success of the city, for everyone in Exeter.

You can read the Full Budget Statement for the background to the complex and difficult decisions required to deliver a balanced budget against a background of conflicting pressures on reducing funds.

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