Funding gap could hit East Devon’s street cleaning

Street cleaning services in East Devon could be hit as the council attempts to balance its budget for the forthcoming financial year.   

Joe Ives, Local Democracy Reporter 

Officers at Streetscene, which cleans and maintains public spaces in East Devon including parks, public gardens and council-owned toilets, say an additional £285,000 is needed to meet the demand for its services. 

But in a draft budget brought forward to the council’s cabinet it was suggested that the costs could be simply unaffordable. 

The extra money for Streetscene would be spent on 11 more employees. Officers at Streetscene say that demand has ‘increased greatly’ over the past few years ‘with a notable uplift in visitors and tourism, and an exponential rise in housing developments across the district such as Cranbrook, meaning more residents and use of our towns, parks, beaches, and public spaces’. 

The officers say that there has been no additional investment in staffing for a decade because of Government austerity measures, adding ‘at the same time demand, population and strain on our services has increased’. 

Last year demand for seafront cleaning alone rose by 29 per cent. 

Councillor Geoff Jung (Independent East Devon Alliance, Democratic Alliance Group, Woodbury and Lympstone), portfolio holder for coast, country and environment, said: “We are only going to be able to supply the minimum service that people expect. If we could have had some more funds we could have looked at improving Streetscene and providing an improved service to our residents and it’s a great shame that all we’re doing at the moment is holding our head above the waterline.” 

Councillor Steve Gazzard (Liberal Democrats, Democratic Alliance Group, Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh) wanted people to be made aware if Streetscene services are on course to deteriorate. He said: “We really must let the residents know because it’s going to be the councillors who are elected who are going to take it in the neck if things get worse.” 

East Devon’s cabinet is expected to discuss the financial issues facing Streetscene in greater depth.  

The 2022/3 financial year begins in April, and the budget will be finalised by the council over the coming months. It is already expected that car parking fees at 19 ‘prime’ locations will rise from £1 to £1.50 and that residents will have to pay an additional £5 a year for East Devon’s element of council tax for a band D property.