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We face challenges ahead but Exeter still shines in the national spotlight

Published: 17 November 2022

We face challenges ahead but Exeter still shines in the national spotlight Exeter has a very proud record of creating Passivhaus buildings

It’s always great to start with some good news, and again St Sidwell’s Point is continuing to be recognised nationally for the fantastic facility it is.

Our new city centre leisure centre has won two more prestigious awards - the national RICS award for Environmental Impact and best Civic Development at the Exeter Property Awards.

What’s really great about St Sidwell’s Point is the variety of people who are using it. It is great to see different generations all using the facilities, people of all ages, and appreciating it. Many people have commented on how much they like it and how it is bringing people together from across our communities, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Exeter recently hosted the national Passivhaus Conference which brought people from all over the country to see the fantastic work that has taken place in the city to create the UK’s first Passivhaus leisure centre and extra care facility, as well as our ambitious Passivhaus housing programme. It was great to showcase the city’s achievements in this way.

I’m so pleased the Council is extending its support for those who have had to flee from the warzone in Ukraine. Two Ukrainian-speaking community connectors are being funded through Wellbeing Exeter to ensure there is a range of services like skills and training, employment, benefits advice, housing and other support.

The Council will also continue to support the Conversation Café in Paris Street, which has been run by the Devon Ukrainian Association since March. Refugees have been given a warm welcome and have been supported in Exeter, and I am very proud of the way the city has responded.

We continue to consult over the future development of the city with our Draft Exeter Plan. Thousands of people have now gone online to give their view, which is great. The consultation runs until 5 December so there’s still plenty of time to take part.

I am pleased we were recently able to launch Warm Spaces Grants to support organisations helping people through the cost of living crisis. Our website is signposting the support in the community and I want to thank all the organisations and volunteers who are doing so much to help people through these difficult times.

This Thursday the Chancellor will be announcing a lot of financial changes which will affect us all, in the Government’s attempt to try and put things right. Taxes going up and further cuts in spending are anticipated.

Many will know this is the time of the year when the Council is preparing its budget. We must balance our books - we have no provision to carry a deficit forward. This has meant previously we were looking at a £6.7m reduction in our funding over the next four years of the Medium Term Financial Plan, which meant next year we were looking to reduce spending by £2.3m. This plan has been effectively blow out of the water.

We now have an addition £2m to find because of increased energy costs next year – and that doesn’t take into account the extra we’ve had to find for rising energy costs this year.

This will severely impact on our services, which means that we have to look at everything going forward. We are preparing our response to this financial crisis that has been put on us.

Already over the last 10 years we have lost 60p in every one pound from central government funding. Yet we are expected to be the last mile of delivering services, such as support to the homeless, providing housing and other statutory services, supporting communities, asylum seekers and all those residents who need and rely on our support.

We have been making our services and systems more efficient for more than a decade. Efficiencies is a much bandied word, but we are now down to cutting the bone. When I am in a position to do so I will be outlining our plans and what needs to be done going forward.

Finally, it was great to see Exeter Chiefs and Exeter City win over the weekend. It was particularly poignant for Exeter City to be playing Peterborough United, as we marked the passing of my good friend Trevor Atkins, a former City and Peterborough United footballer.

Trevor died suddenly and will be remembered by the professional and amateur football community, of which he was well known. Our condolences and thoughts are with Nikki and the family at this sad time.

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