As mayor, I am pleased to report that your Councillors and officers have again continued to work hard and together for the benefit of the Town’s residents and to do what is best for Devizes.
The council team has again this year under the excellent leadership of our Town Clerk Mr Simon Fisher achieved the highest quality grade, gold, as awarded under the Local council award scheme.
This council continues to carefully manage its finances under the scrutiny of the cross-party financial working party and again this year, despite exceptional inflationary financial pressures achieved a well below inflation precept increase.
The council is very aware that it spends your money.
The council continues to embrace its new responsibilities, following the asset and service transfer from Wiltshire Council.
We have started a programme of assessing for use, reopening and refurbishing with new equipment our many children’s playgrounds. We now clean our own streets and have purchased a mechanical sweeper to provide a regular programme of street cleaning. We have commissioned a report on how we can improve the energy efficiency of the Shambles, which we will implement in partnership with the traders and the public. We will again provide seating and expand the community area in the marketplace this summer. We have provided a successful and popular programme of social events in the marketplace. We have expanded and grown our outdoor markets which remain very successful under our new Market Manager.
We continue to care for and maintain our historic buildings, such as this beautiful town hall, our wonderful Hillworth Park, its café, the greens, our award-winning conveniences and financially contribute to the leisure centre and manage a portfolio of commercial buildings.
The Council has continued to support financially and through the free use of our buildings and facilities many of the town’s Arts organisations such as DOCA, Devizes Eisteddfod, Devizes Arts Festival, Fulltone and the Food and Drink Festival. Organisations that have provided the town with another year of vibrant and exciting cultural events.
We have recognised the problems the town is facing with some youths, a COVID legacy of a broken education and led a coalition of police and affected stakeholders towards mitigation’s and will be employing a youth engagement organisation to address this issue as part of the Council’s youth engagement project.
The council is very aware of the pressures the cost-of-living crisis has had on many of its residents and of the wellness problems some of them face and has supported financially or through the free use of its facilities several organisations addressing these issues including the Devizes citizen’s advice centre and the Public Living room.
In July with the support of Wiltshire Council and the Lord lieutenant, Devizes was honoured as the only Wiltshire community to play host to the Queen’s Baton relay for the commonwealth games.
The council is fortunate to employ a skilled team of gardeners that beautify our town and spaces with magnificent award-winning floral displays that add to its tourist appeal.
The council led the town’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and regretfully led the residents of Devizes in their mourning for the passing of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2. Including a well-attended and moving silence in the marketplace. The council has also put in place celebratory events for the King’s coronation.
The council is the main financial supporter of the town’s CCTV system that provides security for residents and retailers. We have also supported the Devizes Gateway station project and the redevelopment of the Assizes Courts.
Devizes Town Council does not approve housing and property developments in the town. Your council can only comment to the planning officers of Wiltshire council, but we do argue strongly for the right development in the right place such as along Marshall Road, the old hospital site and Wadworth brewery yard.
The council has a zero-carbon ambition and took further steps towards greater sustainability and environmental improvement with its support of the community fridge, leasing of electric vehicles and instigating its own Greening Project where we have planted over 100 mature trees in the town and funded numerous resident-led planting projects of mini wildflower meadows. We have also commissioned a town’s biodiversity plan to steer future projects.
The council has continued to pull together its new neighbourhood plan and is preparing a 5-year strategic plan with many exciting new projects.
The council knows it must engage closely with its residents to understand their views, so the council now employs a Communication Manager, has a lively social media output, including perhaps unfortunately, regular digital updates on the role of the mayor and has purchased engagement software to provide residents with a platform for their views. It has also actively supported the exciting fibre roll out in the town that will revolutionise digital communications.
Your council is very busy and does much more than I have reported here, but I have probably said enough.
However, as Mayor, I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the hundreds of volunteer organisations that make Devizes a better place for its residents. Our churches, our local charities our support and environmental groups, our sporting and activity clubs and community groups – Thank you all for your incredible work that makes such a difference to our town and to so many of our residents.
I would also like to thank our Town Clerk Mr Simon Fisher for his wise guidance to the council, and for the incredible ethic of public service shown by all the council’s employees.
And finally, to thank all my fellow Councillors who voluntarily work on the council and for the benefit of the residents of Devizes.
Mayor Peter Corbett