NOW that the council tax bills have arrived there is no need for speculation but rather to wait and see how the cuts impact on services.

At a recent meeting of Devon County Council’s Children's Scrutiny Committee we looked at the huge SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) overspend.

It is predicted that by April 2025 this figure will be about £207 million!

The County Council has been in consultation with the Department for Education and negotiated a Safety Valve agreement.

This will not be a quick fix but will take six or seven years to bring down the overspend to zero.

It is a three-pronged attack on the problem with £98 million coming from central government over the next six years, money from Devon County Council taken from reserves and sales of assets and savings from the overall operation of children's care.

I must admit that several people on the committee were rather sceptical about this final part of the solution.

Still on the theme of children I was delighted to attend a young carers webinar. I was staggered to learn that there are about one million children (under 17 years old) who have a variety of caring duties.

We were treated to a presentation by six young carers to describe their challenges, the impact of caring on their own lives and possible solutions.

There was a young carers action day earlier in the month.

I would like people to look at the website www.carers/youngcarerscovenant, which you can sign. I'm going to press for this at district and county level.

We are repeatedly told as councillors that we are corporate parents. I am hoping to turn this into something more concrete rather than just a few words.

Stagecoach and the County Council have been in negotiations with central government for funding to help with zero carbon objectives. I'm pleased to say that Stagecoach has received £5.3 million which will enable it to introduce electric buses in North Devon, Torridge and Exeter.

Last week I attended a briefing from the two senior highways officers.

The first thing they admitted is that they are overwhelmed by the number of defects and condition of our major roads.

In the previous financial year they had fixed 40,000 safety defects (mostly potholes of course) but already this financial year, the figure had jumped to 53,000.

They have 20 gangs out repairing the safety defects who sometimes work at weekends in order to make an impact on the figures.

The one thing they reiterated is that everybody from the senior highways officers down to any member of the public has the same power to report a safety defect.

The computer system does not differentiate between highways officers, councillors and members of the public. There is also a section on the website for reporting gullies. You can check on each individual gully to see when it was last emptied.

Guidelines are that those on the major roads are looked at monthly, other busy roads such as the A377 once a year, country roads again once a year and town roads once every three years.

It is always helpful to go online to get an exact number of the gully so that the officers can easily go to the correct location.

I hope you all had a Happy Easter and did not have too many April fool tricks played on you!

Cllr Frank Letch MBE