The Conservative leader of West Devon Borough Council is asking voters to back his party on May 4 – and give them a mandate to lead the council for another four years.
Neil Jory is standing again as councillor for Milton Ford ward, where he lives. He has no one standing against him, so will be automatically re-elected, but is campaigning for other members of the Conservative group in other wards.
The Conservatives are defending a majority of 17 on the 31-seat council, with the West Devon Alliance, made up of 10 Independents and two Greens, being the second largest group, and two other Independents being non affiliated.
Cllr Jory said: ‘We have 16 of the existing [Conservative] councillors standing and we have got some really good councillors in the new cohort.
‘My feeling is that we have done a decent job for the area over the past four years, we have focused on local issues and we really want to continue that work.’
He said he would also like to continue as leader, if his party get a majority on May 4 — and pledges action on issues from affordable housing to investing in local services and getting solar panels installed on West Devon’s two leisure centres.High points over the last four years have been dealing with a response to Covid, with staff working bank holidays and weekends to get essential payments out to West Devon small businessses speedily.
Another highlight was leading the bid to secure the multi-million government funding for a second railway station for Okehampton as well as securing £1million from the Government in ‘shared prosperity funding. Low points incude the collapse of West Devon Borough Council’s ambitious plans for the first council housing in a generation at Lamerton and Brentor, about which Cllr Jory said he was ‘really disappointed’.
Cllr Jory said he wanted to work with housing association to provide homes in small communities. ‘Part of the problem at the moment is if you have ten affordable homes you have got to have 25 homes to pay for them. If we could work with housing associations to provide small numbers of houses in a number of communities we could get the economies of scale.’ He had been in talks with housing associations such as LiveWest ‘all the time’. Climate change is another area where Cllr Jory insists the Tories are committed, even though they stopped short of endorsing Devon County Council’s Climate Change Strategy due to concerns about how it would affect farmers. ‘We felt there were things in that plan that were a bit urban centric’ he said.
He feels the borough council was in a better shape than four years ago, when it was reeling from a failed merger with South Hams District Council and anger at the previous leadership’s attempt to solve the council’s financial problems by proposing to build a Premier Inn on a town centre car park. ‘We have been working really hard on refocusing the council on actually getting things done, doing stuff,’ he said. ‘From my perspective as the leader of the Conservative group I feel we have done a pretty good job.’