STAFF costs at Devon County Council have dropped dramatically over the past five years as the authority has become more efficient, it was announced this week.

They have been reduced from just under one third of the council's overall budget to well below a quarter.

New figures show that staff costs accounted for 32% of the budget in 2009/10.

In the current financial year they will account for 24% of the budget and in 2014/15 they will fall again to 23.5%. Devon now has 4,599 full-time equivalent employees.

Devon County Council leader John Hart said: 'I promised when we took over in 2009 that we would deliver a more efficient and effective organisation.

'These new figures, which have been produced as part of our budget process, demonstrate that we have kept our promises.

'We have looked at every area of our work in an effort to reduce costs to the residents of Devon.

'Our jobs freeze resulted in the workforce of the county council being reduced by almost 3,000 without the need for large-scale redundancies.

'We also cut our management costs dramatically. We don't have middle managers reporting to senior managers now.

'We've slimmed down the organisation and made it easier for our frontline staff to get on with their jobs without constantly referring decisions upwards.

'We have introduced partnership working with other authorities to maintain services but cut bureaucracy and administration costs such as our successful link-up with Somerset County Council to provide trading services.

'And we have entered into effective joint partnership agreements with organisations such as Devon Norse to provide cleaning and catering services and Babcock LDP to provide support services for our schools.

'We are faced with cutting another £110 million from our budget by 2017 and I have already warned that there are no sacred cows in the services we currently provide. Everything has to be reviewed.

'I believe these figures demonstrate that we have been determined to get our own house in order before we ask our residents to put up with cuts in services.'