STORM Dennis’s impact on Devon shows that millions more need to be spent clearing and cleaning the county’s drains, the Liberal Democrats have said.

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Devon County Council, has put forward an alternative budget which would see an extra £4 million to be spent cleaning and clearing Devon’s highways and drains.

The extra £4 million investment would come from the County Council’s reserves which stand at over £110 million, Cllr Connett said, saying the effects of Storms Ciara and Dennis highlight and justify the need to tackle the misery being caused to households and motorists.

Across Devon, Storm Dennis saw Lynton Hill in Lynmouth, the B3193 at Chudeligh Knighton, Marine Parade in Shaldon, the A379 near Kenton, and the B3212 at Dunsfordare,  all closed due to landslips and fallen trees

Roads around Sidmouth, Newton Abbot, Totnes and Exeter were all flooded, while Devon was ‘cut-off’ from the rest of the country by rail with both main lines from London to Exeter flooded.

Putting forward his alternative budget, Cllr Connett said: “We had the storms over Christmas which were an early warning that the drains and other highway drainage measures have not been maintained well enough. In the past two weeks we’ve seen so much more rain and householders have been flooded or are worried about flooding.

“We’ve had very bad recent storms and each one has warned us of the problems of not keeping the road drains clear and our highways drainage systems in good order. We need a one-off boost to blitz Devon’s drains and then we need to increase the regular spending to keep them in good shape.

READ MORE: South west braced for 70mph winds and 120mm of rain from Storm Dennis

“That’s why we say it is vital we take the money from reserves now and get this problem sorted. Otherwise, we’ll end up paying out even more in future years. The time for action is now.”

With Devon County Council due to consider its budget on Thursday for the new financial year, the Liberal Democrats have put in an amendment to boost highways drainage works by an extra £4 million in the coming 12 months.

Other budget proposals from the Liberal Democrats include a new programme to renew and replace old and faded white line junction markings across the County’s road with a further £500,000 from the council’s reserves.

A £400,000 programme to create 20mph zones serving schools and other high priority areas in the county would be funded by cutting spending on the appointment of consultants and stand-in managers, and savings on the council’s advertising, media and public relations budget.

The budget that the ruling Conservative Group had proposed was unanimously recommended to next Thursday’s full council meeting by the cabinet on Friday.

Their budget plans will see the council’s spending will rise by £43.1 million from £498 million in 2019/20 to just over £541 million. There will be an extra £23.7 million for adult care and health, £11.5 million more for children’s services and £2.7 million for highways including £1 million to help deal with drainage issues on the road network, with an increase of 8.7 per cent on spending year-on-year.

Cllr John Hart, leader of the council, said: “This is a good budget for Devon and better than we have had in a few years. There is extra money going in and we will never have enough to meet the rising demand.

“But we have more money going into adult and children’s services and some extra money for road drainage because, with climate change, the rain is coming down heavier than ever and we must ensure our roads can cope.”

He added: “There is an increase in expenditure, particularly in adult services and children’s services, with adult services increasing by ten per cent and children’s by 8.5 per cent.

“But we are also looking to put extra money into highways as we know we have got a problem with the different type of rain today, with the more monsoon type rain we are getting. We are having a drainage problem and a breaking up of roads problem, so we have put an extra £2m into drainage.”

The spending rise will partly be funded by a £1.7million increase in the final Local Government financial settlement for 2020/21, but also by a proposed 3.99 per cent rise in council tax.

The proposed 2020/21 Band D Council Tax figure is £1,439.46, a rise of £55.17 from last year, or £1.06 a week. Of that 3.99 per cent rise, two per cent is ring fenced to help fund adult social care.

Explaining why council tax needs to rise, Cllr Hart added: “Council tax is going up as we don’t get enough from government in grants. Over the years we have lost something close to £300million but we have kept the services going and the show on the road by reorganising the county council.

“We are putting an £43million this year into services. It means the council tax will go up by £55 a year but it means we can maintain and somewhat improve the services we are offering.”