Ilfracombe is a small town with a population of approximately 12,500 situated on the North Devon coast. The town is relatively isolated, being 13 miles from the district capital of Barnstaple and 55 miles from the seat of the county council in Exeter. The increased popularity of overseas holidays compounded by the loss of its major rail and sea transport links resulted in general decline as a major tourist resort over the past 50 years.
The decline in tourism and creation of cheap rental accommodation made available from economically obsolete large Victorian properties, has contributed to acute economic problems. The cumulative effect has resulted in pockets of deprivation higher than any other town in the county.
The resultant decline in the fortunes of the town has adversely impacted upon social cohesion, population health, access to education and employment opportunities. Even the economically active in the community feel a sense of frustration with the general decline in the appearance of the built environment. There is a regular call for the council to do more and smarten up the town.
In addition, local government and health and emergency services face cuts in funding. Demographic and social changes such as the local ageing population and increasing numbers of people with long-term health conditions means that more people are going to need help and support. New ways of working are needed if inequalities in health and wellbeing are to be addressed.
A TOWN WITH A PLAN
On 11th January 2010, Ilfracombe Town Council adopted a ten-year Strategic Plan, the first objective of which was to ‘Assume management of our town’. To deliver this objective the Town Council began negotiations with the District and County Councils with whom relationships had been built from partnership working over the previous three years through the Town Council’s one-stop-shop. ITC particularly highlighted the need to eradicate silo working and improve local accountability.
The Town Council was pleased to find that both higher tiers of local authority were also keen to explore ways of devolving power and responsibilities to neighbourhood level, firmly believing this to be in the best interests of communities. It was recognised that effective delivery requires effective participatory decision-making which can only be achieved by empowering local townspeople.
It was at the 26th October meeting that a new Government initiative called Neighbourhood-level Community Budgets was introduced. It appeared to fit well with the vision of the Town Council. The District and County Councils offered to support the Town Council in submitting an expression of interest to become one of the pilots to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The invitation to become partners in Ilfracombe’s proposal to become a Neighbourhood Community Budget pilot was extended to other service providers who were enthusiastic in their support. A partners’ meeting was held on 4th November to confirm agreement of the expression of interest.
Ilfracombe Town Council submitted its expression of interest in piloting a Neighbourhood Community Budget to DCLG on 10th November 2011 with the following partners as co-signatories:
- Devon County Council
- North Devon Council
- NHS Devon
- Jobcentre Plus
- Devon and Somerset, Fire and Rescue Service
- Combe Business
- Devon and Cornwall Police
- Ilfracombe Infant School
- North Devon AONB
- North Devon Hospital
- Westward Pathfinder
- Ilfracombe Harbour Board
- Citizens Advice Bureau
These partners have continued to shape the proposal throughout and other organisations have also joined forces along the way.
 Ilfracombe Central ward is ranked in the top 5% of most deprived wards across the country.
Two wards show life expectancy at birth significantly below the national (80.5) and Devon (81.6) average (Ilfracombe Central 74.7 years). Unemployment also shows significant seasonality, even compared to other coastal towns, with winter unemployment often twice that in the summer.
 Ilfracombe Town Council adopted Strategic Plan 2010-2020