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Devon County Council

Coordinates: 50°42′53″N 3°31′3″W / 50.71472°N 3.51750°W / 50.71472; -3.51750 (County Hall)
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Devon County Council
Coat of arms of Devon County Council
Devon County Council logo
John Hart,
since 23 May 2024[1]
James McInnes,
since 23 May 2024[2]
Donna Manson
since 17 February 2023
Seats60 councillors
Political groups
Administration (38)
  Conservative (38)
Other parties (22)
  Liberal Democrats (10)
  Labour (6)
  Green (2)
  Independent (3)
  South Devon Alliance (1)
Length of term
4 years
Last election
6 May 2021
Next election
1 May 2025
Meeting place
County Hall at Exeter
County Hall, Topsham Road, Exeter, EX2 4QD

Devon County Council is the county council administering the non-metropolitan county of Devon, England. The non-metropolitan county is smaller than the ceremonial county; the latter additionally includes Plymouth and Torbay. The population of the non-metropolitan county was estimated at 795,286 in 2018,[3] making it the largest local authority in South West England. The council has been under Conservative majority control since 2009. It is based at County Hall in Exeter.

Devon is an area with "two-tier" local government, meaning that the county is divided into non-metropolitan districts carrying out less strategic functions, such as taking most planning decisions. In Devon there are eight such districts, each with its own district, borough, or city council. Devon County Council does not provide services to Torbay or Plymouth; whilst both are deemed to form part of the wider ceremonial county of Devon, they are unitary authorities, independent from the county council.





Devon County Council was created in 1889 under the Local Government Act 1888, which created elected county councils to take over the administrative functions previously performed by the quarter sessions, run by unelected magistrates. The first county council elections were held on 16 January 1889 and the new council formally came into being on 1 April 1889. The council's budget in its first year was £50,000. In 1907, women became eligible for election and the first female councillor was elected in 1931.[4]

From the beginning in 1889, the boroughs of Exeter, Devonport and Plymouth were considered large enough to provide their own county-level services and so they were made county boroughs, outside the jurisdiction of the county council. Devonport was subsequently absorbed into Plymouth in 1914. Torbay received county borough status and left the area of Devon County Council in 1968.

In 1971, Devon County Council signed a twinning charter with the Conseil General of Calvados to develop links with the French department of Calvados.[5]

The council was significantly reformed in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972. Exeter, Torbay and Plymouth were brought within the area controlled by the county council, and the lower-tier districts in the county were completely reorganised. Torbay and Plymouth subsequently regained their independence from the county council in 1998 when both were made unitary authorities.[6]

Data protection


In 2012 the council was fined £90,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after it sent confidential and sensitive information about twenty-two people, including criminal allegations and information about their mental health, to the wrong recipient. Commenting on Devon and other authorities who had made similar data protection breaches, the ICO said "It would be far too easy to consider these breaches as simple human error. The reality is that they are caused by councils treating sensitive personal data in the same routine way they would deal with more general correspondence. Far too often in these cases, the councils do not appear to have acknowledged that the data they are handling is about real people, and often the more vulnerable members of society."[7]

Political control


The council has been under Conservative majority control since 2009.

Political control of the council since the 1974 reforms has been as follows:[8]

Party in control Years
Conservative 1974–1985
No overall control 1985–1989
Conservative 1989–1993
Liberal Democrats 1993–2001
No overall control 2001–2005
Liberal Democrats 2005–2009
Conservative 2009–present



The leaders of the council since 1974 have been:[9][10]

Councillor Party From To
George Creber[11] Conservative 1974 1981
Arnold Sayers[12] Conservative 1981 1985
David Morrish Liberal 1985 Jul 1987
(no leader) Jul 1987 May 1989
Frederick (Ted) Pinney Conservative May 1989
Brian Greenslade Liberal Democrats 1993 2002
Christine Channon[13] Conservative 2002 2003
Brian Greenslade Liberal Democrats 2003 2004
Christine Channon Conservative 2004 26 May 2005
Brian Greenslade[14][15] Liberal Democrats 26 May 2005 25 Jun 2009
John Hart Conservative 25 Jun 2009 23 May 2024
James McInnes[16] Conservative 23 May 2024



Following the 2021 election and subsequent changes of allegiance up to June 2024, the composition of the council was:[17][18][19]

Party Councillors
Conservative 38
Liberal Democrats 10
Labour 6
Independent 3
Green 2
South Devon Alliance 1
Total 60

The Greens, South Devon Alliance and two of the independent councillors sit together as the "Independent and Green Group". The other independent councillor does not belong to a group.[20] The next election is due in 2025.



The county council is based at Devon County Hall on Topsham Road in Exeter, which was completed in 1964 to the designs of Donald McMorran.[21]

The old courthouse and county council offices within Rougemont Castle: County Council's headquarters until 1964.

Prior to 1964 the council was based at Rougemont Castle (also known as Exeter Castle) in Exeter, where the quarter sessions for the county had been held for many years prior to the creation of the county council. An office building for the county council was built in 1895 adjoining the existing courthouse which had been built in 1773 within the castle.[22]



Since the last boundary changes in 2017 the council has comprised 60 councillors, representing 58 electoral divisions. Most divisions elect one councillor, but two divisions (Broadclyst and Exmouth) elect two councillors. Elections are held every four years.[23]

Responsibilities for services

Map of Devon's eight shire districts and two unitary authorities. 1-8 are administered by Devon County Council, but 9 and 10 are the unitary authority areas of Plymouth and Torbay, which are self-governed on local issues; they are considered part of the ceremonial county of Devon

Devon County Council's responsibilities include schools, social care for the elderly and vulnerable, road maintenance, libraries and trading standards.[24] It is the largest employer in Devon, employing over 20,000 people,[24] and has the largest minor road length (7,373 miles (11,866 km) — 2014) of any UK local authority; major roads are managed by National Highways.[25] Devon County Council appoints eleven members to the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority.[26] The Office for National Statistics estimated that the mid-2014 population of the non-metropolitan area of Devon was 765,302, which is the largest in the South West England region.[27]

The county council's area is also administered by eight smaller authorities that have their own district, borough or city councils. The responsibilities of these councils include local planning, council housing, refuse collection, sports and leisure facilities, and street cleaning. The district areas are further divided into civil parishes, which have "parish councils" or "town councils"; the latter of which often use a town hall. Typical activities undertaken by a parish council include maintaining allotments, footpaths, playing fields and the local community or village hall. On some matters, the county council share responsibilities with the district and parish councils. These include economic development and regeneration, emergency planning, tourism promotion and coastal protection.[24]

No. District Type of council Population
(mid-2014 est.)[27]
1 Exeter City council 124,328 4,789
2 East Devon District council 136,374 82,372
3 Mid Devon District council 79,198 91,290
4 North Devon District council 94,059 110,504
5 Torridge District council 65,618 99,566
6 West Devon Borough council 54,260 116,472
7 South Hams District council 84,108 90,525
8 Teignbridge District council 127,357 68,101

Graphic symbols

The Flag of Devon; first raised in 2006

There was no established coat of arms for the county until 1926: the arms of the City of Exeter were often used to represent Devon, for instance in the badge of the Devonshire Regiment. During the formation of a county council by the Local Government Act 1888, adoption of a common seal was required. The seal contained three shields depicting the arms of Exeter along with those of the first chairman and vice-chairman of the council (Lord Clinton and the Earl of Morley).[29]

On 11 October 1926, the county council received a grant of arms from the College of Arms. The main part of the shield displays a red crowned lion on a silver field, the arms of Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall. The chief or upper portion of the shield depicts an ancient ship on waves, for Devon's seafaring traditions. The Latin motto adopted was Auxilio Divino ("by divine aid"), that of Sir Francis Drake. The 1926 grant was of arms alone. On 6 March 1962 a further grant of crest and supporters was obtained. The crest is the head of a Dartmoor Pony rising from a "Naval Crown". This distinctive form of crown is formed from the sails and sterns of ships, and is associated with the Royal Navy. The supporters are a Devon bull and a sea lion.[30][31]

The County Council adopted a 'ship silhouette' logo after the 1974 reorganisation, adapted from the ship emblem on the coat of arms, but following the loss in 1998 of Plymouth and Torbay re-adopted the coat of arms. In April 2006 the council unveiled a new logo which was to be used in most everyday applications, though the coat of arms will continue to be used for "various civic purposes".[32][33]

In 2002, the BBC Devon website held a poll in response to a discussion for a flag of Devon. Ryan Sealey's winning design of green, white, and black was raised outside County Hall in 2006 to celebrate Local Democracy Week and is endorsed by Devon County Council.[34]

Proposed structural changes


From 2007 to 2010 there was a strong possibility that Devon's two-tier council structure might be reorganised. In December 2007, a bid by Exeter City Council to become a unitary council was referred by the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Boundary Committee for England, as they felt the application did not meet all their strict criteria. Had the bid succeeded, Devon County Council, headquartered in Exeter, would have had no local governmental control of the City of Exeter.

The Boundary Committee was asked to look at the feasibility of a unitary Exeter in the context of examining options for unitary arrangements in the wider Devon county area, and reported back in July 2008 recommending a 'unitary Devon' (excluding Plymouth and Torbay), with a second option of a 'unitary Exeter & Exmouth' (combined) and a unitary 'rest of Devon'. This would have abolished lower-tier district councils which work together with Devon County Council. These proposals were put out to consultation until September 2008 and the Committee was expected to make final recommendations to the Secretary of State by the end of the year. As a result of a number of legal challenges to the process and also dissatisfaction on the part of the Secretary of State with the manner in which the Boundary Committee assessed proposals, a recommendation was unlikely until March or April 2009.[35]

The Boundary Committee was delayed again following legal challenge by a group of councils in the county of Suffolk.[36] The Court of Appeal rejected the legal challenge in December 2009 and the Boundary Committee was expected to return to making recommendations on the proposals, to be published at an unknown date.[37]

On 10 February 2010, local government ministers gave the go-ahead for Exeter's unitary authority status and ruled out the chance of Devon's unitary authority status, leaving it as a rural county.[38] However, following the 2010 general election the new government announced in May 2010 that the reorganisation would be stopped.[39][40]

See also



  1. ^ "John Hart is the Council's new Chair". Devon County Council. 23 May 2024. Retrieved 3 June 2024.
  2. ^ "Devon's new leader and deputy confirmed". Devon County Council. 23 May 2024. Retrieved 3 June 2024.
  3. ^ "Population - Devonomics". Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  4. ^ "A brief history of Devon County Council". Devon County Council. Archived from the original on 3 February 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  5. ^ "Twinning". Devon County Council. Archived from the original on 19 October 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
  6. ^ "The Devon (City of Plymouth and Borough of Torbay)(Structural Change) Order 1996", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1996/1865, retrieved 29 July 2023
  7. ^ "ICO hits the road to crack 'underlying problem' at data-leak councils". The Register. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  9. ^ "Council minutes". Devon County Council. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  10. ^ Temple, Michael (1992). Coalitions in English local government: Party political strategies in hung councils (PDF). University of Plymouth. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  11. ^ "Golden day for George". Western Evening Herald. Plymouth. 8 December 1986. p. 5.
  12. ^ "Lives in brief". The Times. London. 4 February 2010. ...he was leader from 1981 to 1985...
  13. ^ "Devon County Council announces new chairman". Exeter Daily. 14 May 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2022. Christine was... Leader of the Council between 2002–03 and 2004–05...
  14. ^ "Former Devon County Council leader Brian Greenslade says grope allegations are 'absolute nonsense'". Okehampton Times. 20 May 2021. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  15. ^ "Devon ex-council leader Brian Greenslade jailed for sex assaults". BBC News. 24 May 2021. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  16. ^ Davis, Miles (7 May 2024). "New Devon County Council leader named". BBC News. Retrieved 3 June 2024.
  17. ^ Clarke, Lewis (9 March 2023). "Councillor quits Tories over 'shocking state' of Devon roads". Devon Live. Retrieved 29 July 2023.
  18. ^ Merritt, Anita (12 January 2024). "Former Exeter lord mayor blames 'gaslighting, harassment and bullying' for shock exit". Devon Live. Retrieved 9 May 2024.
  19. ^ "Devon". Local Councils. Thorncliffe. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  20. ^ "Your councillors by political grouping". Devon County Council. Retrieved 9 May 2024.
  21. ^ "History of County Hall". Devon County Council. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2009.
  22. ^ Mellor, Hugh (1989). Exeter Architecture. Chichester: Phillimore. p. 77. ISBN 0-85033-693-7.
  23. ^ "The Devon (Electoral Changes) Order 2016", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 2016/657, retrieved 29 July 2023
  24. ^ a b c "Democratic Structure". Devon County Council. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  25. ^ "Road lengths in Great Britain: 2014". Office for National Statistics. 21 May 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  26. ^ "Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority".
  27. ^ a b "Components of population change for local authorities in the UK, mid-2014" (ZIP). Office for National Statistics. 25 June 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  28. ^ "Standard Area Measurements (extent of the realm)". Office for National Statistics. 31 December 2007. Archived from the original (ZIP) on 10 January 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  29. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur (1915). The Book of Public (PDF) (2nd ed.). London: TC & EC Jack.
  30. ^ Scott-Giles, Charles Wilfrid (1953). Civic heraldry of England and Wales (2nd ed.). London: B. Blom.
  31. ^ "A brief history of Devon's coat of arms". Devon County Council. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  32. ^ "Council's designs cause logo row". BBC News. 27 March 2006. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  33. ^ "Policy and Resources Overview Scrutiny Committee Minutes". Devon County Council. 3 April 2006. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  34. ^ "Devon Flag". Devon County Council. Archived from the original on 24 November 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2009.
  35. ^ "Boundary Committee publishes draft proposal for Devon". The Boundary Committee for England. 7 July 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2008.
  36. ^ "Unitary proposals delayed again". BBC News. 14 July 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  37. ^ "Council change challenge rejected". BBC News. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  38. ^ "'Super councils' in Exeter and Norwich get go ahead". BBC News. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  39. ^ "The Coalition: our programme for government" (PDF). HM Government, United Kingdom. 20 May 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  40. ^ Hennessy, Patrick (22 May 2010). "The Queen's Speech: Bill by Bill". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2010.

50°42′53″N 3°31′3″W / 50.71472°N 3.51750°W / 50.71472; -3.51750 (County Hall)