Monday, 30 March 2015

Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>>>>>>>>> Full Council: Wednesday 25th March >>> and more reports

There has been a lot of coverage of last week's decision by the District Council to sell Knowle:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>> Full Council: Wednesday 25th March >>> further reports
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>> Full Council: Wednesday 25th March >>> reports

Here is the on-line version of the piece from the Herald:
So long, Sidmouth! Seal of approval for EDDC move - News - Sidmouth Herald

This is the full speech from the chair of the Save Our Sidmouth grouping:

A ” huge number of uncertainties and unresolved problems…being glossed over”, yet Council has approved EDDC office relocation.

March 30, 2015 by sidmouthsid Leave a comment

SOS Chair, Richard Thurlow, clearly explained those “uncertainties and unresolved problems” in his speech (copied below) to Full Council last week (Weds 25th March). The points were unanswered at the meeting, and remain so.


The public have not been permitted to have other than a superficial view of the costings which make up the attempt to persuade that Relocation is cost neutral. Councillors and the public have to take the results as presented without understanding or knowing the processes involved, or appreciating the range of sensitivity of the output.

It is likely that the review undertaken by Grant Thornton and Gleeds is technically competent within the parameters given to them.. This is more than I can say for all the work undertaken by your DCEO, which has been characterised by wrong data, erroneous calculations and embarrassing u-turns.

The problem with all such analyses is that the results are highly dependent on the quality and sufficiency of the data used and the validity of any predictions. Slight changes in both can make significant differences in the results.

This is very important to understand. In this case, the review has come up with a single result.. namely a stated cost and betterment over 20 years. I am surprised to see that there is no attempt to quantify a range of costs and benefits depending on whether the input such as the costs of energy, are higher, or lower than those assumed. This is a weakness, as it implies that the single result is mathematically and financially correct. This is not so.

In addition, Grant Thornton/Gleeds say, and I quote;-
2.4 The conclusions are based solely on the results of the Model and therefore do not consider any qualitative aspects of the options, and nor have we considered the extent to which the office relocation project will meet the Council’s service or efficiency aspirations/objectives.

This is telling you that the financial equation stacks up, but not whether the relocation project is good, or bad, or meets your objectives.

We firmly believe that the project is bad , that it ignores a number of issues and we don’t think that it meets your objectives. There are a huge number of uncertainties and unresolved problems which are being glossed over.

You should ask yourselves the following questions:-

• Are you really happy that all various options for moving were considered? Various options have been assessed against a highly biased one of using the whole of the Knowle and basically doing nothing to it except some urgent repairs, repairs which have been purposefully neglected over the past few years. The option of using and modestly improving the “new Building” at the Knowle and a refurbished building at EXMOUTH has not been considered This is a serious omission.

• Are you really happy with the disposal of an asset worth £9-10m, (the land alone is worth £7-8m), to provide assets which are acknowledged to be worth £3.25m at Honiton and £0.9m at Exmouth ? a total of £4m. This is just throwing money away.

• Are you really happy about taking out a loan for over £9.25m for several years. When the future is so unclear? And carry over a loan of £2.1 m for 20 years?

• Have you really thought about the costs and difficulties of “Customer orientated mobile working practices, the Worksmart programme and mobile hubs”? What does this mean? The introduction of IT systems and practices are notoriously difficult to plan, cost and implement. Huge cost overruns are usual.

This is probably the most important decision that EDDC will make; it is being rushed through with indecent haste, at the fag end of an administration that may well change significantly.

I would ask to question the various assumptions inherent in the proposal to relocate, and reject it.

A ” huge number of uncertainties and unresolved problems…being glossed over”, yet Council has approved EDDC office relocation. | Save Our Sidmouth
Relocation approval rushed through “in indecent haste, at the fag end of an administration” that may soon disappear” | East Devon Watch

And this is the piece from the Western Morning News:

Tory council insists costly move of East Devon Council HQ is a money saver

By Western Morning News | Posted: March 26, 2015

Knowle, in Sidmouth

A council has approved a controversial plan to move its headquarters and sell the existing woodland site to be turned into a retirement home.

Conservative East Devon District Council rubber stamped the move, which was opposed by many residents – including Tory MP and Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire – at a meeting last night.

The long-standing plan to relocate from the Knowle in Sidmouth to new offices in Honiton and Exmouth, was passed by 37 votes to 12 at the full council.

Council leader Paul Diviani said the “dual-site” solution would save £2.8million over 20 years compared to a loss of £3.9million if the authority remained at Knowle.

Critics say the project should have been postponed until after the election and describe the timing of the meeting – days before the council releases a confidential financial report, as ordered by the courts – as “political chicanery”.

Councillor Diviani said the decision would give the electorate “a clear and transparent picture of our intentions” when they go to the polls on May 7. “We know there is more austerity on the way and that our council – like others up and down the country – has to find more and more creative ways of saving costs and becoming more efficient,” he added.

“How strange would it be for our residents to see us making piecemeal changes here and there to save relatively small amounts of money in each service, whilst pouring scarce funds into an unsuitable building that will have no value? By thinking ahead – and outside the box – we have given ourselves the chance of moving to accommodation that supports modern working practices, will reduce operating costs and will prove an investment for the future.

The plan to leave the current offices has been plagued by controversy and was beset by a series of blunders, including miscounting the number of staff, which forced officials back to the drawing board three times.

A subsequent planning application for redevelopment of the Knowle site was turned down by the council’s own committee.

A newly-built HQ at Exeter’s Skypark had been touted but this year the ruling cabinet, which insists the existing building is inefficient and dilapidated, performed a U-turn and instead backed a revised plan to move to Heathpark in Honiton and make use of existing space at Exmouth Town Hall.

The proposed buyer of the main, five-acre Knowle site is Pegasus Life, a specialist provider of residential developments offering retirement and assisted living facilities.

Councillors agreed with a cabinet recommendation that a further eight acres of parkland, including the lower “grasscrete” car park, would be offered to Sidmouth Town Council to own and manage, with a covenant against any future development.

Independent district councillor and parliamentary candidate at the general election Claire Wright, said the authority should have waited until minutes of the office working group were published, a move forced after the council lost a Freedom of Information battle

“This has all been engineered to be decided before these reports are published,” she added. By hook or by crook they are determined to do what they said they would do and nothing is going to stop them – it is outrageous political chicanery.”

Tory council insists costly move of East Devon Council HQ is a money saver | Western Morning News

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