Saturday, 15 February 2014

Knowle relocation project: "Committee members agreed by eight votes to none, with four abstentions, that a motion would go to cabinet recommending a professional survey of the building be carried out – not undertaken by EDDC."

The District Council's own Overview & Scrutiny Committee have called for an independent report into the costings at Knowle:
[although the Minutes of this meeting of 30th January are not available]

Independent District Councillor Claire Wright has proposed a motion go to the next full Council 
"to defer the decision to move, pending a recommendation from the overview and scrutiny committee, to allow an independent surveyor to assess the state of the Knowle buildings."

As reported in the Herald:

EDDC watchdog calls for ‘independent’ Knowle survey

Stefan Gordon Friday, January 31, 2014

A DISTRICT council watchdog has called for ‘independent’ professionals to carry out a survey of Knowle over concerns about the amount of money being spent on the authority’s relocation project. Overview and scrutiny committee members last night agreed to make the recommendation to cabinet.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has decided to leave Sidmouth – saying Knowle is not ‘fit for purpose’. But concerns over the £800,000 of tax-payers’ cash already spent or budgeted on the project prompted calls for a re-think.

Councillors called for evidence to back-up the main argument that is driving the argument for a purpose-built new HQ elsewhere.

Councillor Claire Wright told committee colleagues at last night’s meeting: “It does feel to me as though the council made a decision to go and its getting out of control. The finances are getting out of control. It’s very worrying.” She said the council had a ‘huge PR problem’ and the public ‘don’t trust’ that Knowle is in a dilapidated state. She called for an ‘independent person’ – a qualified engineer - to come in and carry out a survey of Knowle and suggested campaign group Save Our Sidmouth could be asked to pay for it.

EDDC’s deputy chief executive Richard Cohen pointed to a previous technical report by experts, commissioned by the authority, that showed £1.5 million would be needed to ‘do the basics’ at Knowle. This report is to be re-circulated to al councillors.

Committee members agreed by eight votes to none, with four abstentions, that a motion would go to cabinet recommending a professional survey of the building be carried out – not undertaken by EDDC.

The Sidmouth Herald was the only newpspaper at the talks and will publish a full account of the meeting in its next edition.

EDDC watchdog calls for ‘independent’ Knowle survey - News - Sidmouth Herald
For 'full account', see: Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: moving to Skypark: reports

As reported in the Express & Echo:

East Devon campaign group criticises district council relocation proposals - again

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: February 07, 2014 By Fran McElhone

East Devon Alliance

A statement from the East Devon Alliance, said: “The recommendation is in clear defiance of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s vote last week that councillors should be properly informed about the cost calculations, based on real concerns that a move is neither financially viable nor necessary.

“The committee’s recommendation that an independent survey of Knowle buildings, particularly the 1970s offices, has also presumably been ignored.”

The council spokesperson added: “The final decision on a move will not be taken by Full Council until the summer, by which time all the necessary data will be known – including the outcome of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations.”

East Devon campaign group criticises district council relocation proposals - again | Exeter Express and Echo

From the View From Online:

EDDC relocation to go ahead without delay

A RECOMMENDATION from within will not stop or delay East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) relocation process.

EDDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee met on January 30th and decided to recommend to EDDC’s Cabinet that a professional and independent survey of Knowle be carried out.

In July last year, both Cabinet and Full Council voted to actively seek a new location for EDDC’s headquarters. One reason given was that Knowle was unfit for purpose and it would cost too much to bring it up to scratch.

But some councillors and other objectors to the relocation are questioning the report that declared Knowle unfit and too expensive to fix.

The report, dated June 2013 and made by a company named Davis Langdon, summarised: “The total approximate cost for the carrying out of ‘essential priority’ works at March 2013 to halt and rectify building detoriation, remedy health and safety issues and reduce energy consumption is £1,566,000. It is estimated that if no essential works were carried out, and the Knowle site was to remain in the state of repair which it is in today, running costs at March 2015 would be £458,170 with energy costs £83,901 producing 401 tonnes of CO2.”

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee acts like an internal watchdog, and issues reports and recommendations to both Cabinet and Full Council. It also monitors the decisions of the Cabinet and can call in a decision which has been made by Cabinet – but only if it has not yet implemented.

The committee’s recommendation to commission a professional and independent report was brought up during the media briefing on February 6th. But councillors and officers present said the report which declared Knowle unfit was, indeed, independent and professional.

The recommendation to commission a new report will appear on a future Cabinet agenda, but the councillors and officers at the media briefing stressed that the decision to relocate has been made. In other words, the decision to relocate has been implemented and the relocation process will go ahead without delay.

Campaign group East Devon Alliance (EDA), which is against the relocation, said that the announcement to go to Skypark was “in clear defiance of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s vote”. An EDA spokesperson added: “Democracy flies out of the window.”

EAST DEVON: Councillors to quit Knowle for Skypark?

PICTURE: ON THE MOVE - Councillors Andrew Moulding and Paul Diviani with EDDC deputy chief executive Richard Cohen

View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset

Reports from the Sidmouth Independent News blog:
Council watchdog shows its teeth, over ballooning costs of the Knowle move | Sidmouth Independent News
Cabinet v. Overview and Scrutiny Committee: are the guards being guarded or not? | Sidmouth Independent News
Independent councillor puts motion to EDDC to defer decision about Skypark move | Sidmouth Independent News

At this evening’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Sidmouth Cllr Graham Troman (Con) was one of the many who spoke out strongly against accepting the planned Knowle move without full knowledge of the financial calculations. He pointed out that “We need to have the asset values of the Knowle and Manstone (current in-town employment site proposed for change to affordable housing), before I can make an informed decision”.

Knowle relocation….an informed decision? | Sidmouth Independent News

Save Our Sidmouth has posed questions on the costings of the Knowle relocation project. 
Here are the latest:
Knowle relocation costs becoming clearer? | Save Our Sidmouth
Letter to Hugo Swire, MP, re. voicing shared concerns about Knowle relocation | Save Our Sidmouth
“The lemming method of management ” for Knowle relocation | Save Our Sidmouth
Further Knowle relocation costs on tomorrow evening’s agenda (Thurs 30 Jan, Knowle) . | Save Our Sidmouth
Knowle relocation costs continue to rise | Save Our Sidmouth
And some archival postings:
Serious questions over size of modern offices at Knowle | Save Our Sidmouth
Cost of making Knowle offices fit for purpose…EDDC’s figures challenged | Save Our Sidmouth

There has been a history of friction between the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and District Council leadership:
Angry Hughes brands own Tory leaders ‘spineless and arrogant’ - News - Sidmouth Herald
Scrutiny report - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

See also:
Futures Forum: Lobbying
Futures Forum: Lobbying and transparency, continued...

No comments: