Sunday, 14 September 2014

Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils...

A very prescient piece from the East Devon Alliance:


13th September 2014

The Scottish vote on Thursday has significant implications for the proposed move of EDDC to Skypark.

This follows the recent strong performance of the ‘Yes’ campaign, who may well win, but have in any event secured huge concessions from the Westminster establishment. The choice is now between full independence and ‘devo max’, a further massive transfer of powers to the Scottish Assembly.

All parties are now agreed that the existing constitutional arrangements are dead in the water, and that widespread reform is inevitable with a transfer of powers away from Westminster. In a sense, a logical extension of the popular policy of ‘localism’.

Regardless of Thursday’s vote, Wales and Northern Ireland will be given more powers, and there is likely to be an English Parliament. This may be located away from London, in Birmingham or the North, but is more likely to be housed at Westminster, with only English MPs sitting to determine English issues.

The English regions will be included in this anti-centrist, anti-Westminster process, but a repeat of the maligned and unsuccessful regional assemblies of the last Labour government is highly unlikely. Power is going to be devolved to lower tiers of government, and in our neck of the woods that means Devon County Council.

As part of this transfer of power and general constitutional and administrative upheaval, the number of tiers of government will be closely examined. The continuation of District Councils is highly questionable. Whilst County Councils will have the viability to administer more powers, there will be huge demands to counter their power with a transfer of local decision-making to Parish level. In particular, planning. This is the essence of localism, and government generally is well aware of the popular demand for people to have a greater say over what happens in their neighbourhood.

And of course, having three tiers of local government is widely seen as overly complicated and expensive. Hence the decision to make Cornwall a unitary authority. So District Councils are looking like they are heading for the chop.

Scottish voters have been promised constitutional reform in a great hurry, with legislation scheduled for just after the May 2015 elections. Reform to the English system will either be at the same time or very soon afterwards.

At the very moment when District Councils are likely to cease to exist, here in EDDC we will be committing to a £20 million new HQ. The ultimate white elephant.

And what will be the value of the new building, when it has to be sold? Surely no more than £2-3 million. We already know that there is no demand for offices at Skypark, or anywhere else in East Devon for that matter. And especially for a new building purpose designed to house our District Council.

In these circumstances will the residents elsewhere in Devon be prepared to stomach the losses incurred by East Devon politicians. Or will the £17 million loss be transferred to East Devon’s parish councils, saddling them with debt for a generation?

One thought on “The Scottish referendum and Skypark: what links them?”

Peter Whitfield says:
September 13, 2014 at 11:27 am

It’s not only Scotland that poses a threat to Skypark. If the Wolfson report gets actioned and Exeter doubles in size, what price EDDC finding its new HQ on a different authority’s ground?

The Scottish referendum and Skypark: what links them? | East Devon Alliance

The Wolfson Report and Lord Wolfson himself have pushed for 'growth':
Futures Forum: Garden cities and greenfield sites
Futures Forum: "England’s local authorities approved 195,000 planning applications over the past year, which is a 9 per cent rise on the average before legal changes came in promoting sustainable development."

Lord Hestletine also pushed for 'growth' in 2012 - by realigning local government. His Review was slated by the District Councils' Network:
DCN Response to Heseltine Review | District Councils' Network
Local Government Lawyer - District councils slam Heseltine proposals for local government reorganisation
Heseltine seeks to scrap dozens of councils - Telegraph

See also:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the Skypark fly-through: "Many a contentious proposal has shimmied through the planning process (and on to the sales office) on the back of a series of CGIs, gleaming evocations that are liable to be slight on detail and heavy on seductive gleam."
Futures Forum: Skypark and “authoritarian high modernism”
Futures Forum: How to alienate your electorate and lose influence
Futures Forum: "Who will rid me of this turbulent Sidmouth?!" ... or ... moving your capital and " running away from the issues"

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