Wednesday, 14 January 2015

"Not fit for purpose" ............................................................ What shall we do with the unwanted Exmouth beach huts? ........ Bulldozing one set of assets whilst subsidising another

The District Council's policy on looking after its  assets seems to be somewhat inconsistent 
[as in the former Elizabeth Hall in Exmouth]

Those Exmouth beach huts not fit for purpose | East Devon Watch

... if not rather opaque [as in the Longboat in Budleigh]:

Futures Forum: Transparency and process in East Devon... continued: part two

One suggestion for the soon-to-be-ex-beach huts at Exmouth 

... has been to tow them away to Honiton:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: a suggestion for the new District Council headquarters in Honiton...

Another suggestion from a a correspondent is to turn them into an installation at the loss-making Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton:

I seem to recall Saatchi paid £70000 for Tracy Emin’s Whitstable beach hut. (How much were those chalet huts selling for in Branscombe?)

Maybe the Tories are going to exhibit the Exmouth huts at the Honiton Gallery in an attempt to realise their asset value.

This is from the Telegraph from over a decade ago:

TRADITIONAL beach huts are not only hot property - in fashionable Southwold, Suffolk, they change hands for £30,000 - but, as from today, they are art. And worth even more.
Bare boards: the photograph of Emin in the crumbling hut
The latest example of British "installation" art is a badly weathered blue beach hut from Whitstable, Kent. Given the curious title The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don't Leave Me Here, it is the newest offering from Tracey Emin, the 37-year-old who works in a confessional mould and has wrested the title of Britain's most shocking artist from Damien Hirst.
Her hut goes on display this morning at the Saatchi Gallery in St John's Wood, north London, the home of the collection of Charles Saatchi, Britain's biggest buyer of contemporary art. He paid Emin £75,000 for it. Alongside are two photographs of the artist naked inside her hut taken by her boyfriend Mat Collishaw.
Tracey Emin enters her blue beach hut period - Telegraph

... although it's not clear who would pose naked:
'The Last Thing I Said to You was Don’t Leave Me Here II', Tracey Emin | Tate

However much the District Council talks up the Thelma Hulbert Gallery
HONITON: Gallery achievements are ‘remarkable’ - View from Sidmouth
Thelma Hulbert Gallery scoops top Visit Devon awards - News - Midweek Herald

... it is making huge losses - and yet the District Council has committed substantial subsidies.

Thelma Hulbert Gallery expands | Arts Council

The Gallery has indeed put on some very special exhibits:
Futures Forum: Bees
Futures Forum: The West County, East Devon and tourism

And yet, again, there are real inconsistencies in District Council policy.

Why have Councillors and officials been so ready to welcome the new status of the Gallery a "tourism hotspot" - and yet do not seem to have taken tourism seriously in East Devon?
Tourism: MP says “East Devon does nothing” | East Devon Watch
Tourism on the cheap in Devon | East Devon Watch

And why has such commitment been lauded on this District Council-owned asset 
- and not on others?

This is from the EDA blog last March:


20th March 2014

The record of the EDDC Cabinet decision (5th March, 2014) concerning the Thelma Hulbert Gallery (THG), Honiton, notes that Cllrs David Cox and Ian Thomas insisted that their votes against the recommendation ‘to set the Gallery on a sustainable footing’ were recorded. This unwonted move may be a first indication that previously loyal councillors are no longer prepared to automatically follow their Leader.

The Gallery, a favourite project of Cllr Paul Diviani, is fast losing money. EDDC are unwilling to reveal the scale of the losses, which are purported to be in the region of £120,000 per annum. This apparently does not take into account the officer time required to run the project, nor the cost of the building, nor the rates. The true annual cost of THG could therefore be closer to £200,000 (the anticipated saving in running costs achieved by relocating the District Council HQ to Skypark!).

During the Cabinet debate, the original business plan was described as being ‘overambitious’, and the gallery itself as ‘a significant liability’ to EDDC. The figure for annual visitors is believed to be around 8,000, made up largely of school parties. EDA has been reliably informed that adult visitor numbers per day can often be counted on the fingers of one hand. Does this mean that every visit is subsidised to the tune of £20-25 by the council tax payers of East Devon? The shop and cafe are reputedly cramped and very poor. And the enormously over-priced pieces of art on sale remain seriously unsold. If ever a building was not ‘fit for purpose’, it seems to be this one.

The 5th March 2014 Cabinet minutes, including Thelma Hulbert Gallery Business Plan-key decision pp 116-117, can be read at this link http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/cabinet_agenda_mins_remit

News from Honiton (Part 2) . Thelma Hulbert Gallery not fit for purpose. | East Devon Watch

And this is from May:


28th May 2014

Thank you an eagle eyed reader for pointing out that the Cabinet Agenda for 4 June 2014 also seals the fate of the constantly loss-making Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton. On page 92 of the 93 pages of the agenda and under the part where discussion is in private it recommends:

That Cabinet agree in principle to a transfer of the Thelma Hulbert Gallery to the LED Leisure Trust, and that the transfer takes place subject to

(i) successful grant applications which mean the Gallery can still function with a reduced financial support package from the Council.
(ii) satisfactory detailed transfer arrangements being agreed between the Council and LED, with delegated authority being given to the Chief Executive, in conjunction with the relevant portfolio holder to approve them, and subject to further legal, financial and valuation advice as required.

Questions to be asked:

Why is EDDC still subsidising this little-used facility? Perhaps its collection could be moved to the new Beehive Community Centre (which EDDC has so generously funded). Or perhaps to Skypark!

LED is itself subsidised by EDDC so surely this is simply removing the subsidy to a less transparent area (though we have not been allowed to see the operating figures for this gallery on which EDDC decisions have been made).

What exactly does LED have in mind?

What will be the basis of the Trust? Will EDDC still be underwriting its losses?

If LED cannot make a go of it, what happens to it then? Who “owns” it in those circumstances?

The people of Honiton might well wish to ask a few questions.

The report ends with this sentence “The Gallery helps achieve the priorities under Enjoying this Outstanding Place in the Council Plan as well as supporting the economic objectives of the Council”

Oh that the council REALLY understood what “Enjoying this outstanding place” REALLY means!

EDDC finally bites the bullet on the Thelma Hulbert Gallery – or does it? | East Devon Watch

See also:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the 'managed neglect' of valuable assets
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project ... and 'asset renovation'
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "We’re digging into the opportunities to release assets and invest in assets to increase revenue streams."

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