Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>>>>>>> Audit and Scrutiny combined Cttees: Thursday 12th March

This evening saw the cabinet consider the proposals to sell of Knowle:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>> Cabinet: Wednesday 11th March

Tomorrow evening, the combined Audit & Governance and Overview & Scrutiny Committees will be doing the same:
Audit and Governance Committee agendas - East Devon District Council
Overview and Scrutiny Committee agendas - East Devon District Council

The external and internal auditors were asked to look 'thoroughly' at the proposals:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: 'checks and balances': the SWAP
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: 'checks and balances': the SWAP ... an appeal to the public to send in "any information about possible errors in the Council’s facts and figures..."

A combined meeting of the Audit and the Scrutiny Cttees had been due to consider the auditors' reports earlier in the month:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: energy and consultancy figures: Auditors' reports to go to joint committees 5th March

This is the view from the East Devon Watch blog - together with comment below:


10th March 2015

Comments from Grant Thornton:

Overall, our review found the expected governance arrangements to be in place and working effectively, with only 3 areas for improvement identified. These points have been discussed with and accepted by management as follows:

1) Although evidence was seen of the Council’s intention to have a Terms of Reference for the Officer Working Group, no formal record of this was found at the time of the audit. There are no concerns over the effectiveness of the Officers Working Group or the decision making processes within it. The structure and operation of the Group reflects and supports the Executive Members Group, (where a Terms of Reference had been formally agreed and documented.)

Management have agreed to formally approve the Terms of Reference of the Officer Working group at the next meeting.

2) The Monitoring Officer advised that the minutes of the Executive and Officer Working Group should be assessed at the point they are approved to consider the appropriateness of making them available publically. It was not clear from the minutes of these meetings whether this had been formally implemented.

Management have agreed to formally consider the appropriateness of releasing minutes into the public domain at the next Officer Working Group meeting.

3) The Council has responded to queries and requests for information whether raised through the Freedom of Information route or directly to officers. For the later to continue, the Council has recognised that a formal structure needs to be in place to guard against duplication of resource and ensure the information is shared appropriately.

Comments from SWAP:

EDDC have gone to Court to defend their decision regarding the partially upheld decision. The request is in relation to the publication of the project update reports (Numbers 1-6), used by the Officer Working Group. The complainant felt that they should be made available but EDDC considers that they contain commercially sensitive information. The case is currently ongoing.

In January 2014 the Monitoring Officer advised the Deputy Chief Executive and Project Manager that discussions with the Information Commissioner in respect of these cases had been helpful in guiding the Council into making appropriate decisions over the availability of minutes and reports. She commented that she was liaising with the Democratic Services Manager to update the committee report template to prompt the author to assess when a confidential committee report may be considered appropriate to put in the public domain.

The Monitoring Officer further advised that it could be appropriate for the same assessment to be made at the time meeting notes are agreed at the Executive and Officer Group. It was not clear from the minutes of these meetings whether this had been implemented. There is a risk that a consistent approach to the publication of Executive and Office Group meeting notes may not be operating effectively.

and finally:

4.2.4 The conclusions above 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



Paul F says:
11 Mar 2015 at 9:52am

The consultants’ reports are a whitewash – if they can’t look at the Moving and Improving web page and make an intelligent analysis, what credence should we place on the rest of t he report.

Issues that are not covered by the report include:

Whether the measurements of the size of the Knowle accommodation were correct;

Whether the costs of refurbishing the Knowle are realistic or exaggerated;

Whether the costs of refurbishing the Exmouth building are based on the same approach as for the Knowle (so that comparisons are like-for-like);

Whether the Exmouth offices are suitable from a parking perspective;

What the implications are for efficiency when council offices are split between two locations (as opposed to a single location at Knowle or SkyPark);

Whether public consultations have been comprehensive;

Whether the appropriation of open-space land is essential to fund the relocation;

Whether the risks of local government reorganisation during the payback period (and consequential sale at a loss) have been factored in;

What costs have been factored in for redundancies for those unwilling or unable to move offices, for recruitment of replacement staff and for compensation to staff who stay for additional commuting time and costs;

etc. I am sure that others can think of more factors that need to have been considered.

Combined Overview and Scrutiny/Audit and Governance agenda published – highlights | East Devon Watch

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