Sunday, 26 February 2017

Knowle relocation project: and constant financial vigilance: "April 2018 > Relocation to Honiton complete."

The District Council is working closely with its neighbours; alternatively, this could be called stumbling towards devolution:
Futures Forum: Greater Exeter forges ahead as "the epicentre of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership"

All of this talk of 'partnership' is in parallel with the District Council's continued determination to 'relocate' its HQ to Honiton:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and local government reorganisation

Because the move will cost millions - which are not exactly available:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: throwing good money after bad >>> How the Honiton and Exmouth HQs will not improve on the current HQ
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: further hidden costs and out-of-date documentation

This piece from the Express and Echo is from two years ago - and we have not come anywhere nearer an understanding of the costings:

Plan to relocate East Devon Council offices moving ahead

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: March 19, 2015

EAST Devon District Council is getting ready to press ahead with its relocation plans from Sidmouth to Exmouth and Honiton amid concerns residents have only been given a “superficial” explanation of the financial argument for moving.

In order to save money, the council resolved to relocate from its aging Sidmouth offices to SkyPark near Exeter, but in November announced a U-turn on its plans and instead backed a revised plan to move to Honiton and Exmouth.

The council has decided to sell 1.8 hectares of land at Knowle, including the area currently occupied by buildings and asphalt car parks, plus 14 per cent of the remaining parkland including the upper terraces, to retirement homes developer Pegasus Life Ltd for around £8m.

The external auditors’ report backed the council’s research that the most cost-effective option is to refurbish Exmouth Town Hall and build a new office at Honiton Heathpark, rather than to stay put at Knowle and modernise the existing offices.

Over 20 years council officials claim it will be £2.8m better off if it relocates, compared with being £3.9m worse off by staying. In addition to the funds generated from the sale of its existing headquarters, the council would need to borrow £2.1m over 20 years.

But, addressing councillors at the meeting, Richard Thurlow, the chairman of the Save Our Sidmouth campaign group criticised calculations the council has based its decision to relocate on, while branding the information that has been divulged on the costings as “superficial”.

While praising the reputation of the auditors, he criticised the external audit for not examining the option of staying put in the more modern offices at Knowle combined with a move to Exmouth. He said: “The public have not been permitted to have anything 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.”

Plan to relocate East Devon Council offices moving ahead | Exeter Express and Echo

In other words, these figures are now two years out of date - although there have been serious attempts to get a more up-to-date and less 'superficial' view of the financial situation.

Questions were asked a year ago:
Is relocation value for money? - News - East Devon 24

And more recently:
Business case for Knowle relocation project - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow
Business case for Knowle relocation project – 1st February 2017 - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

Meanwhile, the District Council is contemplating some sort of merger with other councils, whilst intending to spend millions on a 'vanity project' - and yet it clearly hasn't got those millions:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: 'fiddling while Rome burns'

Here is what the 'Moving and Improving' page on the project timeline - and it is still about moving to Honiton:

6. Project timeline - key dates

It is important to note that these dates remain indicative only as there are a mix of factors outside the control of the council that may create delays in this process. The project will adapt as necessary.

April 2018
> Relocation to Honiton complete.

December 2017
> Relocation to refurbished Exmouth Town Hall.

December 2016
> Development Management Committee refuse the planning application by Pegasus Life Ltd for Knowle.
> Cabinet and Council (separately) will take the opportunity to review the Project. This is known as Gateway 7 which is to note satisfaction of the financial requirements and restrictions of the Final Design, confirmation of Contractors Project Costs, advice regarding Planning Application for EDDC at Heathpark and for Pegasus Life Ltd at Knowle.

October 2016
> Planning permission granted on the application by East Devon District Council for Heathpark, Honiton.

Moving and Improving: all you need to know about the office relocation - Project timeline - key dates - East Devon

The District Council is determined to have its cake and eat it: low taxes and a spanking new HQ:

East Devon District Council approves modest Council Tax increase

23 February 2017

Council’s portion of the Council Tax bill still one of the lowest in the country 

East Devon District Council has agreed a modest £5 annual Council Tax increase for an average property for 2017/18 to ensure it continues to provide excellent value for money services for its residents.

The authority’s portion of the annual Council Tax bill for a Band D property will be £131.78 a year or £2.53 a week for all the services it provides. The amount is the lowest in Devon and one of the lowest in the country. The £5 increase, which was approved by the Council last night (February 22) is less than 10p extra per week.

The Council takes just 8p in every pound of the total Council Tax bill with the rest of the money going to Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service along with town and parish councils.

Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, told last night’s full council meeting that there were exciting opportunities ahead as the council moves forward with its relocation programme and brings about further efficiencies through its combined working with Devon County, Exeter, Teignbridge and Mid Devon Councils.

He told councillors: "None of us are under any illusion that the financial climate is rosy, but we do know that if we continue to address vigorously the problems we face, our constant vigilance will prevail.

"As promised, we expect delivery of the new waste and recycling contract, a continuing commitment, to improve efficiencies wherever and whenever possible through better working practice and technical improvements.

"Making sure our assets work to best effect for East Devon tax payers and seizing such opportunities as the granting of Enterprise Zone status which will increase economic opportunity and benefit, and perhaps most importantly, my hope that the council can soon establish its own local housing company to increase the housing supply for East Devon people, helping to satisfy the seemingly insatiable demand for new homes.

"We continue to provide excellent value for money for our services which range from conserving and enhancing our stunning environment to coastal protection; from the regeneration of the urban economy in our towns and support for our rural areas." 

He praised council officers for their excellent work across the board in enabling us to reach the position where we are able, yet again, to achieve a balanced budget and added:

"It would be equally remiss of me if I did not recognise the contribution of maembers, who through the full, open and transparent democratic cycle of the Budget Working Party, Overview & Scrutiny, Cabinet and now Full Council have ensured that anyone who wished to input has had ample opportunity so to do."
23 February 2017 - East Devon District Council approves modest Council Tax increase - East Devon

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