Sunday, 5 February 2017

Knowle relocation project: and local government reorganisation

The talk is all about devolving power:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and sovereignty and Devon

In this part of the world it's getting rather embarrassing:
Futures Forum: Devolution and Local Enterprise Partnerships >>> "unaccountable to anyone and unrepresentative of the local economy"

A puff-piece in the local press puts a positive spin on the Heart of the South West's devolution bid, which is not going very far:
South West Devolution partnership including Somerset County Council creates plan for productivity (From Somerset County Gazette)

Meanwhile, changes are happening at the lowest level of local government, as Town Councils are obliged to 'take the slack' with District and County Councils having to cut back - with an interesting 'transfer of assets' which suggests changes in the centre of political gravity:
Dartmouth Town Council agrees 64% budget increase

Next door in Dorset, there is further confusion over rearrangement of local government:
Dorset Local Government reorganisation goes ahead despite 3 councils dropping out | East Devon Watch
Local Government Lawyer - Group of Dorset councils press ahead with unitary plan despite rejection by other county authorities

And yet, if we're looking for savings - which is what all the posts above have in common - then some research posted by East Devon Watch shows that getting rid of District Councils would be the safest bet:
Single unitary councils would save most money say researchers | East Devon Watch
Local government reorganisation: switch to unitaries ‘could save £2.9bn’ | Public Finance

Which presents an opportunity to repost an excellent piece from last week's EDW blog:


2 FEB 2017

What is currently more important in local government? Saving money, saving money by merger or being profligate? These seem to be the stark choices facing our district, with its reliance on the Local Enterprise Partnership for strategy, direction and funding.

Closer examination of the agenda for the next Cabinet meeting reveals that there are two references to local government reorganisation: at the bottom of page 111 and on page 115:

“Identify opportunities for rationalising/improving existing public sector governance arrangements and make recommendations to the constituent authorities/partners”

This appears to be a clear reference, as it not only refers to reform, but also says that the recommendations will go to ‘constituent authorities’. In other words we are not talking just about the LEP. The new Joint Committee clearly has mergers in mind. Add “Greater Exeter” into the mix and we come out with even more likelihood of massive changes. THEN add a mooted “Golden Triangle LEP” and we have a truly chaotic situation.

Owl wonders if these are circumstances in which to pursue a new HQ for EDDC at Honiton. Any proposal involving EDDC and avoiding building at Honiton can immediately claim to have made a minimum saving of £10 million plus interest payments, plus many associated costs – savings now being the mantra nowadays.

The relocation from Knowle could, in the above circumstances prove to be most expensive suicide note in the history of our district. And those EDDC members who waved through the move to Honiton, without the slightest idea of the cost, could in these circumstances be likened to turkeys voting for Christmas.

We have seen with the reorganisation in Dorset, that the reform and merger of local government authorities is very much in the air, and Dorset has been suggesting that the creation of two unitaries will lead to annual savings of many millions of pounds.

So it’s not surprising that things have gone very quiet with EDDC relocation. Firstly, there is local government reorganisation all around us and within our nearby city and the county. Secondly, the Pegasus deal for Knowle has seemingly gone very much on the back burner.

We have recently seen the formal separation – ‘decoupling’ – of the Exmouth Town Hall work from the Honiton proposal which seems to have had more to do with mothballing Honiton than it had to do with allowing Exmouth to proceed more quickly.

Work to refurbish Knowle is almost certainly millions of pounds cheaper than relocating. Plus, a new building in Honiton would immediately depreciate enormously on day one of occupation – 50% plus has been suggested.

Of course, PegasusLife could always put in a planning application for the Honiton site!

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