Friday, 18 January 2019

Knowle relocation project: selling off council furniture and chattels to councillors > So, that's alright, then.

The saga over selling off bits of Knowle started off with a letter to Councillors:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: selling off council furniture and chattels to councillors

And spread quickly on-line:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: fantasy 'cost savings over twenty years' are of no interest to people in East Devon

The District Council has just responded: 

Sidmouth and Ottery breaking news and sport - Sidmouth Herald

With the piece already on-line: 

Condemning rumours over East Devon Districts Council’s auction of public property quashed

PUBLISHED: 11:00 18 January 2019
Beth Sharp

East Devon District Council offices at The Knowle. Ref shs 03 19TI 8509. Picture: Terry Ife

Rumours that public property was sold off to council workers behind closed doors for cheap, have been dismissed by council bosses.

The rumours emerged on social media, and several people approached the Herald, as East Devon District Council (EDDC) is preparing to move its Sidmouth headquarters at the Knowle, to Exmouth and Honiton.

As part of the move the authority has been finding homes for various items, that are unsuitable for its new building.

Council bosses have slammed recent claims that one councillor managed to buy a large mahogany dining table and 20 chairs for £50 at an internal staff auction, instead of allowing it to be publicly auctioned for the best possible price. A council spokesman said this was ‘totally incorrect’, with the bid actually being for £400 and only including some of the chairs. However, after the bid was submitted, Exmouth Town Council showed an interest and the councillor who made the £400 offer agreed to withdraw.

The spokesman said they had agreed to use three disposal methods for the items which are no longer needed. There include the use of auction houses for valuable items and an internal auction for staff and members, for items not wanted by the auction houses. Some items have been offered for free to town and parish councils, charities and other local community groups.

Items earmarked for the auction house, including a bell push and a map table. Other tables and chairs are waiting to be sold while valuations are carried out.

The internal auction has already taken place, raising around £2,000 for the Chairman’s Civic Fund’s chosen charities. These items primarily comprise office chairs, bookshelves, metal drawers, small filing cabinets and other small bits of furniture.

There are still a number of items left, including metal filing cabinets, desks, whiteboards and shelves. Some local councils have been in touch requesting some of the items.

Whatever is left will be offered to local charities and other local groups. Once the council has vacated the building, groups will be invited in to see whether there are any other items left over that they want to take.

A spokesman said: “These processes were put in place to achieve the best value for these assets given it was all second-hand, well-used furniture which had a very limited value. Computers and phones have not been offered to staff.”

Condemning rumours over East Devon Districts Council’s auction of public property quashed | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

Others would beg to differ, with a Freedom of Information request asking obvious questions not answered above:
Auction of Council Furniture Chattels, etc - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

And the East Devon Watch blog has a few more very obvious questions: 


18 January 2019

An “explanation” of the Knowle Flog It fiasco appears in today’s Sidmouth Herald. It appears to be printed verbatim from a council statement.

Owl wonders why this statement was printed without challenging some of its very, very vague claims – one hesitates to use the word ‘facts’. “Journalism”? Not as Owl knows it!

Guess some answers MIGHT come from the Freedom of Information request by an Exmouth resident on 8 January 2019:

In the meantime:

Amongst Owl’s questions:

It seems Councillor Skinner paid £400 for the table he wanted so urgently – earlier reports mentioned it being valued at a very low price, much lower than £400. Which is correct? And including just how many chairs?

Who decided on the “three disposal methods? It does not appear to be the Asset Management Group.

Which councillors have bought items? Have they declared these on their Registers of Interest?

Which groups were offered ‘free’ items, how were they chosen and by whom? Have any of these groups taken items – and if so, which groups and how much did they pay for them?

What exactly is the Chairman’s Civic Fund and how and when has it been used recently and in the past? What are its rules? Who oversees the disbursements?

Which local groups and charities will be able to bid for what is left after officers and councillors have taken their pick? How have they been chosen and by whom?

Are internal and external auditors happy with the procedures?

Will the Scrutiny Committee be scrutinising these actions?

Owl is sure readers have many more questions!

Knowle Flog It: statement raises more questions than answers | East Devon Watch

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