Save Our Sidmouth

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Relocation has alarming “weaknesses in assumptions,planning and estimating” , says SOS

Richard Thurlow, Chair of Save Our Sidmouth, spelled out the most serious examples of perceived “poor management and high risk”, in this speech to Full Council last night (17th December 2014, at Knowle):

Chairman and Councillors,

A Cabinet report of 14th July 2012, entitled the Knowle Office Review stated, “In 2008 Alder King undertook a review of the Council Offices at the Knowle… Initial findings found the cost of relocation to be prohibitive”…. The Report said that further work was carried out and also stated ” The feasibility study still showed a net cost to the council.. However it is anticipated that with a “more creative approach to planning, assessment of running cost savings etc the project COULD be made feasible.”

And here we are 4 years later, £500,000 the poorer.

I worked for and helped manage a major international building consultancy for 40 years and was involved in the design and management of many projects both for private companies and Public Authorities.; My experience suggests that this project is amongst those which rank high in poor management and high risk.

The whole management process has been fragmented and drawn out, not because of careful analysis and thought, but because of weaknesses in assumptions, planning and estimating. No REAL depth of investigation has been undertaken into possible options.

Facts and figures are produced to support a preconceived idea rather than to provide a basis for rational analysis. Figures are produced which always reflect the worst case; rather than allow for a range of possibilities and probabilities

There seems to be no rationale behind the relocation, except “ambition ”and the costed benefits comprise a very questionable set of figures which purport to show savings in the future.

As an example, look at the figures for energy savings over the next 20 years, which appear to be the fundamental basis for making the move “Cost neutral” The cost of energy at the Knowle is compared against the predicted energy cost in your two new buildings; there is a quoted difference of about £30,000 pa in 2016. But then you have plucked 10% inflation pa figures for 20 years out of the air, resulting in a supposed energy cost saving total of £3.3m in 2036. But these inflation figures are spurious and derived from no official publications. Whilst recognising that predictions of energy prices are very uncertain, the DECC actually gives a range of energy costs in 2030 of about 1.25-1.5 times the current cost, not nearly seven times as much as your “guess”.

Thus the “savings” accrued from reduced energy costs are much less than you believe; in the order of £2-3M; and yet you intend to take out a loan whose interest payments will be covered by the “savings”

Your financial case does not stack up.

We are very alarmed.

Will you please now decide to commission, as is common in the public sector, from either a Local Government or Central Government Body, a totally independent audit of ALL estimates, costs and savings so that you, and we the taxpayers, can be re-assured that all decisions are at least based on correct figures?

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“A fatal error” in relocation calculations, EDDC Leader told

The Full Council meeting at Knowle this evening began with five clearly-reasoned questions from the public. For Save our Sidmouth, Richard Thurlow (Chair), Richard Eley, and Jeremy Woodward made eloquent challenges to Deputy Chief Executive Richard Cohen’s calculations for the office relocation project he is in charge of. For Knowle Residents’ Association, Michael Temple asked three brief questions, including one about the seemingly surreptitious extension of the surface area to be sold at the Knowle site.
A fifth question, from Dr John Withrington (East Devon Alliance), asked when the Local Plan would be ready. He received no proper answer.
Of the seven Sidmouth Councillors present, only three spoke during the meeting (Cllrs Graham Troman, Stuart Hughes, and Chris Wale.) SOS will give a fuller account in the next few days, but Graham Troman’s input is reported here:


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