Save Our Sidmouth

Written response, as requested, from Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

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Barry Curwen has received the following reply from O&S Committee Chairman, Councillor Stuart Hughes. It is published here with Councillor Hughes’ permission.  (Mr Curwen’s question can be viewed on our  March 29th post,  Planning issues ARE within the scope of the Business TAFF)

Sent: Thursday, 4 April 2013, 11:08
Subject: Questions to Overview Scrutiny
Dear Barry,
I write in response to your submission during the public question segment of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 28 March 2013.
In reviewing your submission in full, whilst you make a number of observations and your opinion clear on the relocation project, I could only ascertain three aspects where you had requested a response, these being:
  1. Has the Manstone Depot site been publicised as part of the relocation project?
  2. What the Council’s response is to the potential job losses and impact on local business if the Council relocates to another part of the District?
  3. Is the Overview and Scrutiny Committee going to debate further the relocation project?
Having now the relevant information to the three questions I can respond by saying:-
1. The Manstone Depot is used only as a store for equipment and materials and is not classed as an employment site . I understand that the Depot is a long-standing part of the overall proposal for moving EDDC’s operations to another location to provide a cost-neutral solution to the perceived problem of the ageing office accommodation whilst at the same time providing much needed housing. The Council commissioned commercial valuations of several sites as part of the research into the viability of the proposed move. This has not been concealed from the public and indeed I believe clarification of the Manstone Depot amongst other information was provided to the press back in January.
2. The potential job losses had been identified in the application put to the Development Management Committee on 1 March 2013. The Economic Impact Assessment estimates that the worst case scenario, over a ten year period, could be up to 71 net job losses to Sidmouth. Polling of businesses found that 74% of business that responded advised that they did not expect to make changes to their business operations or plans (I’m afraid I haven’t the list of businesses that took part in this poll). It is therefore clear that job losses would have an impact, and this as reported to an earlier Overview Scrutiny Committee had to be balanced against the current costly accommodation that would lead to the Council’s budget being affected. Diverting budgets to run the current accommodation would lead to a knock on effect for the remaining budget for service provision and staff numbers.
3. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee will continue, as it has done for some time now, to operate as the Cabinet’s “critical friend” in reviewing the decisions that Cabinet makes. The Committee also has, in recent years, had the opportunity to consider matters before the Cabinet reaches a decision if it feels that it would be in the public interest to do so. A further report will be made to the Cabinet on the business case for the relocation of the Council offices and I would like to see such a report go before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to allow debate and inform the Cabinet of the views of the Committee on the project. The Committee is an integral part of the draft budget process each year and the Committee Members are more than aware of the financial situation of the Council both currently and forecast in future years, so I would be confident that the Committee would look to review any recommendation on relocation against the medium to long term budget restrictions this Council faces.
My best regards for hopefully a busier and warmer Sidmouth summer.
Stuart H

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