There will be keen public interest in Item 14 , the Relocation update, at the Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday 14th December. For your information, current Cabinet Members are Paul Diviani (Leader), Andrew Moulding (Deputy Leader), Philip Skinner, Jill Elson, Phil Twiss, Iain Chubb, Geoff Pook, Ian Thomas, Eileen Wragg, Tom Wright.
Taxpayers of course are currently footing the bill for what Head of Relocation, Richard Cohen’s report calls EDDC’s “desire and need” to move , from its single HQ at Sidmouth, to two places : Honiton, to brand new offices, not yet built; and Exmouth , to the about-to-be-refurbished Town Hall.
Over £1.4 million has already been spent on the relocation project, with not much to show for it. And after its many twists and turns, two new hiccups have occurred in the past week.
1.Last week’s rejection of PegasusLife plans for Knowle, means finance for newbuild offices at Honiton is uncertain. (Should this finance have been in place BEFORE architect’s plans for any Honiton offices had been paid for and approved, with the added expense of officers’ and councillors’ time? ) Meanwhile, construction costs in England continue to rise.
2.For refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall, “where the previous estimated cost was without full survey”, EDDC has now discovered another £408,441 is required for such basics as full rewiring, removal of asbestos and lead paint, and replacement of central heating and boiler system. (SOS note: The latter should be no surprise to the Relocation Team, as Exmouth Town Hall only managed Energy Rating D in 2008. Knowle’s “Display Energy Certificate C’ for the same year makes an interesting comparison. )
The Relocation Report paper for 6th December, is now available to view at http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/committees-and-meetings/cabinet/cabinet-agendas/
Yesterday, the following message to Councillors was published on eastdevonwatch.org :
‘WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT: PROTECTING ESSENTIAL SERVICES OR LOSING MONEY ON RELOCATION?
That’s the stark choice facing EDDC councillors tomorrow.There is NO WAY out of the situation that, relocating to Honiton and Exmouth, will cost an enormous amount of money compared to refurbishing Knowle.
No matter how creative you get with the numbers and how much they are massaged – THAT is the reality.This is a problem entirely of the majority party’s making:It wilfully neglected Knowle for at least a decade to justify its case for a move:
It deliberately withheld figures on running costs for Knowle to improve its case for a move;It negligently refused to do a full structural survey on Exmouth Town Hall that massively understated the real cost of refurbishment;
It promised a ” cost neutral” move when that was patently impossible to achieve and where costs have spiralled out of control at dizzying speed;It wants us to pay a 40 year loan for its new HQ that was never anticipated.
None of this would matter if EDDC was a rich council with vast reserves and a gigantic income.
It is not.
It is a council that is draining its reserves rapidly, selling off its assets at break-neck speed to fund day-to-day costs and whose income, thanks to government cuts, is precarious to say the least.
Yet, almost certainly it will close its eyes, hold its nose, cross its fingers and vote to continue down this path of profligate, ever-increasing expenditure because it is not big enough to admit it made a terrible mistake.
And who will suffer? Not the officers and councillors in their more-expensive-than-ivory tower.
We, the council tax payers, with a debt millstone round our necks for the next 40 years with our diminished or non-existent services.
Your call, councillors, your call.’
It remains to be seen whether this message will be reflected in this week’s Cabinet Meeting.
Perhaps the suggestion (under ‘Gateway 7’ in the relocation report ) of a potential “re-run of the business case ” by Grant Thornton, is the last thing councillors, and taxpayers, “desire and need” .