“Honiton for Sale” part 2 – some questions but very little chance of answers

This week’s Midweek Herald adds some interesting information to the story carried yesterday that former Chairman of East Devon District Council and town councillor, Peter Halse, believes that Honiton is being asset-stripped to pay for the vanity project EDDC HQ office relocation.

The Midweek Herald adds more comments from Councillor Halse:

… “In my personal view, Honiton is being put up for sale. Assets are being raised in order for the council to move to the outskirts of Exeter, which is not in the public interest”.

Mr Halse told the meeting that he had made strong protests to the district council regarding the move and added that he thought the district council had now realised “the Knowle is not quite the jewel in East Devon’s crown as it thought it was and that it was having to find other assets elsewhere.

An EDDC spokesperson said in response to this:

… “The question of succession to East Devon Business Centre has given us an opportunity to look again at how we can help meet the needs of business into the future in a words of enterprise and entrepreneurism very different from what existed when Heathpark Business Centre first opened its doors.

Lead members for business and officers carried out a tender exercise and interviewed four different consultancies. The chosen company, Carter Jonas, are in the process of gathering evidence and are expected to report back with their findings and recommendations within the next month or so”.

This raises several interesting questions:

If a respected and long-serving majority party Councillor has no real idea what is going on – how on earth do councillors not privy to the thoughts of those in the “inner sanctum” understand what they are voting for with the Skypark project?

The press release speaks only of something going out to tender – it does not say exactly what the tender was for and we will never know because the Asset Management Forum at EDDC has always met in secret and provides no agendas or minutes of its meetings for the public.

Councillor Halse’s comments seem to imply that EDDC is not going to get as much as it had wanted for Knowle. They have long said that the move will be “cost neutral” but that was when only Knowle and Manston Depot were mentioned. Is it still cost neutral when you add in the loss of the Heathpark site and the East Devon Business Centre? Again we will never know because the Relocation Working Party meetings are also held in secret and no agendas or minutes are produced.

We have a situation now where ALL decisions are now made in secret. Instead of information going to committees for discussion and decision they are being referred to creatively-named “Forums” and “Groups” so that the decision-making can all take place behind closed doors where even majority party councillors have no idea what is going on.

Let us hope that when the next council is convened it votes for a Committee system of decision-making rather than an Executive Board system which allows a very small number of people – hand-picked by the Leader – to take decisions on behalf of the majority.

Remember Leader Diviani’s last election promise: Clean, Green and Seen. Not Unclean, Ungreen and Unseen.

3 thoughts on ““Honiton for Sale” part 2 – some questions but very little chance of answers

  1. Apropos what, exactly, went out to tender, it might be worth taking a look at The Local Government Transparency Code 2014:

    Click to access Local_Government_Transparency_Code_2014_Final.pdf

    Section 22 relates to procurement and demands: ‘Local authorities must publish details of every invitation to tender for contracts to provide goods and/or services with a value that exceeds £5,000. For each invitation, the following details must be published: reference number; title; description of goods and/or services sought; start, end and review dates, and; local authority department responsible.’

    According to this code, there’s plenty of other ‘interesting’ information that EDDC should also be sharing with us but I’m yet to see any evidence of it doing so. Indeed, I did ask via Twitter whether they intended to comply with the code but my eminently reasonable question appeared to fall on deaf ears!


  2. I do wonder if this is a “slash and burn” policy – expecting to lose control, they sell off all our assets, burdening the incoming council with a vanity project that has spun out of control and leaving others to inherit the chaos. Then using the next 4 years to rip the new council to shreds, blaming them and getting back into power in 4 years time.

    This way, they get their new HQ by forcing the incomers to fund it with even more asset sales, they sign up as many contracts as possible for running council services to favoured bidders and having got massive housing developments through for grateful developers so that they can all live through their time out of power content that they have achieved their aims and shafted their successors, ready to do the same again 4 years later.

    Far-fetched – maybe not.


  3. I believe the situation is even worse than you report. EDDC want to sell ALL properties mentioned in the blog PLUS the SITA site at Honiton AND borrow £4.8million.


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