9 February 2014 from EDA website:
‘ANOTHER COSTLY HEAD OFFICE ERROR BY EDDC ?
Local residents, EDDC’s own watchdog committee, and own staff defied
The Cabinet of the East Devon District Council has selected Skypark as its preferred site for its headquarters. If the decision is approved by the full Council on 26th February, officers would carry out further research into the viability of the move. Marketing of the Knowle would begin “promptly”. A final decision would be taken in the summer. No financial details of the proposed move were announced to justify the decision to leave the Knowle in favour of a site which, currently, has poor transport links and certainly does not fit the Council’s claims that its District headquarters should be somewhere more central than Sidmouth.
The East Devon Alliance deplores this choice, and EDDC’s undemocratic insistence on a project which has no clear financial justification. As Head of the Relocation Team, Richard Cohen , admitted to the Council’s own Scrutiny Committee recently, he has not asked the Head of Finance for “a full breakdown of the costs”. And yet, in addition to the substantial expenses already incurred (well over £350,000), the Council plans to set aside a further £400,000 of tax payers’ money over the next two years, just for preparations.
EDA Chairman Ian McKintosh says, “Economically, this is not the time to rush ahead with a massive spending of public funds, on a move that is widely regarded as imprudent.” Coherent arguments in favour of retaining the Knowle have been ridiculed by the Leadership, without serious debate. Sidmouth resident Robin Fuller’s detailed suggestions for refurbishment of the existing purpose-built buildings, and possible sale or conversion of the historic former hotel, were patronisingly dismissed by Councillor Diviani in just two words, as “Fuller’s Folly?”.
From Save our Sidmouth 27 February 2014
“A Full Council meeting last night, that began with repeated warnings from senior Councillors about tough financial times ahead, terminated with a swift show of Tory hands which will result in a multi-million pound spend of public funds. The marketing of the Knowle, and pushing on with the relocation ‘ambition’, were voted mindlessly through with the Cabinet minutes.
Independent Councillor, Ben Ingham, had shrewdly said earlier,”I do not believe you know what you are doing”. Debate had been initiated by Independent Councillor Claire Wright and colleagues, but was persistently stifled by the Tories, with some appalling personal attacks and as Councillor Roger Giles had to point out in one instance, downright lies. The Council’s audio recording of the meeting will make interesting listening.”
From Sidmouth Independent News 27 February 2014
SIN hears from reliable sources that Leader, Paul Diviani’s poor performance on Good Morning Devon this week, has alarmed councillors.
Cllr Diviani was clearly rattled by Matt Woodley’s reference to the “relocation fiasco” and floundered badly when trying to justify the Cabinet’s proposal to move to a business park on the edge of Exeter.
He failed to address Cllr Claire Wright’s comments on the same programme that it was a reckless suggestion at a time of austerity that would export East Devon jobs to Exeter and make it more difficult for residents to visit the offices.
“It is a business that we run”, he said and made the promise that if people can’t visit the new HQ “we will visit them” (SIN –How much will that cost?) His only comment on the financial aspect of the move was that “the cost has shifted around a bit”!
He bumbled on, seeming to argue that because he had to travel a long way from his Yarcombe home to Skypark, lesser mortals could be expected to bear some hardship as well.
Sceptics are beginning to wonder if the choice of Skypark for EDDC’s HQ move is an attempt to bale out one of the leader’s pet projects. The huge new business park site is rumoured to be rather short of eager tenants.