Last night’s meeting with Sidmouth District Councillors

In a brave, but probably for some politically-suicidal gesture, six of Sidmouth’s seven district councillors met their electors last night at a public meeting organised by the Sid Vale Association to discuss their attitude to Office Relocation Project.
The packed, at times angry meeting in the Dissenters Chapel overran the planned one and a half hours. The key headlines for the evening:
• Councillors Drew, Kerridge, Newth, Sullivan, and Wale basically supported leaving the Knowle, despite protestations of regret, and parroted well-worn phrases, “not fit for purpose”. “too expensive to refurbish”, “people working in bathrooms”.
• Councillors Troman and Hughes oppose the move. Troman mentioning the disastrous loss of jobs; Hughes (in a statement, he was at a County meeting) saying it was the wrong time to be moving, and development of the Knowle site would add to Sidmouth’s flood risk.
• Despite having attended a morning briefing (from Richard Cohen?) most of the councillors seemed out of their depth with the technical details of the project. Christine Drew didn’t even realise a big chunk of the gardens had been offered to developers! Many of the audience were far better informed. Her remark early on in the meeting, that “You’re doing our job for us!” seemed rather ironical.
Stand out contributions from the floor came from:
• Richard Thurlow of Save our Sidmouth who demolished the Council’s figure of £5.5 million in energy saving as a result of the move.
• Richard Eley completed the job saying that Richard Cohen’s estimates of 10% annual energy prices increases over 20 years with 2% annual inflation were “rubbish”, and adding that EDDC’s embedded consultant Steve Pratten would end up costing taxpayers £1 million.
• Keith Northover (Knowle Drive Residents’ Association) pointed out that Robin Fuller’s detailed study in 2012 showed the viability of refurbishing the 1980’s purpose-built offices which could easily accommodate the fewer employees that will be needed.
• Mike Temple passionately condemned the possible destruction of one of the finest gardens in the county as the upper lawns had been included in the area to be developed (apparently by a unilateral decision of Richard Cohen).
• Michael Brittain said it was incedible EDDC felt they needed to move when their existing conditions were better than many hospitals enjoyed.
• Town councillor John Dyson pointed out-as did several others -that relocation would only start to save money after ten years but that the life expectancy of EDDC, because of inevitable local government reorganisation was likely to be less than five.
• John Rayson, who worked for many years at the Knwle, said the staff liked working there and didn’t want to move.

Sadly, it was clear that most of Sidmouth’s representatives were out of touch with their electors. As one frustrated resident shouted out “Start standing up for Sidmouth!”
Some predict a serious electoral cull in the town next Spring

SVA Public meeting with Sidmth District Councillors 20141209_195240

Footnote from an EDA observer, on the above picture: “It would be nice to think enlightenment of the church comes from Tesco – but I think it is just a street lamp”.

5 thoughts on “Last night’s meeting with Sidmouth District Councillors

  1. Pingback: Feedback from Public Open Meeting with Sidmouth District Councillors, called by Sid Vale Association | Save Our Sidmouth
  2. It’s all a bogus smoke screen. I used to work there. The old building could do with being sold on for more suitable housing flats. The new offices are perfectly fine. The only thing would be to put a mass of solar panels on the roof (and all the council-owned properties) to offset the heating and running costs. what qualifications does Mr Cohen have for being such an ‘expert’ in costings, by the way? from experience the only thing he does excel in, is being downright rude and dismissive to his employer (the taxpayer). He couldn’t effectively manage his way out of a paper bag.

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    • I recall a meeting at EDDC when one of the councillors mentioned above, it may have been Cllr Newth or perhaps Cllr Drew, spoke at length about the dangerous state of the building, all the hazards the staff had to content with, alarms going off etc, etc.
      A Freedom of Information request, about the numbers of Health and Safety records of incidents, incidents, injuries false alarms etc etc came back saying there were no such records.
      I cannot for one moment believe that if conditions were as atrocious as was alleged, that there would such a complete absence of formal record.
      If I may pick up on Cllr Eileen Wragg’s comment about competence, may I remind people that I questioned Richard Cohen about the methodology of the Exmouth Consultation survey. He provided references that I checked against the Audit Commission (who had been quoted) and they disassociated themselves with his comments and pointed out that the survey quoted as a model, had long been abandoned. It is only relatively recently that EDDC have taken any steps to ensure that their surveys go someway towards having validity. The first, an attempt to regenerate the discredited East Devon Business Forum, actually went as far as recognising that only randomly selected respondents counted, that self-referring respondents were not a valid source of data.
      As I pointed out at one EDDC meeting when I questioned the validity of the Exmouth survey, having checked out Cohen’s methodology, incompetence was but one of a few limited explanations.

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  3. RC said at a public meeting in Exmouth, that the Elizabeth Hall was costing EDDC £170K p.a. to run. When I questioned the figure, as it was inaccurate, & said ‘ the question of competency comes to mind ( i.e. either his or whoever had supplied that figure,) I was taken to Standards! Nothing new about the accountancy there then!!

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