This point was made very firmly by Deputy Chair Cllr Bowden, at this afternoon’s Audit and Governance (A&G) Committee meeting at Knowle.
Councillors and the public will naturally bear this in mind when the two independent audits, called for by A&G today, arrive in quick succession. The Committee was assured by EDDC officer Simon Davey, that both reports would be available by mid- to late-February 2015, to give time for a thorough reading before the next A&G meeting in March. They are long overdue!
Individual councillors, and of course Save Our Sidmouth (SOS), have made repeated requests for independent audits over the past two years.Not until 17 December 2014, and long after the political decision to move had been approved by themselves, did the Full Council, prompted by Cllr Graham Troman, vote to ask for a thorough investigation of the figures behind the relocation project.
Today, partly in response to questions from Richard Eley of SOS, and Tony Green of|East Devon Alliance, it was formally requested through the Chair, Cllr Ken Potter, that the the reports must be in writing, and that most of the content should be in Part A…i.e. in the public domain.
Internal auditor, Andrew Ellins,of South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) acknowledged that until now his work had depended more “on reliance than in-depth delving ” into the actual figures given by the relocation team. “If the figures are not accurate, then I have been hoodwinked”, he said. He appealed to members of the public to send him any information about possible errors in the Council’s facts and figures, that they would like him to report on.
External auditors, Grant Thornton, also promised to take a rigorous look at the Council’s calculations including the energy savings claimed by Richard Cohen to justify the move from the Knowle . Richard Eley had already expressed his incredulity at the “maverick and pessimistic” predictions of the Deputy CEO.
Several councillors expressed their awareness of the massive public concern over relocation, and Chair, Cllr Ken Potter declared, “This committee is anxious to get to the detail”. The business plan for relocation, and the soundness of the assumptions driving it, might at long last be thoroughly examined. We shall see.