In an article in the Express and Echo, a “council spokesperson said: “At full council in December, Members rejected a proposal that the decision should be postponed until after the election and tasked the deputy chief executive with continuing to progress the project.”
This is not strictly true. The minutes of that meeting included a proposal (below) that set out the steps that needed to be taken to progress a possible relocation but no mention whatsoever was made in those minutes of the need to settle the matter before the district council elections in May 2015.
In December 2014, EDDC Tories were presumably confident that they would continue to be the majority party after May 2015. It is only since developments AFTER that date (significantly the formation of the East Devon Alliance support network for a large number of independent candidates for district council) that the Executive body appears to have taken the decision (when?, where?) to accelerate and merge meetings to try to force this decision through before the cut-off date of the end of March 2015.
Here are the specific minutes:
1. that the emerging changes to the relocation project be recognised and the
following be agreed:
The marketing exercise for Knowle and Manstone has resulted in a range of offers and, following a detailed assessment process, price, form and quality of development propositions have been received that merit further detailed negotiation towards selection of a preferred developer.
Leading offers for Knowle do not include options to sell Manstone in which case EDDC can choose to retain Manstone for the foreseeable future as a depot function and continued employment use.
The reduced offer for EDDC’s Heathpark site no longer represents a sufficiently persuasive level of capital receipt and will not be pursued further.
The retention of Heathpark in EDDC ownership means that this now represents the most cost effective and straightforward location to develop a new headquarters building for the Council.
Relocation to Skypark is no longer a viable proposition based on the reduced offer for Heathpark and combination of Knowle market value and prudential borrowing.
The East Devon Business Centre (EDBC) should preferably be retained and could potentially be combined within a new EDDC HQ development.
In the interim,Exmouth Town Hall has been vacated by Devon County.
A new HQ in Honiton can be restricted in size and cost to a 170 desk equivalent
scale with an improved Exmouth Town Hall for 80 EDDC staff as a main satellite office in the district’s largest community.
As part of its commitment to more mobile working and accessibility, the Council will offer a service presence as customers require in future at locations elsewhere in the district.
That relocation continues to make financial and operational sense on a whole life cost basis, specifically 20-year projections combining capital receipt and repayment of prudential borrowing versus existing office running cost and unfunded expenditure on existing building repair, maintenance and improvement.
that the Deputy Chief Executive, in consultation with the Office Accommodation Executive Group, be authorised to take forward further actions in pursuit of the above recommendations and Project Plan,
that further reports be produced for Cabinet and Council on project progress and to seek formal approval for any disposal of Knowle;
that a thorough examination of all facts and figures in respect of the relocation be carried out by:
a) The Audit and Governance Committee
b) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee
c) The internal auditors
d) The independent external auditors