Making beach huts more available, or maximizing assets? You can’t have it both ways

Report from Scrutiny Committee meeting:

EDDC’s Deputy Chief Executive, Richard Cohen was directly in the firing line at last night’s Scrutiny Committee held at Knowle. He was obliged to admit that Ward members had not been contacted at all, before the new prices for beach huts were announced in the Councillors’ news sheet, ‘The Knowledge’ (January 2016). It became clear that only a cursory consultation had been made, with town clerks, about possible transfer of ownership of beach huts to local councils … but councillors themselves were left in the dark.

Richard Cohen defended his actions, saying he was working under a Cabinet directive. But the behind closed doors decision to increase beach hut hire charges by over 90% by 2017 in Beer, Budleigh Salterton, Seaton and Sidmouth, has made Ward members livid.

Cllr Marianne Rixson (IEDA, Sidmouth-Sidford) found this level of price hike “staggering”. Her detailed research had shown that comparable wooden beach huts at Lyme Regis had a lifespan of 10 years, and a replacement cost estimated at £600 per hut.

So was EDDC intending to replace the 20 year old Sidmouth beach huts with new ones before handing them over to the Town Council?”, she asked.

Cllr Maddy Chapman (Con, Exmouth-Brixington) twice called the price hike “outrageous”, saying “I do find the way this council goes about things is all over the place” , and adding “I don’t understand why you are trying to make so much money out of people who can’t afford to go abroad.”

Cllr Cathy Gardner (IEDA, Sidmouth Town) said two things had got “mixed up” in Richard Cohen’s claim – that EDDC wanted to make beach huts more available, and to maximize assets. “The two things are at odds”, she told him. “Social benefit has gone out of the window. EDDC should “stop trying to sound as if they are doing people a favour”.

At the suggestion of Cllr Val Ranger (IEDA, Newton Poppleford & Harpford) Committee, there will now be a formal recommendation to Cabinet that a structured process should be introduced at EDDC, for Ward Members to be involved in decision–making from a very early stage.

But a strong warning came from Scrutiny Chair, Cllr Roger Giles (Ind, Ottery St Mary), that recommendations by Scrutiny were not always mentioned by officers in their report for Cabinet. The consequences were clear from a recent instance of a Cabinet meeting which he had attended. Despite there being no less than nine Scrutiny recommendations to be addressed, not one was referred to during the course of the meeting.

So last night’s Meeting also recommended that officers’ reports should in future highlight Scrutiny recommendations, for Cabinet consideration.

Isn’t it high time that Scrutiny was taken seriously?

Source 18/03/2016

One thought on “Making beach huts more available, or maximizing assets? You can’t have it both ways

  1. Unfortunately, with the disdain the current Leader, Cabinet and Senior Officers have for Democracy – after all why have democracy when you can get away with the much simpler and quicker autocracy where you can do what you want rather than what the majority of councillors or residents want – why should we have any expectation that Cabinet will take any notice of Scrutiny unless there is a legal basis for them having to (which as far as I know there isn’t). But even then I wouldn’t count on them showing any more regard for the law than they do in many other instances (see record of FoI timeliness, using Part-B o avoid any debate even by councillors in private etc.).


Comments are closed.