At this month’s Cabinet meeting, councillors will consider a report that reflects on the move and what it has achieved.
Owl has some questions (and could on with more):
Q. 1. Has the move has saved money on running costs? Difficult to know whether or not any money has been saved, and if so how much. The Knowle was deliberately neglected for more than a decade and running costs were deliberately obfuscated during that time too. So, in Owl’s opinion, there is no way to make like for like comparison.
Q. 2. Final payment for the old site of £9M is 20% more than the original offer of £7.5M, does this represent tough negotiating and good value? Owl understands that information released by EDDC through FOI, estimated this site, with planning approval, would have a “developable value” of £50M. It would be usual for a developer to pay up to a third of this for the purchase of the land i.e. just up to £16.7M.
Q. 3. Will the costs of the abortive move “getting the ducks in a row” to Skypark of around £700K be counted in the Cabinet evaluation?
Q. 4. Is the market value of the new building more or less than its cost?
Francesca Evans lyme-online.co.uk
EAST Devon District Council has reflected on the positive effects of its move to Blackdown House in Honiton after one year in residence
It is now a year since the council moved from its former headquarters at the Knowle in Sidmouth to purpose-built, modern offices in Honiton and refurbished premises in Exmouth.
At the council’s March Cabinet meeting, councillors will consider a report that reflects on the move and what it has achieved.
Having spent more than 40 years in Sidmouth, East Devon District Council reports that in just one year the move to its new offices has saved money, reduced the authority’s environmental impact and been a positive change for its workforce.
The organisation has just succeeded in achieving Investor in People’s Platinum level accreditation – the highest award possible and something only 2% of organisations achieve.
In addition, the council’s brand new building has achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ sustainability rating.
On top of this, the contract negotiated with the buyers of its old Knowle site has given the council a final payment of £9million, which is 20% higher (£1.5million in cash) than the original offer price of £7.5million.
The council has not had to take up any long term borrowing to fund the Blackdown House project. All the savings go back into the council’s operation and services rather than on any debt repayment or interest.
Over the years, the council has attracted a significant amount of criticism for its decision to invest in modern offices. However, it says it has already proved to have been a good decision, achieving savings every year from year one, as well making a positive environmental impact and a modern workplace
Cllr Geoff Pook, portfolio holder for asset management said: “Financially, environmentally and operationally the council has made the right move. We are now based in twin sites: in the heart of Exmouth, our biggest town by far, and in Honiton, a central point in the geography of East Devon.
“The first year of operation at the new offices has already given the council an annual saving of £192,000 compared to its previous Sidmouth headquarters. This saving and future savings will go back into running the council and delivering its services.
“By leaving its old Sidmouth offices the council has also avoided £1.94million of repair and maintenance costs, which would have been needed to keep the old building going.
“The climate is benefitting as well. By making the move from its outdated offices, in the first year alone, East Devon has reduced its CO2 emissions by 80% and cut its water, electricity and gas bills by 44% overall.”