EDDC flogging off the Ocean Centre Exmouth – well, it might cover a bit of the new HQ bill!

“According to agent Vickery Holman Property Consultants, Ocean Blue, in The Esplanade, is on the market for £2,700,000.

The facility, which opened its doors for the first time in 2012, has 12-lane 10-pin bowling, a gaming area and the Ocean Bar and Grill, with a seating capacity of 100 on the first floor and a large children’s soft play area and café for 22 children.

On the second floor, there is a function suite, bar and two outside terraces which has become a popular wedding venue with a capacity for 350 people.

The complete site is subject to a 125-year lease with East Devon District Council and was sublet to LED Leisure Ltd for 25 years in 2015.

The Journal understands this agreement will not be affected by the sale of the site.”

http://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/exmouth-s-ocean-goes-on-the-market-for-2-700-000-1-5612363

Community has 6 months to bid for Sidmouth’s Drill Hall

“Community groups have been given six months to make their submissions by January 11, 2019.

Exeter-based JLL, have been appointed by East Devon District Council as property marketing advisor, and will be offering advice and taking bids from non-commercial organisations immediately.

In the autumn, the company will open the bidding up to commercial property sector who will have only three months to put forward a bid.

Councillor Jeff Turner, of Sidmouth Town Council, said: “I’m pleased to see that the six month period has now started for the local community in Sidmouth to come forward with any ideas they may have.

“This commences the next stage of the process in finding a way forward for this area of the seafront which is of significant interest to a great many people in Sidmouth.”

It follows 18 months of consultation, which included a scoping study around the town’s Port Royal area to find out what the community would like to see there.

EDDC also carried out a marketing exercise to see about the possibility of adding attractions such as a high quality restaurant/bar development or something similar.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “As a result of hearing what local people wanted and also acknowledging the constraints of the site including increased risk of flooding, a lack of financial viability in relation to large scale mixed use development and existing covenants, it was agreed that the original proposals should be ruled out.”

Cllr Philip Skinner, Deputy Leader of East Devon District Council and its economy portfolio holder, said: “I’m delighted that we are now able to offer this opportunity for the local community in Sidmouth to come forward during the next six months with their ideas for the site.

“Our property advisor will be available to offer guidance to interested parties and I look forward to seeing a range of proposals when the marketing period concludes in January next year.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/bids-now-open-to-redevelop-sidmouth-s-drill-hall-1-5580801

How much land does EDDC own? Answer: 2,302 acres

Answer to a Freedom of Information request:

1. The total amount of land (in acres) currently owned by your Council – 2302 acres

2. The total amount of land (in acres) currently owned by your Council that has been identified as surplus to requirements – 0 acres

3. The total amount of land (in acres) currently owned by your Council that is scheduled to be sold – 0.3 acres

4. The total amount of land (in acres) currently owned by your Council scheduled for joint venture housing development or where such development is already taking place – 0 acres

Date responded: 20 June 2018

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/access-to-information/freedom-of-information/freedom-of-information-published-requests/

The Great Public Asset Sale!

No mention of community hospital sales – many hospitals having been financed by the local population.

And it begs the question: if the community has no assets and is getting only statutory services which are funded out of general taxation – what are we paying (increased) council taxes for?

“Libraries, swimming pools, youth and community centres, town halls, parks and other open spaces were among more than 4,000 public assets sold by local councils to developers and other private buyers last year.

Sales appear to have risen since George Osborne, who was then the chancellor, changed the rules in 2016 to allow local authorities to use money from sales of publicly owned buildings and land to cover running costs. Campaigners say that authorities facing financial pressures are denying future generations access to many community assets.

Locality, a network of community organisations, submitted freedom of information requests to all 353 local authorities in England asking about asset sales, of which 240 responded. The results showed that councils sold 4,131 buildings or plots of land last year.

Tony Armstrong, the chief executive of Locality, said: “One of the concerns we have is that many local authorities are just selling these assets off, and until now we have not had a clear picture of the scale of this.” He called for more buildings and sites that councils could no longer operate to be transferred to community groups that could run them on a not-for-profit basis.

Richard Watts, of the Local Government Association, said: “With local government facing an overall funding gap in excess of £5 billion a year by 2020, councils face difficult decisions about how best to use their resources to support local services, day-to-day activities and to protect public assets. Before a decision is made to sell an asset, the cost of selling it versus the benefit it could bring is considered carefully.”

Source:Times (pay wall)

Council borrowing so high, government intervention may be needed

EDDC is borrowing to fund the building of its new HQ and to fund its “Growth Point” and is also considering going into the housing construction market.

“Local authorities could face further intervention by central government if new changes to investment and treasury codes fail to dampen council borrowing levels, according to a senior Whitehall official. …

[A conference speaker said] … “said: “When last year local authorities borrowed an additional £3.8bn, that was a £3.8bn increase in net debt. “That was £3.8bn less that the chancellor had available to distribute as funding across the board at the last budget. “So, local authority borrowing does have a real world impact in the overall quantum of funding that is available to government.”

In addition, he said that concerns have been raised that councils investing in particular asset classes can drive prices up, creating a bubble.

New principles on proportionality included in the code were triggered by some smaller authorities taking on huge sums of debt relative to their size, Caller [the speaker] added.

“We had concerns that those authorities who were doing that were effectively assuming that government stood behind their risk. “That is not the statutory position, and it is not a position we want to encourage. “What the legislation says is that effectively it is council tax payers that have to make good any deficit in those assumptions, not central government. We want people to remember that.” …

http://www.room151.co.uk/treasury/councils-could-face-additional-intervention-if-borrowing-rates-continue/

“Councils embracing commercialisation, says survey”

Do you agree that your council tax should fund EDDC as a “commercial enterprise”?

Bear in mind as you think about this and read below, its HQ move has gone up from “cost neutral” to the most recent estimate of around £10 million.

And ask yourself: how many of our councillors (town, district and county) would you trust to run your local sweet shop? And is this all academic anyway when increasingly the purse strings are being controlled by our Local Enterprise Partnership?

“Commercialisation has become the most talked about topic in councils this year, with some seeing turnover equivalent to a FTSE 250 company, according to research gathered by Zurich Municipal.

The insurer conducted in-depth interviews with 22 council chiefs across England and Scotland gathering findings into the Why are we here? The 2017 Senior Managers’ Risk Report (link below).

This revealed that many councils are embracing the opportunity to become commercial entities with one council chief interviewed by Zurich admitted to turnover of £1.5bn.

“Commercial income generating projects are the new norm for local government, with some competing against one another to buy and build hotels, harbours, piers, cinemas, university campuses, and science and research parks,” the report – released at the Solace Summit in Manchester yesterday – stated.

Many see the potential for commercially generated revenue to be re-invested in local communities, however, some spoke of the need not to stray to much into private sector disciplines, while others said it should not be pursued at any cost.

However, austerity is still seen as an ongoing challenge, with some councils saying that services cannot be cut any further.

Funding issues are also harming relations with central government, the research revealed.

One council chief executive said: “We need a frank discussion with government. We can’t carry on doing everything we do.”

Rod Penman, head of public services at Zurich Municipal said: “Councils are facing challenges from all sides, and many are employing commercial ventures to mitigate some of the lasting effects of austerity.

“This approach is not without its challenges, however. There is the growing potential for moral and commercial dilemmas at almost every turn, and it is clear that council chiefs are concerned about the long-term relationship between national and local government.”

Another theme to emerge from the study is the perception of councils following the Grenfell fire.

Council chiefs said they felt the tragedy marked a watershed in how local government’s purpose and remit is viewed.

One commented: “The Grenfell Tower disaster means we will take more consideration of community discussions.”

Penman added that councils needed to “improve the narrative” about the choices they take, especially in a more commercial environment.

“Framing decisions in a purely commercial light simply isn’t an option when the social value of public bodies and services has to be factored in,” he said.”

The full report is here:
http://newsandviews.zurich.co.uk/expert-lab/balancing-priorities-are-councils-facing-an-identity-crisis/

Council’s £1 million overspend investigated; our council’s multimillion overspend on new HQ not investigated!

OUR council has already spent nearly that much on its satellite HQ in Exmouth. The Honiton HQ was supposed to be cost neutral with the proceeds of the £7 Knowle sale to PegasusLife but latest estimates (some while ago and not adjusted for post-Brexit soaring costs) was around £10 million.

How come SWAP could do this in Herefordshire but not in East Devon. Or why KPMG – its new auditors – are not doing it now?

A special investigation into how the costs of establishing a joint customer services hub in a refurbished building soared from £950,000 to more than £1.9m has found evidence that officers “knowingly disregarded council process and procedures”.

The investigation into the Blueschool House refurbishment was carried out by the South West Audit Partnership for Herefordshire Council. The local authority has been working with the Department of Work and Pensions on the project. Have we ever seen the (updated) business case for the new HQ?

The business case for the hub was approved by the council’s Director of Resources on 13 May 2016 and the key decision taken on 2 June 2016 was approved by the Cabinet Member Contracts and Assets.

The SWAP report said: “Overall the council’s normal governance processes have not been followed by key officers involved in the Blueschool House refurbishment.

The key decision did follow the correct governance process however the business case to support the key decision lacked clarity over what works would be included in the £950K agreed financial envelope.

“It would appear that key staff including senior officers at Director level were aware of the council processes and procedures but these have not been applied during this project and there is evidence that officers have knowingly disregarded council process and procedure.”

The investigation found that although there were early indications from the framework provider that the project could not be delivered within the financial envelope even with value engineering, key officers failed to report this to Cabinet.

The report also said:

The rationale for the selection of the contractor could not be demonstrated as there were no records to support this. The property services team had responded to client requests without providing robust challenge, and had not followed the council procedure rules in relation to procurement.

The relationship between the property services team and contractors appeared to be informal for a capital project of this value and throughout the project there was little evidence that value for money could be demonstrated.

In line with the capital guidance, major projects should be overseen by a project board. The Accommodation Programme Board had oversight of the overall accommodation strategy until November 2016 however, there was no project board for the Blueschool House refurbishment project.

The timescale of the project was identified as a major risk in the business case as the project was subject to a time constraint pressure due to the DWP serving notice on their current property. This was a key factor in ensuring the project was progressed and had contributed to the overall poor governance.

The SWAP report said it was “for management to consider and determine whether any further action such as disciplinary action, should be taken against individual officers as it is clear there has been disregard for processes and procedures which has resulted in a significant overspend on the project”.

The report was due to be considered by the council’s audit and governance committee at a meeting this week (20 September).”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php