EDDC “Council decision to sell HQ for £7.5M is worst deal ever, activists”

Activists have branded a council decision to sell its HQ “the worst deal ever” for taxpayers.

East Devon District Council is selling its offices at Knowle in Sidmouth to Pegasus Life Ltd, one of Britain’s largest retirement housing developers, for £7.5 million.

The developable value of the site – divulged in a response to a Freedom of Information request in January-has been set at £50 million, with Pegasus Life Ltd set to make a £10 million profit.

Pegasus is owned by an American firm listed in the so-called Paradise Papers, 13.4 million confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investments that were leaked to German reporters last year. Offshore investments enable companies and individuals to shelter their wealth and avoid tax. They are legal.

Paul Arnott, chairman of the East Devon Alliance campaign group, said: “Why were councillors never told that our last great piece of family silver the Knowle – would be worth a massive £50 million after development?

“If any individual person in East Devon was told their prime location property could be developed and sold on for £50 million they’d never accept £7 million.”

In December 2016, the council’s planning committee rejected Pegasus Life’s planning application for 113 extra care units, but following a four-day inquiry into the developer’s appeal in November, a planning inspector gave the firm approval for the scheme which includes a café and swimming pool. Sidmouth has been allocated only 50 extra care homes in the council’s Local Plan.

The Alliance said it was an “exceptionally bad” deal, because, in accordance with the old land buyer’s rule of thumb, the landowner of a site should expect around a third of its developable value – in this case £16.5 million.
A council spokesperson said the deal was based on the site’s land value – in its current state. The site includes the buildings, terraces and top car parks.

Moving council operations to Honiton, with a satellite office at Exmouth Town Hall, has a budget of £10 million and is being funded out of the council’s coffers and a Public Works Loan Board loan.

The council spokesperson said that “from day one”, council running costs would reduce significantly when it leaves the Knowle and during its first full year of operations at Honiton it will save £135,000, with savings increasing year-on-year.

The Alliance pointed out that because the proposed complex is considered to be a residential/care home development, as opposed to a general residential development, the developer is not required to pay Section 106 money towards providing community services. The developer is only contributing £12,000 to improve access/footpaths to the site from adjacent parkland.

However, the developer could have to comply with what is known as an overage clause: If more than a 20% profit is made from the development, the council will be entitled to 50% of any profit made over and above the 20%, to a maximum of £3.5 million.

A council spokesperson, said: “We have carried out due diligence on Pegasus Life Ltd and are satisfied that they are an established and successful company suitably financed, capable of delivering the promised development and able satisfy their contract with the council.

“Selling the Knowle and moving offices is key to continuing to serve our communities. Services to our communities are what matter, not the vanity of paying to stay in an outdated and expensive building.

Pegasus Life Ltd bosses did not comment when asked whether any of the profit of its Sidmouth development could end up in tax havens. However, Howard Phillips, its chief executive, said: “We pride ourselves on the quality of our developments and the sensitivity of our designs to ensure they fit in with the area’s achitectural vernacular.

“The UK is in the middle of housing crisis and local authorities need to make cohesive eve plans that meet the needs their local towns. This includes provision for people over 60.”

Source: Western Morning Newz

Who will be working where with the new EDDC HQ

Freedom of Information request 19 February 2018. EDDC seems to be increasing staff during austerity.

“Total number of employees working for EDDC
513 – data as at 28 February 2018.

How many currently working remotely or ‘on the move’ are:

A) based in Exmouth Town Hall -79
B) based in Sidmouth – 280
154 are based elsewhere across the district including THG, Manor Pavilion, Cranbrook, StreetScene depots, parks and gardens, Lymebourne House, Business Centre, Camperdown or may be mobile touching down at both ETH and Knowle.

How will this situation change once the new office opens in Honiton (number):

It remains to be seen exactly but I would expect the majority of the 280 to relocate to Honiton but I will be consulting with all individuals and where there are people who potentially live in Exmouth who can work more sensibly from Exmouth we may make adjustments.”


Unitary authorities – the austerity measure that can’t be stopped?

Wonder what that new £10m EDDC HQ will be used for?

“Simon Heffer writes in the Sunday Telegraph to call on the Government to simplify and streamline the UK’s councils, replacing the system of county and district councils with county-level unitary authorities.

The need for “wholesale reform”, he says, has been made urgent by the problem of “social care that will break local government” and former chancellor George Osborne’s “disastrously flawed business rate system, which has had a profound effect on revenue-raising”.

He says that a system of unitary authorities would reduce payroll, offer the chance to sell off assets, and improve the handling of planning decisions, while the Government should remove “huge strategic questions such as social care from council control altogether”.

The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 21

Struggling council may have to sell its new HQ …

Bet that caused a few palpitations and raised blood pressure in East Devon! But it’s Northamptonshire which has banned all but essential services spending.

“A cash-strapped local authority has imposed emergency spending controls as it faces “severe financial challenges”.

The section 114 notice bans all new expenditure at Northamptonshire County Council, with the exception of statutory services for protecting vulnerable people.

Last month the government said an inspector would look into allegations of financial failings at the authority.

It is believed to be the first such notice issued in more than 20 years…

The Conservative-led council announced in December that it was looking to increase council tax by almost 5% as it sought to make savings of £34.3m.
At the time, council leaders claimed they were facing huge demand for services, as well as cuts in government grants.

It was revealed in January the authority was considering selling its new £53m headquarters, which officially opened in October.

One Angel Square was designed to save money by closing 12 offices and making best use of a new office block. …”


Well, that’s it: PegasusLife wins Knowle appeal

“An application to create a 113-home retirement community at East Devon District Council’s current HQ has been allowed on appeal by the Planning Inspector.

PegasusLife lodged an appeal following the scheme’s refusal in December 2016.

A public inquiry was held over five days in November 2017.

The new development will be classed C2, which means Sidmouth will miss out on thousands of pounds’ worth of contributions towards affordable housing.

Read reactions in Friday’s Sidmouth Herald.”


“Secretary of State forecasts increase in number of unitary authorities”

Might Devon unitisation take place soon AFTER EDDC moves to its new luxury HQ?

“The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government says he expects the number of unitary authorities in England to be higher in five years’ time.

Sajid Javid’s comments came in response to a question from former Cabinet colleague Patrick McLoughlin, who noted that both Scotland and Wales “are totally served by unitary local authorities”.

Sajid Javid 146x219The Secretary of State responded: “I can tell him that 60% of English people are served by unitary authorities, and I expect the number to be higher in five years’ time, given the views of many local people about unitary authorities and our commitment to consider unitarisation whenever requested.”

In November 2017 Javid said he was ‘minded to’ back the Future Dorset plans, which involve the replacement of the nine local authorities in the council with two unitaries.

Under this model, one ‘urban’ unitary would be created through the merger of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. The other ‘rural’ unitary would be established from East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland. The county council would cease to exist.

However, councillors at Christchurch agreed this month to write to the Secretary of State to set out their vision of an alternative to the proposed shake-up. The council also approved an initial budget of £15,000 to take legal advice “and if necessary initiate legal proceedings to protect the interests of Christchurch Borough Council and its residents”.

Though not involving the establishment of unitary authorities, the Secretary of State said in December that he was ‘minded to’ back the merger of Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset District Council, and the merger of Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council into single district councils.”


EDDC: What they say, and what Owl thinks they mean

Council spin decoded:


“The council’s latest annual Working Together for the Future of East Devon conference, which brings together voluntary and statutory organisations, was attended by more than 100 people. Councillor Jill Elson, EDDC’s portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, who organised the event, said she was delighted with the high level of attendance from voluntary organisations, community groups and town and parish councils.

She said: “Volunteers are becoming essential as a means of helping ensure that people have the best quality of life they can, particularly with more people wishing to be cared for at home.

“Whatever support they offer, all volunteers make a difference and ensure that people’s lives are enriched and that they are not forgotten.” “


We are durned well not going to pay for anything you lot will do for free, so get your noses to the grindstone and save us lots of money to squander on our new HQ. Oh, and although we aren’t respinsible for social care we allowed our Leader to torpedo the NHS, so you’d better fill the gaps because we won’t.