£15m cost of ‘saving cash’

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I feel the need to write this letter due to the anger and frustration at witnessing many council meetings over the last couple of years and the incredulous decisions that flow from them.

The move of the Knowle has been the wish of a few at the East Devon District Club for many years – and for reasons only known to them.

Their justification (excuse) used is supposed to be that the existing building is not fit for purpose (not supported by staff I have spoken to), and usually it is delivered in a very dramatic way, with an additional exaggeration at each meeting!

This move has been a very contentious one between the EDDC opposition groups and the public alike.

The council said from the start that if it wasn’t “cost neutral” the move would not go ahead.


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So far £850,000 has been budgeted for exploring the viability(!) of moving. They want to sell the Knowle for housing, nursing home, block of flats or whatever today’s bright idea is!

They’ve now added the sale of the Honiton business centre to the list, plus the Manstone Depot, as well as borrowing £4.8million. The new building is nearly £15million. This is to save us money!

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I’m afraid I deeply question (as do many) the real motives behind the move. The facts, figures and reports do not stand up to scrutiny – anything controversial is discussed in secret or deemed commercially sensitive and therefore exempt from challenge.

The few councillors brave enough to challenge with uncomfortable questions are quickly dismissed and are rarely properly answered.

The different groups making up Save Our Sidmouth have asked many times to meet with the council for them to show us a fact-based cost-saving case for a move. If the case was clear and made sense, our support would be immediate.

Unfortunately such a simple solution with the added potential benefit of public support is always rejected with some crock of an excuse, creating even more distrust in their ability to support their case.

What I have witnessed so far means I have unfortunately now lost all confidence that this move is unbiased and in the public interest.

A shameful waste of money has already been spent while services are being cut left, right and centre – all for a face-saving vanity project. This move is with your money, you are going to pay for it.

There are 400 jobs directly involved and many more indirectly. There are contracts with businesses in town and the reduction in staff spend will impact the high street. The list of potential damage goes on.

Sidmouth WILL be impacted and changed with no clear proven benefit to East Devon as a whole.

I’m angry because I don’t believe EDDC is unbiased in its findings. There are not enough councillors brave enough to challenge and question.

I am angry because a move over a refurbishment (without the gold-plated taps to exaggerate the cost) is a waste of public money.

And I’m angry that the public have so little influence or recourse over council decisions when they are patently and clearly flawed!

Lastly, I’m afraid we are going to end up with a fiasco like West Somerset Council where the project was a financial disaster. I’m sure they enjoyed similar council assurances, spin and promises!

Steven Kendall-Torry

Sidmouth

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