Knowle figures branded ‘scandalously wrong’

EDDC's Knowle headquarters

EDDC's Knowle headquarters - Credit: Archant

More than 60 Sid Valley residents packed in to Sidmouth’s Old Unitarian Chapel last week to express their strong opposition to East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) proposed move from the town.

Tuesday’s meeting gave councillors the chance to voice their opinions, but also provided an opportunity for members of the public to have their say on the controversial project.

Michael Brittain was unconvinced by EDDC’s argument that the existing offices were not fit for purpose, suggesting that councillors visit Sidmouth Health Centre or a hospital to see how staff make do with limited space.

He said: “This suggestion that they want to move because it’s not fit for purpose just doesn’t bear thinking about - there are thousands of us who have worked in far worse conditions.”

Town councillor John Dyson warned that EDDC may not even exist after 2015’s General Election, saying that both the Conservatives and Labour have pledged to continue cutting local government budgets.

“I think if I was a betting man, within five years’ time, perhaps three years’ time, there won’t be any district councils at all,” he added. “I think that has to be taken seriously.”

Richard Eley slammed the figures used to justify the relocation as ‘completely, hopelessly and scandalously wrong’.

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He said that the basis of the move rested on an assumption that energy prices would increase by 10 per cent above inflation every year for the next two decades, and were missing key details including the value of officer time spent on the project.

Richard Thurlow, chairman of campaign group Save Our Sidmouth, dismissed claims by councillors that their efforts had managed to prevent the EDDC’s Manstone depot from being sold.

He said: “Saving the Manstone depot was purely an accident of the developers not wanting it. It was nothing to do with the councillors voting or arguing against it.”

Mr Thurlow added that his biggest concern was the threat of losing 400 jobs from the town if the authority relocates.

He said: “I think there is a very, very good case for putting the whole thing on ice and seeing what happens in a couple of years.”

EDDC is due to meet on Wednesday to vote on the next steps in the relocation project.