Relocation: ‘We’ve fallen flat on our face,’ says Tory councillor

The new Mayor of Honiton Peter Halse. Photo by Terry Ife. Ref mhh 0195-21-14TI To order your copy of

The new Mayor of Honiton Peter Halse. Photo by Terry Ife. Ref mhh 0195-21-14TI To order your copy of this photograph go to and click on myphotos24 - Credit: Archant

The district council has ‘fallen flat on its face’ over its proposed move away from Sidmouth and ‘owes it to the people of East Devon to face up to the situation’.

That was the message from Tory councillor Peter Halse, who urged council colleagues to reconsider their stance on the authority’s controversial relocation project.

He said falling energy costs meant that East Devon District Council (EDDC) was unlikely to see the savings predicted.

Council officers have based the case for moving on a 10 per cent increase in energy prices each year for the next two decades.

EDDC is proposing to move from its existing HQ at Knowle to a purpose-built facilities at Honiton’s Heathpark and vacant offices in Exmouth Town Hall.

Speaking at an overview scrutiny committee meeting last week, Sidmouth-born Honiton representative Cllr Halse said: “Quite honestly, we have fallen flat on our face.

“We have got to face up to the situation we are in.

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“If you actually look at the reasons why we are going to move, it is all about energy costs.

“Therefore, we have got it completely wrong. It’s not just the leadership that is responsible, we are all responsible for the mess we are in.”

Mr Halse said that urgent repairs required for the council to stay at Knowle had been quoted at £1.5million - and that the authority had ‘already spent half of that’ on its relocation plans to date.

“And that’s what worries a lot of people,” he added.

“Fortunately, this council has been so good at financial management - and still is - so we can get out of this.

“We do need to look at this full in the face.

“I think we owe it to the people of East Devon.”

The meeting also heard from EDDC deputy chief executive Richard Cohen, who told the committee the relocation team had used official energy price figures from previous years, then extrapolated them to look to the future.

But he admitted that the prediction of energy costs was ‘notoriously difficult’.

Mr Cohen said: “Experts will tell you that within two or three years you cannot, with any certainty, predict energy costs.

“It is a very difficult process to engage in.”

But he said that while moving to more energy efficient offices would save the authority money in the long run, it was not the ‘be all and end all’ of reasons for the proposed move away from Knowle.