Costs elsewhere

PUBLISHED: 07:15 08 November 2013

Councillor Andrew Moulding, deputy leader of East Devon District Council (EDDC), stated in the Journal that “I am sorry for the anxiety the complaint has caused and the cost to the public purse” when referring to the outcome of an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman into the way EDDC dealt with the tendering process for the Elizabeth Hall site; in other words EDDC is squeaky clean.

This comes as no great surprise to me as they are actually very good at ‘procedures’ and ticking boxes in their daily routines.

So he seems a little annoyed that some members of the public had the temerity to even question EDDC’s integrity through the normal channels, thereby incurring a cost at some level of government.

But what about the enormous costs involved at every stage of the process of the sad Elizabeth Hall saga and the anxiety caused to many residents of Exmouth at its loss as a community amenity in its centrally inspiring location?

There were large legal costs involved in the removal of the safeguarding covenants attached to this piece of estate; then there were the privately held initial meetings booked into the Beacon Hotel, away from the public ear due to ‘commercial sensitivity’ issues; add to this a plethora of consultants’ reports and the production of a dedicated website to the Splash project, with its ongoing maintenance and these ombudsman costs pale into insignificance.

We shall never know what proportion of Exmouth residents were ‘for’ or ‘against’ the demolition of the Elizabeth Hall and public conveniences but what we do know is that our town and district councils aren’t too concerned with that: from the outset they knew what they wanted to achieve and nothing was going to stop them this time.

All the public consultations and questionnaires were a smoke screen behind which all the serious planning was being done; nothing sinister of course and all above-board.

The real debate about what mix of multi-national corporation versus local business should be adopted in Exmouth has never been conducted and now never will be; EDDC has now proved it can do whatever it wishes.

Future petitions and protest groups will be futile and a serious waste of residents’ time!

Andrew Moulding has proved himself a fine mayor in his own town of Axminster and actively supported the local residents when their largest employer, Axminster Carpets, was threatened with closure; but when it comes to our own town of Exmouth, he and his fellow ‘conservative’ councillors seem hell-bent on cloning us into the budget-end of the seaside resort spectrum.

Sidmouth remains in the ‘classy’ spot with its indifferent beach, but Exmouth, with the finest two miles of golden, sandy beach in the whole of the South West, remains firmly in ‘budget’ position.

I’m quite certain that he, along with Hugo Swire MP, will not be bringing their families here for their summer holidays!

John Harlock

Via email

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