New move to shelve Knowle sale plan

PUBLISHED: 14:17 23 November 2012

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Two district councillors are urging that proposals to move the authority's HQ are put on hold because of proposals that could lead to the abolition of the district council.

Former Tory deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine has penned a 230-page report suggesting how to boost Britain’s flatlining economy. In ‘No Stone Unturned’ Lord Heseltine says that district council’s should be abolished in favour of unitary authorities.

The idea comes just two years after East Devon District Council (EDDC) spent £400,000 on a legal challenge against similar proposals by the then Labour government.

Councillors Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman feel proposals for EDDC to leave Sidmouth for Honiton - and subsequently sell Knowle for redevelopment - should be suspended until Whitehall has ruled on his recommendations.

Cllr Hughes this week tabled a notice of motion to that affect, seconded by Cllr Troman.

Both want the request to be given consideration at EDDC’s next full meeting on December 5.

“We’ll be flying in the face of the council tax payers of East Devon to continue this (relocation) process,” said Mr Hughes.

“Why spend all this money in times of austerity, ploughing ahead with something that might not happen, when you could find district authorities will be abolished?”

Mr Troman added: “At the next full council meeting I will second a motion to put on hold the proposed new council offices until the future is more certain.

“If, in the future, the land at Knowle is put on the open market, we should look at a community right to buy option.”

Lord Heseltine’s 230-page government-commissioned report outlines 89 recommendations to kick start the economy by reforming local government, business, education and Whitehall.

Among them is to put more power into councillors’ hands. He says the system of English local government is “overly complex, inefficient” and “not suited to the demands of the 21st century”.

He argues the multi-tiered nature of the English system makes it difficult to exploit economic opportunities and calls for the Government to combine all two-tier authorities so that all services, currently divided between county and district councils, would be provided by one. He says unitary authorities run at considerably lower cost and provide “greater clarity and accountability about where responsibilities lie”.

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