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Job loss errors delay 'farce' council move

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 14, 2012

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Plans to sell off a council's headquarters have "descended into farce" after Devon officials' latest error forced the sale to be delayed for the third time.

East Devon District Council first submitted an application to its own planning committee in September to abandon its Sidmouth offices and sell off the surrounding parkland for housing and a care home.

But officers were forced to backtrack on proposals to relocate the council from its historic home at the Knowle when they realised that instead of adding three jobs, the move would lead to the loss of 33.

A second attempt was then withdrawn after the number of workers who would be forced to make a 20-mile round trip to new offices in Honiton was revised upwards from 80 to more than 100.

Yesterday, the council admitted it had wrongly counted the number of staff who live in Honiton, arriving at 32 when the correct figure was 21, and announced a further delay.

The campaign group Save Our Sidmouth, which pointed out the mistake, said the estimate of job losses had been revised upwards three times and will now reach 75.

Group spokesman Richard Thurlow said: "It is a complete humiliation for those responsible, and proves beyond doubt that they are incapable of managing a project of this scale.

"The process has descended into farce. Confidence in the authority to competently deliver the relocation has accordingly collapsed and the only sensible course of action is for the council to withdraw the application and reconsider the matter in a calmer way."

The council will now consider its plans in February.

Deputy chief executive Richard Cohen said the mistake was "embarrassing" but added that it showed a "willingness to listen to those scrutinising our processes from outside".

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