Beehive decisions to be scrutinised

PUBLISHED: 11:30 17 February 2015

The Honiton Beehive. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref mhh 2243-34-14AW

The Honiton Beehive. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref mhh 2243-34-14AW

Archant

A proposed ‘mediation exercise’ will be undertaken by the South West Audit Partnership and provide an ‘independent objective assessment of the Beehive process’.

A heated meeting held by Honiton town councillors saw members unanimously approve East Devon District Council’s offer to fund an investigation into The Beehive’s compliance and governance.

The process, called a ‘mediation exercise’, would be undertaken by the South West Audit Partnership, and provide an ‘independent objective assessment of the Beehive process’.

In a report to the town council it said: “All members of the public, particularly Honiton taxpayers, should be confident that public finance is used correctly.”

It is not known how long the process will take.

The decision was taken following a debate at the full council meeting on Monday (February 9).

The move came after five Honiton town councillors called for the police to investigate concerns relating to public finances and contractual matters.

Earlier in the meeting, some residents called for the five councillors to resign from their posts.

John Burgess, secretary of Friends of the Beehive, also blasted the council for ‘undermining’ the project.

Mr Burgess said some councillors should be ‘deeply ashamed’ for ‘waging a vendetta against The Beehive and the council’.

Responding, Cllr Mike Allen, East Devon district councillor for Honiton, said that the point was not to criticise the volunteers, but about ‘whether or not the finances are being handled in the way that was originally set out by the town council’.

Deputy clerk Sarah Jenkins said she was concerned that the ‘prolonged debate’ about The Beehive is damaging the town council’s reputation.

Mrs Jenkins said: “The town council should ensure that every decision is lawful and that public finance is used correctly. Nothing should be hidden or ignored.

“However, I am concerned that damage is being done to the reputation of The Beehive, as those who are working voluntarily are seeking to give it the best start.”

Mrs Jenkins added that she was also concerned that damage is being done to the ‘reputation and well-being’ of the individuals in the wider arena.

“Recent years have seen much confusion, misinformation and uncertainty,” Mrs Jenkins added.

“You are now being given the opportunity to address this.”

Cllr John Zarczynski, who chaired the meeting, said the proposal was ‘very important’.

He added: “It will address most of the issues brought to light.

The deputy mayor said people had been fed misinformation about The Beehive, which came from ‘armchair warriors’.

“This is a unique opportunity,” Mr Zarczynski said.

“Over the last two years, a number of issues have been raised. This is our opportunity to be able to address all these issues.

“Every item will be looked at and referred to in the report.

“The new town council [after May’s elections] deserves a new start so they can carry on being councillors and do things that benefit the town.”

Mr Zarcynski added that any discrepancies that arose in the findings would be handed to the ‘appropriate authority’.

The investigation is still subject to endorsement by the district council’s overview and scrutiny committee.


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