Council offices ‘diabolical’

But is Honiton’s bid for a community centre complex, to include new offices, too grand? Councillor Jill Elson poses the question at EDDC cabinet meeting.

What Honiton needs is a community hall, not a complex.

That is the view of Exmouth Councillor Jill Elson, who told East Devon District Council’s cabinet last week that Honiton Town Council’s plan should be down-sized.

“If we gave every town in East Devon this amount of money, we would be sitting here thinking can we afford it,” she said.

“I think Honiton needs a community hall, but I don’t think it has the support.

“I don’t think it stacks up and I can’t support it. What town has had �900,000?”

Councillor Elson expressed concern about the costs involved in the project.

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“To write a tender of that size - for �2m - is going to involve considerable cost,” she said.

“A review is needed, not just of the business plan but of what the hall should be.”

She admitted the town council offices are “diabolical”, but added: “Raising the capital for a project like this is easy. It’s the running costs.”

She pointed out that running costs are forcing community venues to close at the present time.

Councillor Chris Wale told the cabinet: “Things don’t stack up.

“I’m inclined to put the brakes on things. How much public support is there?

“We need an indication.”

Councillor Wale referred to the �4,000 raised by Honiton Community Centre Association and added: “It is not a significant sum of money.

“Do we want to burden Honiton with a sum that is going to be forever?”

Mark Williams, the council’s chief executive, said: “Undoubtedly, this is very difficult.”

He said the council’s consistent policy had been to do its level best to support the project, but wanted to see the scheme “community-led”.

Referring to a suggestion that the district council could assist with a loan for �140,000, he advised councillors: “Look at your capital programme for next year.

“You will have to make adjustments to facilitate this.

“It is tight.”