Questions raised over community centre partnership commitment

Honiton Town Council say ‘the partnership commitments are subject to budgets and other matters being confirmed’.

A former councillor has questioned whether Honiton Town Council has misled the public over promoting a three-way partnership for the proposed community centre.

Jill McNally, in a letter read out during a public question time at Monday night’s council meeting, said: “The draft business plan version six presents the town council, the registrar and Robert Owen Communities (ROC) as a three-way partnership which will bring revenue into the proposed community complex.

“It says there is a commitment from ROC.

“It states again that ‘a commitment to relocation in the complex has been received by Robert Owen Communities’.”

She added: “In January, I had an exchange of emails with the head of work and wellbeing at ROC and he confirmed that the charity did hope to relocate to the complex.

“On January 17, I telephoned him and asked ‘Have ROC committed to relocating to the proposed community complex?’ and received a one word answer ‘no’.

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“I asked at your public meeting in January whether ROC had committed in writing to relocating and was told that was the case.”

She said: “Either the town council has misled the public in promoting the three-way partnership in its draft business plan, or there is a commitment in writing (even though ROC tells me it does not exist), in which case may I now have a copy?”

The meeting heard that the draft being referred to was just that, a draft, and it had been made clear that it was a work in progress and that: “ROC is currently in negotiations with Devon County Council over its budgets. We are waiting until they have finished those budgets to have a meeting.”

Councillor Nick Cornwell said the council had acted in “good faith” and pointed out that the commitment would be subject to conditions such as planning permission and other considerations.

The final version of the business plan will now be changed to ‘outline commitment’.

The town council is due to meet with ROC and the town clerk will send an expression of interest and explanation to Mrs McNally.