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HONITON: Town councillor resigns over cost of the Beehive
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
A senior Honiton town councillor has resigned due to the “unacceptable” use of public money to fund the Beehive community centre, which he said was “detrimental” to the interests of ratepayers. Councillor Mike Allen, who also represents Honiton on East Devon District Council, notified the mayor of his resignation from the town council on Tuesday (April 15th), following what he described as “undemocratic” debates over the control of the Beehive. He said: “I feel that the chairing of the key debates on the Beehive has been undemocratic and that incoming finances for the running of the Beehive are being devoted entirely to the unelected Honiton Community Complex Company, trading as ‘the Beehive’. “I believe this is completely detrimental to the interests of the ratepayers of Honiton and an unacceptable use of civic funds.” At a meeting on Monday evening (April 14th), a day prior to Councillor Allen’s resignation, councillors received an updated report from the Beehive company directors, which explained that financial margins for the centre were “likely to be tight”. Councillor Allen has consistently opposed the current Beehive payment structure, which means the council must repay a £53,000-a-year loan for the next 30 years in addition to the £20,000 annual rent for the centre. He also called for the people of Honiton to be consulted on the issue via a town poll. He added: “It is unacceptable that ratepayers must pay the loan and £20,000 per year for their own building when the Beehive Company are only charged £1 per year. “Community organisations are being charged so much for meeting rooms that they cannot afford to come. Pressures on certain organisations to come to the Beehive, and in at least one case incorporated into the Beehive Company, have been quite inappropriate. “I therefore believe the town ought to have a say in the future of the Beehive via a town poll.” Councillor Allen will continue to represent the town on East Devon District Council, for which he is a member of two key committees and has recently been made Business Champion. He also cited his extra commitments on the district council as a further reason for his resignation. Responding to Councillor Allen’s resignation, Councillor Vernon Whitlock – one of the Beehive company directors – insisted that the majority of those in control of the complex were appointed by the town council and therefore answerable to ratepayers. He said: “The building and project, which is the culmination of a long-term vision of the town council, has the overwhelming support of the majority of town councillors. “The Beehive is already proving extremely popular and is addressing the long-term problem of a lack of community facilities in a growing town at the heart of East Devon. In the first two weeks of opening over 2,000 people have come through the doors. “The comments from the many visitors, some of whom have in the past been opposed to the project, have all been positive now that they can see what the town council has built.”
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