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"WE'RE NOT DITHERING!" Say Dithering Council.

posted 7 Dec 2011, 13:18 by Westover Labour   [ updated 7 Dec 2011, 15:10 ]
After a month of uncertainty that many people have speculated amounts to 'dithering', Sedgemoor District Council has now set some deadlines for action with regard to the West Quay wall. The issue was raised at the Executive Committee meeting today by Westover Ward Councillor Brian Smedley during the leaders 'High Level Budget Report'.
Cllr Smedley
said " You have listed several 'local issues' that need to be resolved  in order to assess the impact on your budget proposals. I would like to highlight the West Quay emergency and ask exactly how big a hole that will blow in your budget? "
Cllr Smedley went on to say "When the disaster happened over a month ago you responded quickly and publically, but information has dried up and people  are less convinced that you have a plan. What can you say to re-assure people that this is not the case and what funds have you applied to in order to plug this potential gap and at the same time compensate the residents and businesses affected?"
Cllr Duncan McGinty, Leader of the Council said he believed they HAD kept the public informed throughout and that the cost was anticipated at being between £2-5million pounds. He said "We don't have that, the County doesn't have that and the Environment Agency doesn't have it. The only ones who do are Wessex Water. However, the investigation is still ongoing".
Cllr Julian Taylor (Labour,Eastover) pointed out that Wessex Water were part of the IKK company who were Malay owned and wondered if it might be a good opportunity to "re-patriate some funds".
Corporate Director Allison Griffin, described by the Leader as 'Mrs West Quay' , said "This is clearly not an acceptable situation. It's a huge problem for us and a major catastrophe for the businesses and residents affected. We are doing all we can to help in terms of rates, Council Tax and benefits. Movement is still being detected  under the road and so we can't pull down the wall as it's helping to support the road and the buildings. This is hugely frustrating for everyone. However, it is not big enough to qualify for disaster relief." She went on to explain that they had sought hardship funding from the Belwin Fund-this is a Government scheme set up by the ODPM to fund hardship cases arising from certain emergencies uncatered for within regular LA funds.
Chief Executive Kerry Rickards, hastily stepping in to defend his council, said " People are saying that we are dithering because no-one wants to accept the liability but this is not the case. We have been looking at records as far back as the 1790s to establish ownership and precedent. ALL the agencies involved have now agreed to determine this by 15th December and if by that date no clear outcome is evident we will agree to divide up the costs". He went on to explain that there was simultaneously a 'forensic study going on to establish the cause of the disaster and at the same time admitted going to the Government for assistance citing a not unhelpful response from Caroline Spellman MP at Dept of Environment.
Allison Griffin agreed to a request from Councillor Smedley that Sedgemoor hold a meeting for residents and businesses at Bridgwater House at 4pm next Tuesday 13th December so that they can ask questions and get answers directly.
Cllr Smedley added "I have said that I am prepared to 'call in' the decision on 15th December if this will help speed things up. As chair of the Corporate Scrutiny committee i can call in decisions for further scrutiny and i would structure the meeting in such a way that all residents and businesses could speak and  we  could bring in our own chosen panel of experts to investigate the Councils response.  This is also the first time SDC have set up their CCU (Civic Contigencies Unit) and it is an important Corporate operation similarly to scrutinise the effect thereof."