• EDDC denies conflict of interest over Exmouth hall sell-off

    18th October 2012 | News | Claire
  • The all conservative cabinet agreed that Elizabeth Hall on the seafront would be sold off to national chain, Premier Inn, earlier this month.

    But it has now emerged that the agent acting for EDDC, was also the agent acting for Premier Inn.

    Commercial property agents, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), contracted by EDDC during the tendering process, is also Premier Inn’s retained agents.

    Since 2008 JLL’s project and development services arm has completed several refurbishments on behalf of Premier Inn, delivering 1.245 new bedrooms, the Journal reports.

    Exmouth LibDem councillor, Eileen Wragg is quoted as saying that “it is important that the district council clarifies this or it could be perceived that something is not right.”

    But EDDC conservative leader, Cllr Paul Diviani, is reported as stating:  “We agreed specific measures to avoid conflict of interest becoming an issue with the Elizabeth Hall site, including those widely accepted in the business world to prevent the same part of a company briefing and servicing clients, whose interest can cross over.  He said that councils often use property agents and when EDDC first put the Elizabeth Hall site up for sale, it held an open process to employ an agent.

    “When it became clear that Premier Inn was an interested party … then our contracted JLL team formally disclosed the commercial relationship,” he added. 

    Cllr Diviani claimed that such a relationship then ‘becomes a benefit not a conspiracy’, for such companies to approach organisations with whom they have an existing relationship.  He added that he was completely satisfied that the correct procedures were followed.

    What he doesn’t outline is exactly how JLL was involved in the process.