Exeter Labour's plans to tackle the housing crisis and climate emergency are in “total disarray”, say the Progressive Group of councillors on Exeter City Council. The claim comes following plans by the Labour-run Executive to wind down activity by the Council’s own housing developer, Exeter City Living (ECL). The company was due to build hundreds of Net Zero homes in the city. The move leaves the Labour-led Council in an even more precarious financial state.
The Council’s Labour Executive also considered a report on Exeter City Futures, a company aligned with the Council which drew up a plan to achieve net zero for the city after a climate emergency was declared in 2019. Exeter City futures was put into liquidation in July.
Commenting, Green Party councillor Diana Moore said:
“Housing and climate change are two of the biggest challenges facing the City. Plans to try and address these crises are now in total disarray.“
“After declaring a climate emergency in 2019, Exeter City Futures (EFC) produced a plan to achieve net zero for the city by 2030. Last year Labour even seconded the council’s then Chief Officer and another Director to ECF, but there is nothing to show for this - we are still none the wiser on what the city will do together to tackle the climate emergency.
“Over the years the Exeter City Living team built some excellent low carbon homes - meaning they’re low cost to run and tackle fuel poverty. They have done a very good job at this, first as part of the Council before they were moved into a separate company.
“The Council agreed to borrow £25m of loans for Exeter City Living (ECL), lending almost £11m to ECL. In addition to the £10m outstanding to the Council, the report  sets out an immediate additional £1m loss to the Council. It was explained at the meeting that there will be millions more in losses after costs and there are no details about how these losses will be covered. Labour’s incompetent approach is pushing the budget to crisis point”
Liberal Democrat Councillor Cllr Michael Mitchell added,
“Over the last decade Labour has promoted a culture of lack of transparency and scrutiny. This has resulted in wasted opportunities and, even worse, a significant waste of precious council funds that could have been spent on services to benefit our communities and tackle the climate emergency.
"Labour has put its effort into promoting visions and lost sight of what they should have been doing - ensuring proper oversight and financial management of both of these companies that were connected to or owned by the Council. They ignored auditors warnings and the repeated calls by Progressive councillors for proper oversight and scrutiny of connected companies and loan decisions.
"What’s more the Council will have to buy back the assets the Council sold to Exeter City Living. If the loans made by the Council to ECL aren’t repaid, then Clifton Hill could be sold off in whole or in part. That would be a devastating blow to the community who fought so hard to save this important community resource.”