At this afternoon’s special meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee, Labour Councillors voted to gather more details from the i360 about their plans to generate income to repay its debt owed to Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC). We made it clear that we require the i360 to repay a minimum of £1 million against the total amount repayable in 23/24, in order to meet the amount set aside in the Council 23/24 budget.
Labour are clear that the i360’s operators must be held accountable, and whilst they remain in default of their debt obligations to the council, BHCC reserves its right to step in and take control of the asset. However, doing so now risks a closure before the period in which the i360 has the most potential to generate some income to make debt repayment contributions – the summer months.
Labour’s position has always been that the i360 should never have been financed with public money, it was Green and Conservative councillors who lumbered the council with £44million in debt and this reckless use of public funds in pursuit of a vanity project was an unforgivable lack of judgement.
An incoming Labour administration in May would set a six month deadline for the current operators of the i360 six months to start making loan repayments to the council. If by October 2023, the i360 debtors remain in default, and have failed to generate the income to make repayments over the peak summer period, a Labour council would take decisive, interventive action to take over the i360, with a view to finding new operators to improve the performance of the business.
Labour has for some time been pushing the current operators to diversify their customer offer and look to maximise their income in more innovative ways. Labour Councillors are pleased they are finally looking to do this but feel this work should have begun sooner, and have pledged to scrutinise progress very closely at i360 board level.