It’s about time for a public meeting on the i360

Councillor Steve Bell, leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council
Councillor Steve Bell, leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

The i360’s board need to come before residents to give an account of why they are putting taxpayers at risk of picking up the bill for the debts of their struggling business.

This is what I told the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee at its most recent meeting because I believe that it is their duty.

They should not only explain their actions but face questions from our city’s residents who, if the i360 fails, will be saddled with the bill.

Many of us have been following the ups and downs of the i360 and, frustratingly, there appear to be more downs than ups.

After deferring two previous payments – in June and December last year – we were faced with another request to defer their latest loan repayment.

This time it was not for part of the outstanding instalment but for the full £1.342 million due at the end of June.

So the difference this time is that money from residents will have to be used to pay the interest and capital repayment to the Public Works Loan Board on the £36 million borrowed by the council and loaned to the i360.

We asked the Labour administration for a contingency plan last December in case the council has to call in the loan and take over the running of the i360. Sadly, to date, no report has been submitted.

I believe their time is up. We have a duty of care to our residents. We owe it to them to protect their monies and the investment which was made on their behalf.

We are right to demand an action plan to save the i360 under its present ownership or else engage with businesses who really are able to make it the towering success we were told it would be.

None of which changes the need for the i360 board to face our residents in public because they are the ones ultimately exposed to repaying their debt should the business continue to fail.