Labour councillors have denied Conservative claims of a U-turn in policy after Brighton announced its bid for a Channel 4 creative hub in the city.
When Channel 4 first announced it was looking for new homes outside the capital last month, Tory councillor Joe Miller urged the city council’s Labour administration to throw its hat in the ring.
However, he was disappointed with what they considered Labour’s tourism and development lead’s ‘downplaying’ of the city’s chances of success – and says he now fears the administration’s newfound enthusiasm for the project may not be enough to secure the station’s move to the south coast.
However, Cllr Robins said it was an ‘unfair’ criticism of both him and the officers – and said it had always been council policy to consider making a bid.
Cllr Miller said: “I welcome this U-turn from Labour for the sake of our city. However it does show that they have no original ideas of their own and have to rely on opposition party’s ideas to drive change in the city.
“As an administration they have run out of steam, and hopefully the city realises this by replacing them with a team with fresh and original ideas: improving the lives of all our residents, visitors, and businesses next year.”
A 27-second video edit posted on the Brighton and Hove Conservatives Facebook page, taken from the April 19 council meeting webcast, appeared to show Labour councillor Alan Robins dismissing the city’s creative industries.
Councillor Robins was responding to question by Conservative councillor Joe Miller, who had recently read an article suggesting the city would bid to host Channel 4.
After the section of his answer shown on the Conservative’s Facebook page, he went on to say that officers will be keeping a watchful eye on the opportunity.
Cllr Robins said this week: “When this question came up it was very new and had just been published.
“I had some discussion with officers and put the statement together. I said we were taking a close eye on it and have kept a watching brief.
“What we were saying was we are not a renowned city for TV skills, people don’t think Brighton.
“We have plenty of creativity and film skills. More than that was the concern how we are far too close to London.
“The bid did not cost a huge amount. It was next to nothing. It became obvious at this stage it was a possibility.
“This is an attempt to make use look incompetent. It is unfair on the officers as well.”
When responding to Councillor Miller’s question at Full Council on April 19, Councillor Robins pointed out cities with established television studios including Liverpool, Norwich and Manchester.
As well as the Facebook post, Conservative councillor Steve Bell tweeted the video, challenging Labour councillor Daniel Yates to respond.
Councillor Yates said: “We were clear that we would adopt a partnerships approach to any decision about a bid and clearly now the council has ensured that a strong bid has been submitted.
“Labour is committed to developing a strong economy for the city.
“Our digital and creative industries are a crucial part of this and working with our partners we have delivered a strong bid. We await the results of the bid with interest.”
Conservative councillor Tony Janio said the decision to post the clip was made by his leadership team including Councillors Bell and Lee Wares, adding: “The final decision was mine of course.
“Now residents do not have to believe what politician say, they can check for themselves.
“He was reading out an officer response without political input. If you’re running the city you cannot do that.”
Brighton and Hove City Council confirmed its bid on May 12.