Children miss funding because Brighton i360 fails to repay debt Brighton News

Brighton and Hove City Council leader Bella Sankey has slammed the attraction for failing to pay back an agreed £1.49 million each year.

A loan of £36.4 million was brokered by the city council from the government’s Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) so Brighton i360 Ltd could build the viewing tower.

The city council is holding up its end of the bargain by making repayments to the PWLB but the i360 frequently fails to pay up, meaning the city council is dipping into its annual budget to cover the cost.

Now, Cllr Sankey is laying bare the effects of the debt.

The Argus: Cllr Sankey has requested a 'realistic business plan' from the i360Cllr Sankey has requested a ‘realistic business plan’ from the i360 (Image: Andrew Gardner)

“Had the i360 company been able to make its annual repayments, we would have millions of pounds more to spend on core services for our city such as early years investment, supporting residents with the cost of living, improving the look, feel and cleanliness of Brighton and Hove and addressing the mental health challenges of our young people,” she said.

“We’ve therefore asked the managers of the i360 to produce a realistic business plan for making the repayments that are owed.”

The i360 paid the city council £250,000 of the £1.49 million it was supposed to pay back in 2023. It should make payments in July and December though failed to make the latter entirely for the second year running.

But Cllr Sankey says she will not allow her administration to fall into debt with the loan board.

“The council must repay the PWLB loan annually, regardless of whether the i360 pays the council or not,” she said.

The Argus: The i360 paid just £250,000 of its debt in 2023The i360 paid just £250,000 of its debt in 2023 (Image: Andrew Gardner)

“Defaulting on a PWLB loan would be extremely serious and would mean the council could not access any further PWLB loans to fund its future capital programmes.

“If the i360 pays nothing over to the council, the council has to pay the loan repayments from its own budget, which will inevitably impact on services.”

The city council sets aside £2 million of its annual budget to pay the PWLB in case the i360 fails to make its £1.49 million repayments.

The £2 million is not allocated to a specific part of the budget, instead impacting the overall funding of many different services.

Brighton i360 Ltd said its has “no direct response” to Cllr Sankey’s comments.

Julia Barfield, chairwoman of Brighton i360 Ltd, did however highlight myriad reasons for the attraction’s recent performance including inflation, poor weather, the cost-of-living crisis and rail strikes.

The Argus: An immersive cricket experience was opened at the i360 last yearAn immersive cricket experience was opened at the i360 last year (Image: Brighton i360)

“City spending and visitor numbers are still lower than before the pandemic,” she said.

“At Brighton i360, there is still a 16 per cent drop in visitor attendance compared to pre-pandemic times.”

READ MORE: Brighton and Hove City Council’s idling engine fine comes into place

Ms Barfield said repaying the loan has “always been a priority” and thanked the community and city council for their “continued support”.

“We remain committed to improving the business and are implementing numerous initiatives to drive increased revenue and become a 21st-century beachside entertainment hub,” she said.

“This vision is expanding across the site over 2024 which it is hoped will attract existing and new audiences.”

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This notice was published: 2024-01-06 05:00:00

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