Brighton and Hove council chief hits back in Saltdean Lido electrical power struggle

Posted On 03 Oct 2015 at 7:14 pm

The interim council chief executive has hit back in the row over funding for an electricity sub-station for the Saltdean Lido.

Geoff Raw, the senior official at Brighton and Hove City Council, sent an email to all 54 councillors this afternoon (Saturday 3 October) explaining the council’s position.

He wrote: “You may be aware or have been lobbied about funding for the Saltdean Lido.

“I am emailing to brief you on the situation as I and the officer team understand it.

Geoff Raw

Geoff Raw

“On behalf of the council and with the agreement of the chair of P&R (the council’s Policy and Resources Committee), leader of the Conservative group and knowledge of the convenor of the Green group, I offered on Friday afternoon a small amount of loan financing (£10,229) to support the Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company (CIC).

“A leading representative of the CIC, Rebecca Crook has unfortunately and pre-emptively issued a press release criticising the council now and over successive administration’s for failing to support the restoration of the Lido.

“It would appear that were less than five minutes between the release of the press statement by the CIC their receipt of my email confirming supporting loan financing.

“I contacted Rebecca by phone and while she apologised she was unwilling to withdraw the press release.

“This follows a pre-arranged meeting on Friday afternoon between an officer team and the CIC at which the ward members were also present.

“The substantive discussion at this meeting was how to support the CIC in finding £68k for an electricity sub station.

“This has been a recent funding ask by the CIC of the council.

“At the meeting officers were given sight of the CICs accounts and were able to identify circa £50,000 of contingency funding.

Logo Saltdean Lido CIC“Officers then returned from Saltdean to seek agreement from lead members on P&R Committee and myself to find a balancing sum on a loan financing basis and to ensure that the proper legal and financial arrangements are in place given that the loan has been requested in advance of a P&R Committee date that has been offered to the CIC.

“The officers made it clear at the meeting that they would work as quickly as they could to secure an agreement but they could not be held to a CIC imposed deadline.

“I was informed by Rebecca during our recent telephone call that the CIC wish to submit to us new version of their accounts next week that will demonstrate that they cannot release £50k of contingency.

“Turning to wider considerations, the council is not leading this project nor is it a partner or board member of the CIC.

“We are not privy as of right to the CIC’s financial, project management and contractual arrangements.

“Nevertheless your officer team are impressed by the work of the CIC so far to secure a range of funding from a variety of sources for such an inspiring if very challenging project.

“You may recall or be aware that all of this follows from a formal procurement process, out of which the previous council awarded the CIC the project over another commercial bidder.

Councillor Warren Morgan

Councillor Warren Morgan

“This was on basis that the CIC would secure all the funding itself and deliver the project without further recourse to council funds.

“Hence you may understand the concern of your officers to act appropriately with regard to the will of council and in advising the council how best to respond to ‘demand and pay up’ requests.

“You may also be aware that previously the council expended considerable time and resource getting the Lido back from its previous owner in order to create the opportunity for, as it turned out to be, the CIC to take on the opportunity.

“Over the summer, the leader of the council and myself have also been approached by the CIC on a separate occasion for a very significant amount of additional funding.

“I have pointed out the procurement issues this raises and I have also requested a full business case.

“We are advised by the CIC this will not be available until November.

“This would be a matter which would need to come to P&R Committee.

“Finally, returning to the current situation, I have taken legal advice on whether the council has any obligation to fund the electricity sub-station and the advice is that we don’t.

“I am grateful for the work of local ward members and I am offering further confidential briefings to them and the local MP.

“The officer team and myself will continue to work positively to support the CIC in finding a solution to their financial challenges but, I trust you will appreciate, we are obliged to do this within legal and financial parameters.”

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    The Lido people have been incredibly stupid to run to the press over this sub-station matter. It smacks of desperation, especially after the Council went to a great deal of complex trouble – great efforts by Geoffrey Bowden – to send packing the unspeakable Mr Audley. As Geoff Raw has said, the Council would be in procurement-law difficulties if it did not continue on the basis by which the other bidder was turned down in favour of the current one.

    • Dave Boyle (Saltdean CIC Director) Reply

      I’m afraid Christopher Hawtree maintains the same – incorrect – position regarding asset transfers that the Councillors have acted on (presumably they were given this line by the Council’s legal officers). The Council has no legal requirement to tender this site. The Lido itself is not a site for the delivery of any of its statutory responsibilities or any others services (the LIbrary is a sub-lease and direct managed). As such, it could have been given over to the CIC (or another group for that matter) at a peppercorn rent, under Asset Transfer Regulations. I’m sure Mr Bowden feels that he helped; however, by the Council embarking on a competitive tendering exercise, they added around 2 completely unnecessary years to the process, and the whole exercise has felt like an astonishing exercise in arse-covering by Officers, rather than a process built around facilitating community ownership of the Lido.

      He’s right though that it is an act of desperation. He – and others – might like to consider why a group who have achieved so much to date have taken such an act. Maybe it’s because they’re a little desperate, because of the consistent lack of support from the Council (especially vis-a-vis other projects). This is all the more galling given the Council’s culpability in this rotten saga back in 1997, and then through complete negligence in monitoring Audley. This isn’t a party-political point; the Council as a corporate completely screwed up, and what has been done subsequently has smacked of wishing to draw lines under and veils over this, rather than facilitating a sustainable solution with all due endeavour.

  2. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Sounds like someone has become stressed to breaking point. This really is too bad after all that has been achieved so far. Wish them luck in finding their way forward. I think we need to hear an explanation from Rebecca Crook after what has been provided here for us to see.

  3. Angela Wright Reply

    This is an opportunity for the new Labour led council to leave an important legacy for the city and future generations.

    In the 1930s labour leader Ramsay MacDonald and his government promoted the lido movement. Lidos were an important social space for all members of society, regardless of class, gender or ethnicity, to mix freely in a safe and clean environment whilst embracing health and fitness.

    Saltdean lido is undoubtedly now the most famous lido in the uk. It appears that a restored lido would be a great asset for our city, and something that council tax paying residents want to happen.

    As the council are facing increasing cut backs, it seems that with most of the grants in place, this is Saltdean Lidos last chance of restoration. I think it is unhelpful to be negative about the council or the volunteer led CIC. However, I emplore the council to the-think their decision. City residents find it very confusing that the council handed 33 million pounds to a private developer for the i360 project – but on the other hand are hesitant to support a community group of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to restore a council owned building which will bring repeat customers and commerce to the east of the city.

    70k seems good value for money to me! I really do hope that the Labour led council have the vision to make this happen. After all, politicians come and go but Saltdean Lido has the chance of being around for another 75 years. Please let the council take inspiration from their forefather Ramsay MacDonald and leave a lasting legacy for the city.

  4. Happy Jack Reply

    All very unfortunate and undignified. So much has been achieved by both parties so far so hope they can get back on track. One thought, why not ask the energy company to fund the substation from their Corporate Responsibility Budget?

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