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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”