The Brighton i360 is due to pay £570,000 to Brighton and Hove City Council the day after tomorrow (Saturday 30 June).
But today (Thursday 28 June) councillors will decide whether to accept a request to defer the payment.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s public stance has hardened over the past few weeks.
Initially officials advised councillors to allow the seafront attraction’s owner to put on hold payments potentially totalling about £9 million.
A redrafted report, which is due to be considered this afternoon, suggests deferring just the £570,000 that is due on Saturday until the end of the year.
It doesn’t rule out relaxing the payment schedule further into the future but it makes explicit a number of conditions which would have to be met first.
And there are rumours that the Conservatives want to tighten up those conditions even further.
The line accepted by all three parties – Labour, Tories and Greens – is that the i360 hasn’t cost the council a penny so far.
Indeed, the council has banked almost £2.5 million directly and has benefited financially from a number of knock on effects too.
And none of the parties sees any advantage in pulling the plug on the business or trying to take over the attraction. This is despite an overture from Palace Pier owner Luke Johnson.
But the Tories are believed to want any short-term relief for the i360 to last only as long as absolutely necessary.
And they are thought to be angling for a bigger slice of any future profits as the price of keeping confidence with the i360 owner.
While the party declined to comment, it is understood to be hoping to persuade Labour and Green councillors to maximise the protection of taxpayers’ money while giving the i360 a financial breathing space.
Officials have proposed employing specialist consultants, with one exploring the cost and structure of the i360’s debts and the other looking at how to boost visitor numbers, lift income from other sources and cut running costs further.
The £50,000 cost of the proposed external consultants is budgeted from the council’s reserves but there are suggestions that this should be recovered from the visitor attraction eventually.
The Brighton i360 borrowed £36.2 million from the Public Works Loan Board – a loan brokered by the council – and £4 million from the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The smaller LEP loan is more expensive and the i360 wants to repay it more quickly, ideally having negotiated a lower interest rate. The LEP will consider the requests early next month.
If the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee backs the advice from officials, members will receive a further public update in December.
The Conservatives look likely to press for an update report in the autumn when the special meeting of the committee gets under way later today.
The meeting is due take place at Hove Town Hall, starting at 4pm.
While it is open to the public, officials have prepared a 34-page confidential report.
If councillors wish to discuss the details in the report, they will almost certainly hold that discussion behind closed doors.
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