Brighton and Hove News » Changes to i360 loan terms pending as advisers await further details

More details are expected to be made public about changes to i360’s taxpayer-funded loans before advisers can sign them, they said yesterday (Thursday, May 12).

The waterfront attraction is millions of pounds overdue on loans which have been brokered by Brighton and Hove City Council.

And the board and i360 have discussed “restructuring” the loans – or changing the repayment terms – with both parties committing that the debt will eventually be repaid in full.

A report to the council’s policy and resources committee said i360 now owed the council almost £42.9million after years of missed payments, with mounting interest adding to the debt.

And although a refund is due by the end of next month, no minimum amount had been set, much to the chagrin of Labor and Conservative lawmakers.

Instead, the board plans to conduct a “cash sweep” of available balances once i360’s operational cash needs are taken care of and the major repairs account is funded.

A minimum payment of £900,000 is due in December, advisers have been told, with £600,000 due in June next year. And “cash sweeps” would take place every six months, alongside minimum loan repayments.

Councilor Carmen Appich, co-leader of the Labor opposition, asked for assurances that the minimum payment this month would not be just “a penny”.

Dick Russell, one of i360’s directors, told advisers they could expect a payout that would be in the hundreds of thousands rather than a few pounds.

Mr Russell joined i360 founder Julia Barfield for the Policy and Resources Committee meeting at Hove Town Hall yesterday.

She said: ‘We take our responsibilities to return public money to the council very seriously – and we have certainly done everything we can.

“We’ve obviously been hit by unforeseen circumstances with covid but we’ve had an incredibly good team on board since 2019.

“They certainly do what most other attractions in town are in terms of commercial viability.”

Council tourism chief Donna Chisholm said i360 was developing a “credible” five-year business plan to help recover from the covid pandemic.

She said a council task force, made up of three members, had focused on “protecting the public purse” to ensure the council got its money back.

The i360 – Photo by Glen Bowman under Creative Commons license from Flickr

Labor Councilor Clare Moonan, who was a member of the task force for a year, said the council needs to be open and transparent about how i360 will reimburse taxpayers.

She said: “There is a disappointing lack of detail in the report. I expected something much more robust and much clearer.

“It would show a lot more accountability on how we can make sure we’re going to get that money back.”

Councilor Moonan said Labor had opposed the building and financial support of i360, but accepted that now that it was in place it needed the council’s help.

She said there was nothing stopping i360 from making a goodwill payment from money in her accounts.

The i360 – Photo by Nick Linazasoro

Tory Leader Steve Bell said any decision to change the terms of the loan should be put on hold until more details are available.

He said an “emergency sub-committee” could approve the loan restructuring by June 30.

He criticized the lack of financial details in the documents submitted to the Policy and Resources Committee and said the information discussed at the working group meeting the previous week was lacking.

Councilor Bell said: ‘The people of the town should be able to watch, read, see and feel that we are working in their best interest to try and secure the money we loaned at the time for i360 and hopefully -the, pay us back. money. I don’t think we have that.

“Councillor Moonan and I attended a meeting and then went over some of the issues. I don’t see them in this report. That worries me.

“If there is anything missing from this report and we still don’t have the confirmed figure for the first payment, I am unsure and very nervous to accept this report sitting here today.”

The i360 from the Palace Pier

Green councilor Tom Druitt, who is a member of the i360 task force, said the council needed to strike the right balance between bringing in money to repay the loan while giving i360 the maximum chance of long-term success. term.

He said that not all the details were in the report as they were still being negotiated but the principles remained the same.

Councilor Druitt said: “It’s fair to say that we were all hopeful that at this stage we would have an agreed restructuring proposal which (the Policy and Resources Committee) could examine in detail before it was accepted. .

“It’s not. What hasn’t been mentioned yet is that all we have in front of us is a draft proposal which is still being negotiated with i360 and we are still waiting additional information.

He asked his fellow advisers not to delay a decision but to address any issues at the next working group meeting. He also suggested that an “emergency sub-committee” could approve any substantive changes.

Julia Barfield and the late David Marks celebrate the i360’s first anniversary

Labor and Conservative councilors won a vote, six to four, to wait for more details before deciding whether or not to sign changes to i360 loans.

The decision is expected to be made by an “emergency sub-committee” – made up of all three party leaders – by the end of next month.

In addition to the council-brokered £36.2m loan from the Public Works Loan Board, i360 has also borrowed £4m from the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership – the LEP.

The council has since taken on the responsibility of collecting the £4m debt, but without having to pay any money to LEP.

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