In my oral question to the full council meeting, I raised the matter of debts owed by the event company the Council uses to run the Brighton Marathon. The question and the response have raised issues about accountability and of the city’s overall strategy and due diligence when it comes to events.
I asked whether the Leader of the Council would apologise to the city and those participants who should have received monies for taking part in this year’s marathon due to the failure by Grounded Events, and by allowing them to use council buildings and land.
As the Argus reported last month, the surprise winner of the event this year had not have his prizemoney paid six months on from the event. This was a particular shame as the winner Aliz Ramsier was an amateur that didn’t race for the money, he did it for the love of the sport in his spare time aware from his work in gardening. He had been asked what he would do with the money by a lady over the tannoy system after the race, but despite several emails, had not received it.
Disappointingly, The Leader of the Council did not rise to answer my question and instead it was delegated to the Chair of the Tourism Committee to answer.
I was told that the council had been aware aware of some of the concerns about the finances of the event company but after a very difficult two years for events agreed to go ahead with this event anyway. The Chair said that Council was aware that there are still some outstanding debts and Officers had been meeting with company and that there were plans to pay their debts off withing the next few months. The Council was, the Chair said, continuing to speak with organisers to make sure this happens and continuing to try and make sure that we have an event next year.
There was not, in this answer, any apology to the city not much reassurance at all. I went on in my supplementary question to ask about lack of due diligence of the council.
I said that it was very clear due diligence had failed because it’s quite clear by the figures submitted to Companies House showed the company recorded a debt in 2021 of £1.2 million, and £1.6m, £800,000 and £700,000 in the three years before that going back to 2018. I asked whether the Council was going to continue to support them running the Brighton Marathon next year if they are still owing monies to people and also to their debtors.
In reply, I was told by the Chair that the event was in the calendar for next year and that there were ‘no apologies for holding the marathon’ - but this was hardly the point. The Chair said that if outstanding debts still hadn’t been paid for then this would be a ‘question that might be brought forward in the future’ and that the city took its obligation as landlords seriously.
My questions on the Brighton Marathon raised a number of issues, including that of accountability. Through my questions, it became clear that the Green Administration was not accepting of accountability for the situation. Not only did the Leader of the Council choose not to take the question I had asked him, but the response from the Chair of the Tourism Committee that the question was delegated to pushed that responsibility onto ‘officers’.
We have seen this lack of accountability from the administration springing up in other areas lately.
At the same meeting, Conservative Councillor Carol Theobald asked about accountability over the situation with public toilets.
Last year, when the Leader of the Council cancelled the 10-year contract signed in 2017 with contractor Healthmatic for the cleaning and maintaining the city’s public toilet blocks, he specifically said that he preferred to ‘bring public toilets back in-house to ensure we have direct management and better accountability’, with the change effective from 1 February 2022.
However since that decision the council has closed 17 public toilets for 6 months because it says that under its new system it has been unable to employ enough staff to keep all its public toilet blocks open and exceeded its public toilet budget for the year.
Cllr Theobald asked whether the Leader of the Council would now take ‘accountability’ for the situation as he promised last year when he made this change. Would he start getting these toilets open again? But in his response he would not take accountability and instead tried to blame the government.
Until the Council Leader starts taking responsibility for the running the services he was elected to manage in this city, nothing will improve.
Without accountability, matters at Brighton & Hove City Council won’t be able to get better.