Comment – Back to the future

Comment – Back to the future


Worthing Daily was intrigued by a report from the Director for the Economy to the recent Adur & Worthing Councils’ Joint Strategic Committee entitled ‘Investment Prospectus’.  The futuristic looking plan actually took Worthing Daily back six years.

Joint Strategic Committee Member Cllr Heather Mercer may have also had a sense of déjà vu as, way back in August 2009, she chaired a ‘call in’ by the Liberal Democrats where one of the same ideas was debated and rejected.

A ‘call in’ is a device by councillors to require a decision made by the ruling administration to be debated by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and a recommendation made to revoke or retain the decision.  The decision in this case was the financing of the new swimming pool, Splashpoint, where the Cabinet had decided a reduced capital budget and a reduced specification accordingly.

The Liberal Democrats argued: “We are deeply concerned that this decision is being made with undue haste, thus limiting the options available to the Council and town, not offering a proper opportunity to review and analyse the possibility of a LABV option.”

The committee accepted evidence that a Local Asset BackedAsset Vehicle or LABV was not considered suitable for a single project of the proposed scale and cost of the new pool, and to pursue that option would lead to an avoidable delay in progressing the project.

Worthing Daily accepts that a LABV was too large for just the swimming pool but believes the committee showed a lack of vision in not exploring what could be done to regenerate the town in its entirety.  Maybe we wouldn’t still be debating the refurbishment of Montague Street and we would have that 50 metre pool so many desired.

The current Director of Economy’s Investment Prospectus report states: “To deliver these ambitions, options could include; new Joint Ventures Partnerships between the Council and an investment partner, or the development of a Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV).”  The six year old idea has come of age.

Local Asset-Backed Vehicles were described in September 2008 by CB Richard Ellis as “the way forward for local authorities to ensure that regeneration projects in their boroughs do not become mothballed or cancelled all together.”

A LABV structure typically involves a local authority contributing land accounting for 50 per cent of the total value of the project. The other 50 per cent is provided by private sector developers in the form of equity. The Aquarena site looked a perfect candidate.

Back in 2009, the example of a successful LABV was Croydon and the Liberal Democrats consulted with Croydon Council for the ‘call-in’.  Now the Director of Economy’s Investment Prospectus report refers members to guess where – Croydon. In fact the report even provides a link to Croydon Council website.

It’s back to the future.

Worthing Daily

Worthing Daily editor Alan Rice was one of the three Liberal Democrat councillors who made the ‘call-in’ in August 2009.