Business knows best

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Hastings Pier going private, and the i360 offered adoption by Brighton Pier, Olly Gully argues that councils should finally learn the lesson of their limitations.

The more you learn about local authorities, the more you learn about the unfortunate reality that so many councils are blessed with busy bodies who don’t know much at all about business. They make predictions, make plans based on those predictions, use tax-payers money to fund those plans, and then realise that their original predictions were way off. And while it’s true that many private businesses also fail, they don’t often do it in the face of a big sign saying “this won’t work”.

But that’s what Brighton Council did with the i360, and that’s what Hastings Council did with the pier. These two projects are so obviously flawed, and both for the same reason; there are not enough ways to spend money in or around them. For such sophisticated, smart, 21st century designs, the financial strategy behind them is stupid. And while many in Hastings continue to look down on the likes of Eastbourne Pier – for having attractions such as an arcade – they could have done with the advice that was offered to them. FECs have 50 different types of machines, cafes, AGC areas, and other attractions for good reason – it’s not smart to rely on only a couple of sources of revenue.

With Hastings’ taxpayer-funded pier set to be saved by a more experienced owner in Sheikh Abid Gulzar, and the under-threat i360 now offered to be run by the business-savvy Luke Johnson, hopefully a two-fold lesson is set to be learnt by both councils. Firstly; it’s seriously hard work operating FECs and attractions on Britain’s coastline. And secondly; local business people know best – so before spending millions of tax-payers money, consult them first.

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