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North Queensway Innovation Park - planning permission for two units was granted last year but construction has yet to begin.

North Queensway Innovation Park – planning permission for two units was granted last year but construction has yet to begin.

HBC called to account over Sea Change briefings

Campaign group Seachangewatch is calling on Hastings Borough Council to implement a recommendation made five years ago to require economic development company Sea Change Sussex to provide an annual briefing on its activities. Nick Terdre reports.

In April 2013, HBC’s Director of Corporate Resources, Neil Dart, made a recommendation to the council that an “annual briefing from the Chief Executive of SeaChange’ should be “made part of the annual Programme of Member training.”

However, the recommendation has yet to be followed up, Freedom of Information requests submitted in 2016 and last July have revealed. In 2016 the reason given was that “Due to other commitments, the Member Training and Development Group have not been able to schedule a briefing.”

This year the reason was that, “Successive Overview and Scrutiny Committees have not identified the updates and the reports as priorities in their work programme in recent years.”

Though a not-for-profit company funded by public money, Sea Change does not publish its accounts. It is responsible to the authorities in the area wheres it is active – HBC, Rother District Council and East Sussex County Council.

The company says it reports regularly to the authorities. “Sea Change Sussex is always happy to keep its partners updated with its economic development programme and achieves this by presenting at regular meetings attended by all three local authorities,” a spokesman told HOT.

“We also consult the relevant local authority officers and members whenever we bring forward major new project proposals. We’re satisfied that we keep our partners fully informed through these channels.”

The meetings include those of Selep – South East Local Enterprise Partnership – but also Sea Change’s own board meetings, as its directors include representatives of the three authorities.

Insufficient oversight

Seachangewatch is concerned that there is insufficient oversight of the company’s investments and achievement of targets. “In the past few years, [Sea Change] has received tens of millions of pounds for projects including the North Queensway Innovation Park, the Queensway Gateway Road and the Havelock Place development in Hastings town centre,” it says.

“Some of these projects – notably the North Queensway Innovation Park and Havelock Place – appear to have failed to attract the predicted occupiers or create the jobs that SeaChange claimed when the projects were first announced.”

“It is deeply worrying that Hastings Borough Council seems to have no interest in holding SeaChange to account, by scrutinising their projects and ensuring that the public money poured into the company is being properly spent,” said spokesperson Andrea Needham. “This is particularly concerning given the failure of SeaChange to produce the jobs promised locally.

“We’re calling on Hastings Borough Council to do its job and to look very closely at this company. We need to know whether SeaChange’s projects offer value for money, are environmentally sustainable and are actually improving the lives of the people of Hastings. We suspect that none of these are the case.”

 

 

 

Posted 18:53 Wednesday, Aug 8, 2018 In: Home Ground

4 Comments


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  1. Bolshie

    No Sea Change does not have to publish its accounts as this is a Front Name for the real company behind it – East Sussex Energy Infrastructure & Development Ltd. What a mouthful that is. Under this company you can search all the accounts, Charges and directors. There has always been an HBC councillor who is a Director on this and the old name Sea Space under the real name of Hastings & Bexhill Renaissance Ltd has had councillors. Always Cllr Chowney who is still listed as a director on this one.
    Looking at the directors listed present and past there are several listed where you wonder who they are and how they were appointed. Also who appointed them too.

    Comment by Bolshie — Tuesday, Aug 14, 2018 @ 08:33

  2. Heather Grief

    The way in which all public money is spent, and some cost-benefit analysis of its effects, should be available to the public who have paid for it via their taxes.
    There seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking. Did anyone work out what Hastings might be lacking that might attract jobs, and provide that?
    For example, the Exchange conference centre, off Queensway, could do with a hotel for people attending conferences there to stay at, but this does not seem to be part of the plan.

    Comment by Heather Grief — Friday, Aug 10, 2018 @ 14:30

  3. Anton Hack

    Thank you for this update Nick Terdre.

    The Seachange spokesperson says “We also consult the relevant local authority officers and members whenever we bring forward major new project proposals. We’re satisfied that we keep our partners fully informed through these channels.” – is it not true that the sale of the Stills site to GemSelect in the Ore Valley went ahead without consulting the minimum required amount of Seachange board members? I would like to see a proper answer to this, as the money which resulted from this sale has now gone out of the Ore Valley, as have the promised jobs it seems.

    Comment by Anton Hack — Thursday, Aug 9, 2018 @ 09:52

  4. Ms.Doubtfire

    How is it that Sea Change appears accountable to nobody? All that public money which looks very much as if a high proportion has been wasted on failed projects – and as I recall weren’t certain Members of our own council here in Hastings connected with this set up before Sea Space became Sea Change. I think we need to go back a few years and really scrutinise the history of all this. Plus the glowing report HBC received in January 2013 from John Shaw the Chief Executive of Sea Change where he gives glowing reports on the investment made in the Creative Media centre, the Innovation Centre and all the other schemes which were supposed to bring so much employment to our town. We need to ask what went wrong here. And so far we have no answers. This is public money. There should be no secrecy here.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, Aug 9, 2018 @ 09:27

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