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Names revealed: Bosses who bought £900k of big screens due to 'enthusiasm'

PUBLISHED: 08:29 20 April 2012

Visitors to Yarmouth beach watching the England world cup match on the beach.   Photo: Nick Butcher

Visitors to Yarmouth beach watching the England world cup match on the beach. Photo: Nick Butcher

EDP pics © 2006

SEAFRONT regeneration bosses launched into the purchase of £900,000 of big screens with wide-eyed enthusiasm but scant regard for risk, a report from the authority reveals.

The officer’s report states members of the InteGreat group were so eager to secure grant money before deadlines passed that they ran into difficulty.

And the Mercury can reveal the names of those who decided to buy the three screens after seeing papers from the meeting at the Burlington Hotel - on October 10, 2003 - when the decision was taken.

The following members of the InteGreat management group were present: Councillor Bert Collins (in the Chair); Councillor John Holmes (Norfolk County Council), Councillors Graham Plant and Barry Stone (Great Yarmouth Borough Council), Alan Carr and H Tonkin (Greater Yarmouth Tourist Authority), Jonathan Newman (Great Yarmouth Town Centre Partnership), Joe Macintosh (Seachange), Peter Fitzgerald and M Kingsley (Residents’ representatives), R Kirk (Great Yarmouth Heritage Partnership).

The following members were involved in the project but absent at the meeting where the decision was made: G Bennett (EEDA), Albert Jones, Aileen Mobbs and David Marsh (Greater Yarmouth Tourist Authority), Bruce Sturrock (Great Yarmouth Town Centre Partnership), Councillors Barry Coleman, Charles Reynolds and Trevor Wainwright and M Jones and S Earl (Great Yarmouth Borough Council Officials) and P Elliot (Norfolk County Council).

A council scrutiny meeting this month heard that the screens were so prone to error that engineers stood by when World Cup football matches were shown so “there would not be too many dissatisfied residents” if anything went wrong.

Two of the screens have now been sold for just £16,000, and the third screen - which broke down only two years after being installed in the Market Place - was written off after a protracted but fruitless legal battle with the manufacturer.

An officer’s report into the circumstances of the screens’ acquisition and operation - published in September 2007 - gives an insight.

“That there was general and enthusiastic support from InteGreat for the provision of public broadcasting screens cannot be doubted,” it states. “However, in hindsight, it is evident that this early enthusiasm may have laid the foundations for subsequent difficulties.

“In particular, it is clear that the project concept was, perhaps, overambitious and was not subjected to a sufficiently rigorous initial appraisal and risk assessment.” It adds problems were “compounded” as councillors were determined to meet “inflexible” funding deadlines to secure as much cash as possible.

“While this is a wholly laudable aim, it raises serious questions regarding the need to assess both risk and opportunity,” the report added.

The council decided to sell the screens, which cost £300,000 each, after being told it would cost £200,000 to refurbish them.

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