Screen project condemned in report

A long-running controversy over a scheme to publicise events on a giant screen in Yarmouth town centre was reignited yesterday after the Audit Commission condemned the project.

A long-running controversy over a scheme to publicise events on a giant screen in Yarmouth town centre was reignited yesterday after the Audit Commission condemned the project.

The much vaunted �200,000 screen, one of three in the town, was taken down in 2007 after several years of malfunctions.

Although an Audit Commission report censured Yarmouth Borough Council over its handling of the screen debacle, the authority was praised for the way it is drawing large scale investment to

the town.

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But the borough council was also told its efforts to spruce up the town were being hampered by litter bugs leaving unsightly mess.

The council received a fair rating - one above poor - for its involvement in setting up and supporting multi-million pound regeneration projects in the resort. Projects praised included the new-look seafront and reinvigorated St George's Park.

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Audit Commission inspectors cited the screens, which were purchased from ADI, as they highlighted the way borough council needed to improve handling externally funded projects to make sure it gets good value for money.

In its regeneration report for 2008/9, the Audit Commission said: “For example, the spending on the screens failed to identify the level of on-going management and technical expertise required.

“The timescales to procure the screens was driven by the requirements of the external funding bodies which contributed to a poor tender specification.

“As a result, the screens have proved unreliable, advertising revenues were over optimistic, leaving the council with a net operating cost of �57,000 in 2007/8.”

Michael Castle, leader of the Labour opposition group on the council, said: “The screens are a sore point really. It was a classic example of something not being done properly and serious questions need to be asked about the contract side of things.

“At the end of the day it is important to Yarmouth that we should get good quality regeneration and not to be seen as a failure.

“You do not get money if you are a failure.”

The report also criticised Yarmouth's overall cleanliness because of litter being left on streets. It went onto say the council's

clean-up campaign was some way off delivering its 2020 targets of keeping streets, parks and public spaces in pristine condition.

In the last four years, more than �50m has been poured into regeneration and heritage projects in Yarmouth, with the council's on-going efforts to transform the Golden Mile and bolster the economy being singled out by inspectors.

The inspection found there were also promising prospects for improvement due to the council's good leadership.

However, the council's slow progress on meeting 2020 regeneration deadlines, poor council services, such as street cleaning, and not understanding the impact of migrants moving to Yarmouth

were criticised by the Audit Commission.

Graham Plant, council cabinet member for regeneration, said that the council was now considering taking possible legal action against ADI about the poor performance of the screens.

He added: “When you buy a television you expect it to work. But I think as a whole all the regeneration work so far has been excellent, and hopefully the people of Yarmouth will see that and agree.”

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