Yarmouth council sells £600k screens for £16k
PUBLISHED: 11:17 26 March 2012
EDP pics © 2006
THE sale of two big screens for £16,000, nine years after they were installed on Great Yarmouth seafront at a cost of nearly £600,000, has sparked calls for a full inquiry.
A third screen installed in the town’s Market Place broke down within two years and the Mercury understands that has been written off after a protracted legal battle with the suppliers.
The screens, bought for a total cost of nearly £900,000 as part of the borough council’s £20m InteGreat seafront improvement scheme, were heralded as a 21st century way of promoting the resort.
However, from the outset they were plagued by reliability problems, never attracted any level of advertising and did not appear to have a coherent strategy of local programming.
While the one in the Market Place has not been seen it disappeared down the Acle Straight to its manufacturer ADI on the back of a flatbed lorry in 2006, the two on the seafront have been used intermittently, only coming into their own at major events such as the World Cup.
And now borough council cabinet member Charles Reynolds has confirmed the two seafront screens are being sold after the authority had been told it would cost a total of £200,000 to have them refurbished.
Comparing them to a television - “you can buy a television for £1,000 and six months later it is not worth anything” - he stressed that the screens were nine-years-old.
He said: “We simply don’t have £200,000 to refurbish them; there are already a lot of costs, including insurance, attached to them.”
Mr Reynolds, who was chairman of the InteGreat committee at the time of the purchase, admitted the screens had been “troublesome” from the start, the technology seemingly unable to withstand the sea air and East coast elements.
However, he blamed the way the InteGreat project had been funded by the Labour Government.
He said: “We were granted the money in September 2003 and had to spend £4.7m by the end of December or we would have lost the funding.
“Therefore, a lot of decisions had to be made very quickly and possibly there was not time to investigate the best options.”
However, he said despite the difficulties he was still confident they had got 80pc of InteGreat right.
Borough council Labour leader Trevor Wainwright said: “We will be calling for a full inquiry into the big screens by the scrutiny committee.
“It is not right to blame the procurement process for buying nearly £1m worth of duff equipment.”