Guest Author NORMAN MURPHY summarises the SBC Strategic Investment Strategy.
While the Enquirer’s latest Photoon, depicting the Leader of Scarborough Council, Labours holiday-loving Stevo Siddonso, being offered first refusal on the now ‘up for sale’ Premier Inn hotel (next door to the Alpamare Waterpark), may be seen as a bit of fun, it should not be forgotten that the Council has already spent a considerable amount of our money buying a hotel.
In 2018, the Council, in its infinite wisdom, bought, for £14 million, the knackered St Nicholas Hotel, a property it should be noted that, only the previous year, had been valued at £6 million – and not long before that changed hands for £4 million. This dodgy deal was, of course, not done under the current Labour administration, this was a Conservative initiative. However, the Officer who recommended the deal to the Council, commercial director Richard (the Brighton Bin Man) Bradley, in charge of the Council’s Strategic Investment Strategy, is still, amazingly, in post, and is consequently still directing – if that is the right word!
Bin Man Bradley, who previously had strategically something to do with rearranging Brighton’s bins, came to Scarborough, a place in which he does not live, and took up a highly paid post strategically directing the Council’s property portfolio. How he got the job is still a mystery to many but it is probably because, when the shit hits the fan, as it will, he will be a convenient patsy, deflecting the blame from where it actually belongs – the elected members.
Anyway, be that as it may, our Bin Man somehow convinced the Conservative Leadership, then, laughably, running the Council, that buying the St Nicholas Hotel would be a sure-fire money-spinner. The deal cooked up by the Bin Man would see the Council borrow £14 million, buy the hotel, and then rent it out to hotel chain Travelodge who would then pay us over £300,000 per year in rent.
Why anyone should have thought such a preposterous deal was a good idea is beyond comprehension. It was common knowledge that Travelodge, the firm who in 2012 were found to be in debt to the tune of £500 million and who had subsequently entered into a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) might, to say the least, be an unreliable tenant.
Nonetheless, our financial geniuses at the Clown Hall, Bin Man Bradley leading the charge, went ahead with the deal. Spin forward to June 2020 and Travelodge is in another CVA and has asked landlords to agree £144 million of temporary rent cuts on its 564 sites.
The current, again laughable, Leader of Scarborough Council, Labour’s Stevo Siddonso, said “the authority will agree to a temporary two-year reduction in rent from hotel-chain Travelodge”. How much rent we will actually get is anyone’s guess but my thoughts are that we will end up getting nothing.
Nevertheless, as mentioned, Bin Man Bradley is still in post and it will be recalled that it was our Bin Man who cooked up the £22 million Argos deal. A deal which sees us, the ratepayers, borrowing £22 million to build Coventry University a block of flats. If this deal is not another Travelodge disaster just waiting to happen, I don’t know what is.
So while the Photoon may be a bit of fun its underlying message is anything but fun for the Borough’s ratepayers. It is abundantly clear that our new masters in the Clown Hall treat our money, just as the previous administration did, as if it is theirs to do with as they please. That being said, therefore, buying another white elephant, in the form of a bankrupt hotel, to add to the existing herd would, I am sure, be, to our current Labour Leadership under the direction of Bin Man Bradley, a perfectly sound financial undertaking.
Roll on devolution!