Huge consultant fees encourage seafront rent hikes

Just published this press release, you can read more of the backstory in my earlier post.

SHOCK AT HUGE FEES EARNED BY COUNCIL’S SEAFRONT RENT RISE CONSULTANT

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Green City Cllr Jason Kitcat has revealed details of Brighton & Hove City Council’s contract with a firm of chartered surveyors hired to negotiate seafront rent rates.

The documents released show that aside from charging a monthly retainer, expenses and a ‘per unit’ fee, HLL Humberts Leisure receives a commission of 30 per cent of any rent increase they negotiate.*

The news comes after months of protests by seafront traders about rent increases of up to 300 per cent. **

Jason, who represents Regency Ward which includes the seafront from the Peace Statue to the Palace Pier, said:

“It’s no wonder the Council is pressuring seafront traders into massive rent increases when the consultant leading the process is going to be earning 30 per cent of the rises plus expenses.

“This is exactly the wrong approach to be taking with our unique, independent seafront businesses – and undermines Tory claims to support small business.

“Bad weather over the last few summers and the ongoing recession means life is already hard for many of the city’s seafront traders, but rather than bolster them through difficult times, the Tories seem determined to squeeze out every last drop.

“If we have empty arches along the seafront next year the Tory administration will be to blame.

“The fee structure the Council has agreed to with the consultant concerned means he wins, while local small businesses and taxpayers lose out. This would not be the Green approach at all. We accept the need for the Council to make a fair return from its properties, but not at the expense of our local businesses and tourist trade.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

* The documents released show that the consultant of HLL Humberts Leisure is charging the council £1,500 + VAT as a monthly retainer, receives 30 per cent of rent increases, expenses and disbursements as well as £150/hour for adjudications. Furthermore a minimum fee of £1,500 or more plus VAT is being set for each unit’s review regardless of the final increase agreed.

** Cllr Kitcat presented a petition on behalf of the Seafront Traders Association calling for a rethink on the council’s approach to seafront business rents on the 9th July 2009. More info at: http://www.brightonandhovegreenparty.org.uk/h/n/NEWS/press_releases/ALL/656/