notes from JK voting

A bad day for the public interest

What a strange day it has been. I’ve had a very productive time at work whilst lots of other things have been bubbling over:

  • London Elects and the Greater London Returning Officer (the people responsible for the London Mayoral and Assembly elections) had asked for responses to their cost-benefit analysis of manual vs e-counting in 2012. I had just completed ORG’s response earlier this week, which argued that given the £1.5m saving from going manual, there seemed to be no good reason for e-counting. Today was a ’round table’ to also explore issues covered in the analysis. However rather than being the consultation event we expected, ORG’s Executive Director was told that the decision to e-count the 2012 London election had already been taken. Not even a pretence of keeping an open mind! No proper debate or consideration has taken place, just a firm commitment to press ahead with e-counting regardless of costs or consequences.
  • Meanwhile in Brighton & Hove I submitted a formal request to Brighton & Hove City Council’s acting Chief Executive that he ‘call-in’ a decision made by the Tory Cabinet earlier this month. This means the decision is suspended and hopefully will be examined by a scrutiny committee. Why? Because the reports for the decision, over pedestrianising parts of East Street,  failed to include comments from any residents in spite of several having provided detailed objections. Council decisions cannot be based on consultations which have failed to include residents views. This just makes people (more) cynical about consultations and prevents decisions being taken on the balanced information.
  • Finally some Freedom of Information requests I put in some time ago have come to fruition, somewhat explaining why such huge rent rises are being demanded from seafront businesses. The reason? A big fat commission-based fee for the consultant leading the rent reviews for the Council. More details in “Huge consultant fees encourage seafront rent hikes“.
current affairs

Huge consultant fees encourage seafront rent hikes

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


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.”


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: