Questions to be asked over Great Yarmouth big screens

A top council officer and the responsible cabinet member have been asked to explain the circumstances in which Great Yarmouth's �600,000 seafront big screens came to be sold for �16,000.

The borough council's deputy managing director Jane Ratcliffe and cabinet member for tourism Charles Reynolds will both be fielding questions on the embarrassing denouement to a nine year long screens saga at a meeting of the authority's scrutiny meeting on Monday.

It was revealed last week that the council had decided to sell the screens, which cost �300,000 each, after being told it would cost �200,000 to refurbish them.

It is understood that a third screen, which broke down only two years after being installed in the Market Place, was written off after a protracted but fruitless legal battle with the manufacturer.

The screens, bought as part of Yarmouth's �20m InteGreat regeneration scheme, were heralded as a 21st century way of promoting the resort. However, they proved unreliable from the outset, never attracted sufficient advertising and lacked a coherent local programming strategy.

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The borough council's Labour leader, Trevor Wainwright, said: 'When the issue of the screens was brought up at scrutiny in 2007, members were told the council was in discussions about a maintenance contract. I'll be inquiring why that apparently never happened.

'The committee at that time was also told a dedicated screen manager had been appointed to look at the screens' longer term future. I will want to know whatever happened to that appointment.'

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Mr Wainwright said he would also be asking for an explanation as to how the screens both broke down at the same time.

He said: 'We have been told it would cost �200,000 to repair them, but how many estimates did the council obtain for the work?'

Mr Wainwright said this was the summer when the screens could have come into their own showing the European football championships and the Olympics. I would have been in favour of one being moved to the Market Place so people could catch the Olympics while they were doing their shopping,' he said.

The report to scrutiny in 2007 highlighted the way the council had to spend millions of pounds of government funding quickly or they would have lost it.

The speed led to one supplier complaining he could not submit a detailed tender in the timescale.

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