Lost Torquay balloon rent to be written off by council
THOUSANDS of pounds of unpaid rent owed to Torbay Council by the operators of the Hi-Flyer balloon will be written off, it has been revealed.
The information came to light at a part-private meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee at which a call for an investigation into the rent dispute was defeated.
Chairman of the committee Cllr John Thomas used his casting vote to defeat the motion proposed by Lib-Dem councillor Steve Darling.
The exact amount of money being written off by the council is not known but it is understood an element of the £50,000 owed is already being discounted by council finance officers.
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The balloon itself has not been operational since January when it was destroyed by high winds.
It then emerged after a Freedom of Information request by two members of the public that the balloon operator Lindstrand had not paid the council rent for the past three years.
A legal dispute between the council and operator about the lease is ongoing.
The nature of the dispute has not yet been made public.
But Cllr Darling told the meeting it was now time for an investigation into why councillors had been kept in the dark for so long about the rent issue.
"We're trying to hold the council to account," he said.
"Why didn't we know about all the issues and why did it take an FOI to come out?"
Cllr Darren Cowell said he was not calling for a witch-hunt or seeking to blame anyone for decisions made.
"But we need to have an inquiry.
"We need to identify what happened and when and who knows about it and the fallout in terms of the cost and liabilities."
A vote on whether an executive at the council who had not been involved in the process should undertake an investigation was defeated by the casting vote.