VOTE: Regeneration? Town task force getting the axe

Dedicated regeneration efforts for Bognor Regis are ending. The task force committed to boosting investment ends on March 31.

The replacement structure will see its focused work divided among a tripartite structure amid fears the scattering of the work will lead to a slackening of promoting the town.

Arun District Council made the decision to wind up the town hall-based task force after funding for the work dried up in the public spending squeeze.

Chief executive Ian Sumnall said: “We think we have a reasonable regime for sustaining the focus on Bognor – and Littlehampton – from a regeneration point of view.

“Having said that, it’s not going to be the same. It would be silly to pretend it is going to be the same set-up.

“The emphasis is going to be changing from something that is Arun-led to where the Bognor Regis Regeneration Board is now leading it.

“This is the way everybody is being required to go from the Big Society to local economic partnerships.

“Bognor has an initiative which is up and running with a track record.”

The regeneration board’s mix of private and public sector partners will debate and set its priorities for regeneration around the town.

It has an advisory role only to state its views, but its existence is controversial because its meetings are held in private without any public agendas or minutes.

Norman Dingemans, Arun’s lead councillor for regeneration, said: “The board has no powers. It can only recommend to the sub-committee, who will either recommend matters to the full council or to me, as the cabinet member, to agree spending up to £50,000.”

Arun leader Gill Brown, who chairs the board, said: “We are very lucky to have such a strong board with its members’ enthusiasm and ideas.

“Most other districts would be delighted to be in the same position.

“Not many other towns have this set-up. The only one I know of locally is the Gatwick Diamond.”

The board will have a part-time adviser in current task force co-ordinator Richard McMann.

Cllr Paul Wells told councillors: “We are in the last few weeks of the winding-up of the task force due to various funding streams running out.

“That’s going in a different direction. A lot of regeneration has come from the private sector.

“I appreciate officers from the council have put in time and effort, but I have not seen much money from this local authority going into the regeneration of Bognor.”

As well as the board, the regeneration work will be the concern of a senior economic development officer being recruited by Arun.

The coastal West Sussex partnership from Selsey to Shoreham is also advertising for a director.

That position will take over the wider regeneration role and pick up some of the work the district council has been doing.

The director will earn £55,000 a year for working three days a week. Cllr Nick Wiltshire revealed the salary at last week’s Arun District Council meeting.

He said: “That’s equal to nearly £100,000 a year for a five-day week. Nice work if you can get it.”