Funding Brighton's i360 with taxpayers' money was a "reckless" and "unforgivable" move, the council leader has said.

Brighton and Hove City Council is currently making a £2.2 million a year provision – over the next 20 years – to pay back the £36 million borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board to get the i360 tourist attraction off the ground.

So far, the i360 has repaid £5.8 million but, under its original repayment schedule, had been due to stump up almost £18 million by September this year.

Millions of pounds of repayments by the i360 have been missed, with the operator blaming bad weather, the coronavirus pandemic restrictions and visitor numbers falling short of forecasts.

Councillors agreed to a revised loan agreement but the i360 did not sign the deal although it did hand over £700,000.

Last December, the i360 was due to pay at least £900,000 but failed to make any payment.

During a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting at Hove Town Hall on Thursday, Labour council leader Bella Sankey said that the i360 should not have been financed with taxpayers’ money.

She said: “It was Green and Conservative councillors who lumbered the council with this significant debt and this reckless use of public funds which was an unforgivable lack of judgment and which they must never be allowed to forget.

“Despite this, we hope that this landmark in our city can turn itself around as nobody sets to gain from its failure, least of all residents.

“It’s for this reason that myself and Councillor (Jacob) Taylor have met with the current managers of the i360 to talk about their plans.

“While the total debt now stands at over £44 million, any rise in the debt owed is due to the addition of rolled-up interest for elements of the loan that have been deferred. It is not additional borrowing by the council.”

Councillor Sankey said that the council’s priority was to recover all or as much of its money as possible.

The i360 had let space to Sixes Social Cricket and was preparing a new long-term business plan while the council was continuing “to explore all options”.

Councillor Taylor said that if the council put the i360 into “default”, it would mean that the council could suffer the entire financial loss straight away.

He said: “This could cause a big problem in a year. The strategy that’s being pursued is the right one for now which is to try to make the business viable and support it.

“There are mixed views as to what the actual attraction looks like. It’s a great piece of engineering at least and, when you get up it, there are some great views. So I don’t think there’s an immediate plan to take it away from the seafront.”