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Cash-strapped council refuse to support prestigious sailing event
A CASH-strapped council has refused to support a prestigious sailing event which will boost the economy.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council is the only council out of three in Dorset to turn down a grant even though the high profile competition will be held on its doorstep and benefit the area.
Last year’s event took on even greater significance as sailors battled it out for early supremacy on 2012 Olympic waters.
The academy approached Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, West Dorset District Council and Dorset County Council for financial help. Only the borough council refused.
Borough councillors believe the academy should seek sponsorship instead of asking for financial help from the authority, which is having to make drastic spending cuts.
Councillors were divided on the issue at a meeting, given the impact of Sail for Gold. It has generated millions for the local economy over the years as people involved stay, eat and shop locally.
The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy sought a £7,000 grant from both the borough and district councils, and £10,000 from the county council.
It approached local authorities after the regatta lost its main sponsor, Skandia. The academy is looking for sponsors in the long term but wants to fund this year’s event itself together with its partners at the Royal Yachting Association.
Arguments for and against the grant bid were made at the borough council’s management committee.
Councillors also debated whether funding should be made as a loan.
Committee chairman Mike Goodman felt the ‘one-off’ payment should be supported.
“The impetus of sailing and the local venue is very strong and next year’s event will be the biggest ever which will start a rolling programme of annual events,” he said.
Finance spokesman Peter Chapman added that Sail for Gold was ‘huge’ with a ‘significant economic impact’.
The Lib Dems were against the subsidy ‘given the state of local government finance’ and Coun Ian Roebuck said Sail for Gold should be self-supporting.
He said: “This is not an event which will assist in the development of community sailing.”
Coun Ian Bruce urged the academy to ‘play to its strengths’ and seek a sponsor.
CHIEF executive of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy John Tweed said: “It’s disappointing the borough council has turned us down.
“We have been offered support by Dorset County Council and West Dorset District Council so it’s disappointing the council in whose area the event is being held is not supporting it.
“We do understand the financial pressures which are on the borough council and are grateful for the assistance it has given us in the past.”
Mr Tweed said a deficit of £60,000 was anticipated at this year’s Sail for Gold event.
He added: “We were hoping local authorities would help us to share some of the risks. Both the RYA and us will be putting money into the event to ensure it runs and the momentum is not lost.
“We will also be looking for sponsorship but we understand in this current financial climate commercial sponsorship can be difficult.”
Mr Tweed said a study by Bournemouth University showed that the 2010 Sail for Gold regatta generated £2million for the local economy.
This year’s event will be held from June 8 to 13.