U-turn on beach race event as former boss slates council
PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 June 2011
A SURPRISE council U-turn has led to a change of plan for this year’s Weston beach race – and the losing bidder declaring he will never touch ‘North Somerset with a barge pole again’.
The annual event was retendered following months of uncertainty over whether chosen organiser, Events 22, could meet its contractual obligations.
Now company managing director Matt Bates says he has lost out to Gareth Hockey, of RHL Activities, at the last minute.
Mr Hockey, who ran the event for several years until 2010, was told earlier this year that Events 22 had pipped him to the contract and he declared he would take legal action against North Somerset Council for tendering what he said was ‘his’ event.
When companies originally tendered for the beach race last year they were told they would have to be recognised by motocross governing body the Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme (FIM).
Its only affiliated member in Britain, the Auto-Cycle Union (ACU), refused to give the event permit to Events 22, saying its loyalties were with Mr Hockey, who is also planning an event in Swansea over the same weekend as the Weston one.
The council retendered the event with a two-week window for applications - and removed the need for the chosen bidder to be recognised by the FIM or ACU.
On Tuesday Events 22 discovered it had lost the contract at the last hurdle, saying RHL Activities had offered more money in order to beat it to the October 8-9 event.
Events 22 managing director Matt Bates said this week he was ‘absolutely, massively confused’ when he heard on Tuesday afternoon that he had lost the bid.
He says he has so far lost about £75,000 planning a five-day beach race in Weston and is considering taking legal action against the council because it awarded the event to someone else so late in the day.
The company will need to refund any money from competitors as well.
Mr Bates said: “This is underhand and unprofessional.
“I’m a bike lover, but for North Somerset Council it’s more about who gives them the most money.
“If this is the way the council behaves then we won’t go near North Somerset with a barge pole again.
“This is a massive shock.”
The Mercury asked North Somerset Council for details of the contract award, but a spokesman did not return our calls.