Call for Musselburgh Racecourse chairman to quit

Councillor John Caldwell. Picture: Scott Louden
Councillor John Caldwell. Picture: Scott Louden
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CALLS have been made for the resignation of the Musselburgh Racecourse chairman following the loss of its prestigious Investors in People (IIP) status.

The successful racecourse was stripped of the award – which it has held for 12 years – last week and other board members have spoken out against chairman Councillor John Caldwell after a report branded the operation “dysfunctional” and that it “lacked effective governance”.

Day-to-day management of the track is undertaken by an operations team, led by general manager Bill Farnsworth, but overall management is led by the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC) with four councillors co-opted by East Lothian Council to the seven-person committee, chaired by Cllr Caldwell.

Now the Lothians Racing Syndicate (LRS), which consists of three of the seven-person MJRC, has called for the independent councillor to resign his post.

LRS chairman John Prideaux said: “East Lothian Council can no longer bury their head in the sand and ignore the overwhelming evidence of the damage which is being done to the racecourse and its staff under the MJRC chairmanship of Cllr Caldwell.

“Council inaction is damaging not only to the long-standing reputation of this award-winning racecourse, but also to the council’s own standing.”

Following two inspections in 2013 and 2014, the report found the racecourse had failed five of the ten basic requirements for the IIP status. IIP gave Musselburgh three months to devise an action plan and a year to resolve the issues, but on revisiting the racecourse in October 2014 inspectors found there had not been enough progress.

Mr Prideaux said: “I have been a member of the MJRC for 20 years and chairman of the racecourse for the past six years. All the good work done during this time by previous council administrations, which put the racecourse first and transformed it into one of the UK’s leading tracks, are at risk of unravelling.

“Musselburgh Racecourse is one of East Lothian’s most important assets. It makes a huge contribution to the local economy.”

But council chiefs remain supportive of Cllr Caldwell, who has previously described the report as “flawed”.

Council leader Willie Innes said: “Cllr Caldwell has the full support of the council administration in continuing his role as chairman of the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee.

“Chief executive Angela Leitch had already been in touch with Investors in People and we have arranged a debrief meeting with IIP at the next available meeting of the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee.

“While it is disappointing that the LRS has taken this stance, we will be looking to work together to resolve all outstanding issues.”

Cllr Caldwell was unavailable for comment yesterday.