EAST Lothian Council has been accused of taking up to £300,000 out of Musselburgh Racecourse’s funds to cover the legal costs of finding a new operator.
Ray Green, a director of Lothian Racing Syndicate (LRS), described the legal costs as “excessive” as he criticised the local authority for delays in progressing the future of the course .
The council is currently preparing to put the future operation of the course out to tender but the process has fallen behind its original timeframe.
At a meeting of Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee (MRAC)this week, Mr Green said that the LRS, which has jointly run the course with the council for more than two decades, was extremely concerned about the delays and legal costs incurred.
And he said the LRS had asked the racecourse auditors to look at the decision to take the money from its funds, adding: “I believe that the costs being incurred are excessive.”
MRAC replaced the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee, which oversaw the management of the course, earlier this year after relations between the LRS and elected councillors who made up the group deteriorated.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) was so concerned by the situation it called for an independent review of the governance of the course, threatening to withdraw its licence to race unless action was taken.
Following the review East Lothian Council set up MRAC with four elected councillors and two LRS members on it and agreed to put the operation of the course out to tender to a third party.
However tensions between the two parties rose to the surface at the MRAC meeting this week as it was confirmed that the original plan to have a new operator in place by July 2019 has now put back to October next year. Mr Green challenged the cost of the legal bills asking why no discussions about who should foot the cost had been held prior to funds being taken from the racecourse.
However the council’s legal adviser Carlo Grilli pointed out that it was the LRS who “asked” for the external legal team involved to be appointed.
The BHA last night announced it had granted Musselburgh a new licence to ensure racing can continue at the track next year, stating it would be in ‘close contact’ with the course and East Lothian Council.
It said: “The board has granted Musselburgh racecourse a new licence for the period of January 1 to October 15, 2019, whilst the public procurement process to appoint a new third party operator for the racecourse is on-going.”