Portsmouth City Council landed with £1.4m bill over Ben Ainslie Racing project

Taxpayers will foot the bill for some of the work required to make way for Ben Ainslie Racing at the Camber. Pictured: The new Land Rover BAR America's Cup base
Taxpayers will foot the bill for some of the work required to make way for Ben Ainslie Racing at the Camber. Pictured: The new Land Rover BAR America's Cup base

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  • Portsmouth City Council landed with £1.4m bill over Ben Ainslie Racing project according to FOI figures
  • Labour leader says blunder is a ‘disgrace’ at time of public cuts
  • Tory planning boss blames Lib Dems for not securing better deal
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TAXPAYERS have forked out more than £1m paving the way for Ben Ainslie Racing to move to Portsmouth.

The city council had to clear up the Camber last year so work could start on Olympic sailor Sir Ben’s America’s Cup headquarters ahead of this summer’s World Series.

It’s shocking that amount of money has been landed with the council, at a time when we are cutting vital services and cutting basic social care to residents.

Councillor John Ferrett, Labour group leader

The authority was confident the government would pick up all costs. But The News revealed how no guarantee was given in writing by ministers, and invoices totalling £863,000 were landed with the council.

Now fresh figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the final cost to the council for bringing BAR in – which takes into account the need to rehome Johnson’s fish market and Ken Brown Boats – was £1.4m.

Councillor John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said: ‘That’s disgraceful. It’s shocking that amount of money has been landed with the council, at a time when we are cutting vital services and basic social care.’

‘It’s another example of the government letting the city down.’

But Tory planning boss Luke Stubbs questioned the figure, and believes it is closer to the £1m mark. Cllr Stubbs said: ‘Gerald Vernon-Jackson (former Lib Dem council leader) should have secured a better deal in the first place.

‘We had taken steps to try and get some of this money back, which is why BAR will be paying rent from year 10, rather than year 25 of their lease as previously agreed.

He added: ‘The economic impact of having BAR is positive, and there is no doubt it’s that exposure which has made it possible to secure the sponsorship for the Spinnaker Tower.’

The government awarded BAR £7.5m to set up base in Portsmouth to mount its America’s Cup challenge, but did not factor in money for the council as part of the deal.

The council’s senior valuation surveyor admitted, as part of FOI responses to The News, that the spending on the Camber clean-up was ‘authorised at risk’. No record was kept of the time officers spent on the BAR development.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Blaming everyone doesn’t work. If we had not wanted BAR to come to Portsmouth, we should not have said yes and it would have gone to Southampton.’