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Ex-leader stands by decision to buy rink

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: June 02, 2014

21/12/12 icerink looking empty - burton market place, burton Ice rink in Burton Market Place with no-one on it....

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BURTON’S £41,000 ice skating rink – dubbed ‘an embarrassing blunder’ – has been scrapped after it ran at a loss for a second year, the Mail can reveal.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by this newspaper showed that the plastic rink made a deficit of more than £3,000 despite a £14,000 extension – prompting the new council administration to ditch it this Christmas.

Labour councillor Julian Mott, East Staffordshire Borough Council’s leader, said: “The skating rink was an embarrassing and expensive blunder by the Conservative group. It shows that money was being thrown down a hole.

“(It did badly) because I don’t think it is what anyone expected. They expected it to be a proper ice rink rather than plastic and used to attract people to the market. There won’t be an ice rink again as it is just throwing money away. I didn’t see one person using it. One of our things to do now is to find someone who wants ‘one ice rink, barely used’.

“I can promise that the Labour/Independent co-operative which currently controls the council will not waste public money in such a cavalier manner.”

The controversial rink, originally bought with £27,000 of taxpayers’ money, was installed by the former Tory leadership at Christmas 2012 to ‘reinvigorate the town’ and attract shoppers to the market. They said that to hire the same rink would have cost £17,495 a year, and to hire a “real” ice rink would have cost more than £40,000 a year. They have spent £41,000 so far.

However, it was slammed by the opposition who branded it a ‘lacklustre’ attempt to provide entertainment.

Following an FOI last year, it was revealed the ice rink ran at a loss of £1,692 from November 2012 to January 2013. New figures reveal expenditure for 2013-14 was £4,857.71, but income generated was just £1,478.70. However, the ice rink was open for 64 days during 2012-13, but just 19 days last Christmas.

The council spent £1,815 on seven members of staff and £737.08 for general maintenance.

Tory councillor Richard Grosvenor (pictured above), who was leader at the time, said the council was simply giving the people what they wanted but blamed the ice rink’s downfall on political opposition and bad publicity.

He said: “People asked us to do something to reinvigorate the town and some people thought an ice skating rink really was the way forward.

“We looked at a real rink but it would have cost a lot more.

“The first year it didn’t go too well due to bad publicity, and political opposition didn’t help matters. In the second year we tried to make some changes with the extension and the Christmas tree but we had opposition for political gain.

“It doesn’t surprise me (that Labour wants to sell the ice rink). We tried something different based on what people asked us to do.”

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