A POWERBOAT event is set to return to Greenock despite serious concerns over the cost of staging it.

Councillors clashed yesterday as they discussed whether or not to bring the P1 Scottish Grand Prix of the Sea back to the Esplanade next year.

Independent councillors Ronnie Ahlfeld and Drew McKenzie both vehemently refused to support the event.

They argued the council should not spend £108,000 to co-host the event with Riverside Inverclyde, against a backdrop of proposed budget cuts.

However rival councillors felt the money was well spent to ‘showcase’ Inverclyde.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr McKenzie said: “We are talking at a time when we are discussing reducing budgets for our local events like the Comet Festival, the Gourock Garden Party and the Gourock Highland Games.

“We have got to decide what is right and what is wrong.

“I would ask the members to have a reality check because this is a lot of money to commit. 

“We’ve had it for two years now, maybe the time is right to say no thanks for a third year.” 

Fellow independent councillor Ronnie Ahlfeld agreed and strongly felt that the money could be better spent on local events.

He said: “The council would be spending £108,000 when we are talking about cutting back local events - I’m not convinced.”

However Labour councillor Martin Brennan said: “I do feel that this is an opportunity to put Inverclyde on the map.

“Maybe there are better opportunities, but I don’t know of any.

“This is way to showcase this area and that is the main point of it.” 

Tory councillor Graeme Brooks also said he felt the event brings many benefits to the area, adding: “Its a great opportunity for Inverclyde to do something on the world stage.”

During the meeting, Councillors McKenzie and Ahlfeld also questioned the authenticity of a report by the corporate director of environment, regeneration and resources which stated that the overall event worth is £2.5m, made up of £1.6m in media value, £381,757 from money spent on accommodation, travel, subsistence, hospitality and event operations and £544,500 from spectators.

Drew said: “I tend to think that when a report is put before this committee for something like the powerboat event, it should have all the pros and cons, the success and the failures.

“This report here reads like a sales pitch for the powerboat company.

“It’s like an advert for them.” 

George Barbour, the council’s corporate communications manager, defended the report and said that the £108,000 in funding from the council is needed to cover the hosting fee, event infrastructure, security, policing and medical cover.

After a lengthy discussion, Labour Cllr Michael McCormick tabled a motion to support the spend from existing earmarked reserves, subject to match funding from Riverside Inverclyde.

This was supported by eight councillors, including SNP councillors John Crowther, Christopher Curley, Innes Nelson and Jim McEleny, as well as Labour councillors Martin Brennan, Gerry Dorrian, Colin Jackson and Tory councillor Graeme Brooks

Cllr Drew McKenzie put forward an amendment to reject the recommendation which was only supported by Cllr Ronnie Ahlfeld.