A PLAN to splash out over £130,000 on bringing a sailing event to Inverclyde ran into stormy waters as councillors clashed.

Officials had asked the policy and resources committee to approve the outlay in a bid to secure a Clipper ‘stopover’ as part of a round the world race.

They proposed that a fund of £135k be set aside to support negotiations to host it here in partnership with Event Scotland.

The idea - eventually voted through at a meeting in the Municipal Buildings - did not find universal support, with some elected members unhappy at spending the cash while faced with having to make substantial budget savings.

Councillor Drew McKenzie said: “My independent colleagues and I are always committed to showing Inverclyde in the best light and are always open to ideas of how this can be achieved.

“Throwing hundreds of thousands of pounds at a Clipper race is surely not the answer?

"At a time when we are having to make millions of pounds of cuts to frontline services we should not be subsidising rich guys to have fun on their boats.

“We really did watch in dismay as councillors from both Labour and the SNP thought it a good idea to spend public money on such an event at this time.

"We will let the people of Inverclyde decide in due course if this is the right way to spend their money.

"At least they will know where the increase in their council tax money is going.”

Councillor Tommy McVey agreed that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

He said: “I am very much in favour of promoting Inverclyde on a bigger stage and events such as this would undoubtedly do that.

“However, the council is facing a significant funding gap and as a result jobs and services are at risk.

"In addition, the council tax will probably have to increase as, by law, we have to set a balanced budget.

“These events cost a significant amount of money to host and I believe that, at this time, that money would be better spent trying to maintain jobs and services."

But council depute leader Jim Clocherty was firmly in support of the plan to bring the race here.

He said: “We need to see what works and look to put Inverclyde on the map.”

His Labour colleague and local authority leader Stephen McCabe said using the money to protect jobs could save four posts for a year but argued that hosting events was a 'tried and trusted' method of getting people into the area and attracting publicity to showcase Inverclyde.

SNP councillor Elizabeth Robertson also backed the recommendation made by officers.

She said: “It is difficult to justify spending money when we're also looking at cuts, but I know we're all trying to do what's best for Inverclyde when we debate matters such as investment in events.

“It's important that we help to develop a local tourism sector, creating jobs and aiding wider, positive promotion of our area in as many ways as we can."

Councillor McVey's attempt to return the earmarked £135k to free reserves was defeated, with eight councillors supporting the motion to spend the cash.