Concerns over Cherwell council’s £1m loan for Silverstone heritage centre

Silverstone Circuit. Photo: Google NNL-180717-151224001
Silverstone Circuit. Photo: Google NNL-180717-151224001

Approval was granted for Cherwell District Council to give Silverstone Circuit a £1m loan for a new heritage centre despite concerns at a meeting yesterday (Monday, July 16).

The famous home of British motorsport has been given loans from other councils as part of its funding for the Silverstone Heritage Experience.

But some councillors believed the council should not be funding a private venture in Northamptonshire while others said it was a ‘good business deal’.

Labour councillors voted against the plan, and ‘flabbergasted’ opposition leader Sean Woodcock said: “The Tories running the council are casual with taxpayers’ money and fail to do proper due diligence. They are incompetent and Cherwell deserves better.”

Council leader Barry Wood argued people in Cherwell work at Silverstone and its circle of influence stretches 50 miles.

While lead member for finance Cllr Tony Ilott said: “It’s a good deal, it’s secure and it will make us money.”

Cllr Surinder Dhesi said money needs to be spent on other services but Cllr Wood explained the funds would be from the council’s capital programme, and by borrowing if necessary, and not from revenue.

The loan would be repaid within five years of opening, according to officers.

Conservative councillor Nicholas Turner also objected to the council supporting a business outside its borders, and feared it would set a costly precedent.

“It’s nothing to do with us, it’s out of the district, I find it rather bizarre that we’re even still going down that road,” he said.

Other councils including South Northamptonshire, Aylesbury Vale District and Buckinghamshire County have agreed loans to help fund the project, along with the Heritage Lottery Fund.

South Northants Council was criticised by auditors last month for ‘weaknesses’ in its £3m contribution but officers said it was satisfied it had assessed the risks.

The heritage centre is expected to open in spring next year and attract in excess of 450,000 visitors in its first full year of operation.