COUNCIL leader Mike Jones offered reassurances that a decision to award Chester Race Company the contract to manage the town hall was all above board.

This was after Labour’s opposition culture spokeswoman, Cllr Louise Gittins, questioned how Cheshire West and Chester’s Tory administration could grant the work when its executive member for culture, Cllr Stuart Parker, sits on the race company board.

She told fellow councillors at the executive: “I can’t quite get my head round how he can award a contract to an organisation where he’s sitting on the board.

“I’m raising this because I’m sure the public will struggle with that too. Perhaps I’m a bit dim but I don’t quite see how that works and I hope it’s not something that continues to happen.”

Cllr Jones said Cllr Parker – who had left the meeting having declared an interest in the matter – had not had any involvement in the decision which was made after a competitive tendering process.

He said: “I would not like any implied views made on Cllr Parker’s reputation. Members aren’t involved in the details of the contract process.

“Cllr Parker actually is the council’s representative on the race company because we own the racecourse, we don’t own the race company.”

CWaC’s legal chief Simon Goacher told the meeting: “The process for awarding the tender was managed by officers, there was no involvement of any councillors.”

Cllr Jones said the council had spent about £4.5m over the last four years refurbishing the town hall, which opened in 1869.

“It’s a substantial drain on resources for the council,” he said. “It’s a fantastic building and now we have got to look at how we can move that on and make sure it is better used.”