‘Hijack’ accusations as council grants £20,000 for Mansfield Half Marathon

09-1601-2''Mansfield Half Marathon
09-1601-2''Mansfield Half Marathon

Councillors agreed to pledge £20,000 to revive the Mansfield Half Marathon, but only after a heated debate in which opposing members were accused of hijacking the idea.

Mansfield District Council unanimously voted to provide the one-off payment for the event, planned for September.

The race was last run in 2011 after which organisers were forced to bring the popular event to halt because of spiralling costs.

A motion to provide the much-needed cash was put forward by Labour councillors during the recent full monthly council meeting.

Despite all councillors welcoming the return of the race, the discussion was marred by accusations of political grandstanding.

Backed by Mansfield mayor Tony Egginton, independent councillor Phil Shields had suggested an alteration to the wording of the motion put forward by Labour councillor Martin Lee.

He suggested the money be simply drawn from Leisure Development Fund - already set up for such purposes- rather than from ‘general funds’, as written in the original motion.

But this was furiously rebutted by Labour councillor, Paul Henshaw who turned his anger on the independent councillors.

Launching into a tirade, he said: “This is a blatant and obvious attempt by the independents to hijack this motion so they can walk around, sticking their chests out saying they voted for the half marathon!”

This was backed by Coun Lee, who added: “I genuinely did not want to make it a political debate, but unfortunately, once again the independents are seeking to make it some sort of game.

“This (the alteration to the wording) adds nothing to the motion.”

The original motion was then carried with all councillors voting to provide the cash.

Coun Phil Shields said: “I’m really glad that the half marathon is coming back, it represents an opportunity to put Mansfield back on the map.

Caroline Cox, operations Manager for Mansfield 2020, which has been instrumental in lobbying for the return of the event, said: “It’s great to see councillors getting behind the event.

“We’ve worked hard to get everything in place and the funding will be the last part of the puzzle.”

The race requires the £20,000 funding to secure staff, training and facilities, however once in place, plans show the half marathon will become self-funding in further years.

The Mansfield Half Marathon had been run for more than 30 years, before it was cancelled in 2012 due to spiralling costs over health and safety.

Previous organisers, the voluntary Road Race Committee, said the cost of closing the roads had risen and organisers said it had simply become unsustainable.

At the time, they said to cover the soaring costs, those wanting to take part in the 13-mile race would have faced a massive hike in entry fees.

At its peak in the mid 2000s, up to 1,000 people descended on the town to take part.

There are hopes that a re-launched event can help give the area a much-needed boost and not only bring in thousands of competitors, but thousands more spectators into the town.