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Horse Racing: Tories say 'incompetence' could delay Tote sale.

Byline: Howard Wright

SHADOW minister Hugo Swire yesterday called for greater transparency in the sale of the Tote, and warned that the process could be delayed "because of incompetence", writes Howard Wright.

In his first comments about the Tote sale, Swire, who shadows Tessa Jowell, the secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, blamed ministers for being "faced with the humiliating prospect of the government being dragged in front of the European Commission for breaching rules on state aid and the whole process being delayed even further".

Swire added: "This was a 2001 Labour party manifesto commitment, and the government has had the necessary legislation in place since 2004. Now there is every likelihood that the attempt to sell off the Tote will be delayed because of incompetence."

A racing consortium, comprising track groups Arena Leisure and Racecourse Holdings Trust and individuals gathered by the Racehorse Owners' Association, is awaiting a response to its submission of a confidential "expression of interest" to the DCMS, which is charged with selling the Tote to 'racing'.

The consortium is understood to have quoted around pounds 300 million as its purchase price, with a detailed explanation of why the figure falls well below the pounds 400m believed to have been put forward by PricewaterhouseCoopers as adviser to the DCMS.

The DCMS last night strongly refuted Swire's claims. A statement read: "It is ridiculous to suggest that there is confusion over the sale of the Tote.

"The government has made it clear from the start that the sale of the Tote must safeguard the financial interests of both the taxpayer and racing. The government has received an offer for the Tote from a consortium of racing interests and it is entirely right that we take time to consider this offer against our objectives of achieving value for money for the taxpayer and recognising racing's legitimate interests in the Tote."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2006
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