Musselburgh Racecourse loses award after row

Musselburgh Racecourse. Picture: Neil HannaMusselburgh Racecourse. Picture: Neil Hanna
Musselburgh Racecourse. Picture: Neil Hanna
THE award-winning Musselburgh Racecourse has lost its prestigious Investors in People (IIP) status after its management board was criticised as “dysfunctional”.

In a scathing report, IIP inspector John Hutchison said that the chair of the East Lothian racecourse, Councillor John Caldwell, had “lost the respect of a key number” of staff, and would “not accept personal responsibility” for the current problems.

The report concluded that following two inspections during 2013 and 2014 the racecourse had failed five of the ten necessary indicators required to hold the status, and the IIP said it had no choice but take the unusual move of stripping the racecourse of its IIP accreditation, which it had held for 12 years.

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Councillor Caldwell today rejected the report’s findings as “fundamentally flawed”.

IIP status is given to organisations that achieve the highest standards in employee management.

The body said the racecourse had failed to achieve the necessary standards in effective leadership, business strategy, leadership and management strategy, staff feeling valued and involvement and empowerment.

Though day-to-day management of the track and facilities is taken care of by an operations team, led by general manager Bill Farnsworth, overall management is led by the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC) with four local councillors co-opted by East Lothian Council to the seven-person committee, chaired by Cllr Caldwell.

The IIP raised concerns about management in October 2013 and warned the course was in danger of losing its status if significant efforts were not made to improve its approach.

And following a further visit in October last year, Mr Hutchison said there had been no progress.

He said: “The relationship between the managing chair [Cllr Caldwell] and the operations team has also worsened. The present managing chair would appear to have lost those whom he needs to follow him. What should have been a year of mending bridges would appear to have been wasted and if anything the situation has become much worse.”

Mr Hutchison concludes: “I have to inform you that sadly Musselburgh Racecourse now no longer holds Investors in People recognition and all logos and brand identification associated with Investors in People must now be removed from the racecourse documentation.”

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Mr Caldwell questioned the basis of IIP’s report, and said: “There is still to be a de-brief where the report will be challenged, and I will certainly be challenging it, because I believe it is fundamentally flawed.”

Responding to the decision, Mr Farnsworth, said the racecourse was “deeply disappointed”, but added: “However, we are encouraged that the IIP inspector’s report makes clear that the hard-working staff who make up the operations team are not held responsible for this state of affairs.”