Chamber pulls out of wine festival

Honiton business leaders resign from organising committee.

Business leaders have withdrawn their support for the proposed Honiton Wine Festival.

Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s executive committee unanimously made the decision to pull out of plans for the 2012 event at a meeting last Wednesday.

The chamber’s partner in the project, Honiton and District Lions Club, is to be informed that the event could still go-ahead - as a commercial venture.

A final decision will not be taken until the end of the year.

Two members of the chamber’s executive committee resigned from the festival’s organising group before treasurer Janet Loosemore said she had such serious concerns that she would resign from the chamber if it continued to back the festival.

Chamber chairman Colin Wright said: “I thought it was a brilliant idea, but when we looked into it...”

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Sue Bewsey, the chamber’s membership secretary, resigned from the sub-group in writing. She said she had “lost confidence in the project”.

Chamber secretary Margaret Lewis also resigned, saying: “We have been talking about this since February and nothing has happened yet - nothing concrete. Nothing has been booked.

“We have wasted half a year. All that has happened is that people have been talking about it.”

Ms Loosemore said the matter was something that had to be put to the executive committee.

“The business plan projects a profit of �250, with no costs included,” she said.

“You cannot rely on this being staffed by volunteers; there are security issues.

“It doesn’t stack up and I can’t see it changing.”

Ms Loosemore said health and safety issues had yet to be considered, along with personal liability.

“Does the chamber and its members want to be responsible for an event where people will be drinking?” she asked.

“There are questions which must be raised about fund-raising and personal liability, if the event makes a loss.

“Health and safety, including first aid, are musts, yet the risk assessments have not been done.

“I am concerned we will be personally liable.

“We have a duty of care and I recommend the chamber is not party to it.”

Mrs Lewis advised Lion Bob Francis, who came up with the festival idea, to check rules for fund-raising events.

Pat Perryman said the date of the proposed event had been of concern to her, clashing with the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

“I know where I will be,” she said. “I will be in front of the telly.”