A Passage To India….




There’s been a couple of interesting articles in the East Anglian Daily Times about County Councillor Stephen Castle visiting India……

Here’s the first one….

Council boss asked to justify India trip


QUESTIONS have been asked about the cost and worth of a business trip to India by Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield and representatives from the county’s cricket club.

Former England captain Graham Gooch and Essex County Cricket Club chief executive David East are among the party accompanying Lord Hanningfield on the trade mission in a bid to drum up commerce for the county.

One other organisation is being represented on the trip but it is unclear how it is being paid for, with organisers ExDRA – the Essex Development and Regeneration Agency – refusing to explain who has covered the cost.

ExDRA is part funded by the Government and the county council but its inward investment programme which has arranged the trip – Invest Essex – is fully financed by the council.

Paul Martin, the marketing development manager for Invest Essex, said he was not prepared to disclose the nature of the funding for the trip.

He said: ?This programme (Invest Essex) is fully funded by Essex County Council as part of our commissioning agreement.

?We’ve been successful in attracting people over there. The council chaps are there to ‘sell’ Essex. It’s really important that the civic element is there.

?Stephen Castle and Lord Hanningfield are over there as ‘captains of the county’ to tell people about Essex being a business environment.

?It’s about stimulating business and making sure it comes into Essex.?

Julie Young, a member of the opposition Labour Group at County Hall, said she wanted to know who had footed the bill for the venture and why it had not been more widely publicised.

She said: ?Who’s paying for it? What is the purpose of the visit and what is it set to achieve? We’ve seen lots of trips around the globe and it’s not often clear what benefits have come from them.

?We have got to try every means possible to bring us out of this global recession and if that means trips to India and it brings tangible evidence then people might thing it’s a good thing to do – but we need to know.?

A spokesman for Essex County Cricket Club said its representatives were on a ?joint venture? with the council with regard to looking at boosting tourism and business investment.

He said he would not be able to confirm who had paid for the trip until Mr East returned.

Council media manager Eleri Roberts confirmed that Lord Hanningfield and Stephen Castle, the cabinet member for economic development, regeneration and the 2012 Olympic Games, were on the mission but she was unable to confirm details of the cost.

Here’s the follow-up:

India could make 2012 base in Essex

THE Indian Olympic team could make its base in Essex in preparation for the 2012 games in London, it has emerged.

Representatives from Essex County Council have just returned from a trade mission to Delhi where they were involved in discussions with senior members of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

Council leader Lord Hanningfield and cabinet member Stephen Castle, head of economic development, regeneration and the Olympic Games, were on the trip and Mr Castle said he was optimistic an agreement could be reached.

India sent 56 athletes and a support team of more than 40 officials to the 2008 games in Beijing and the link-up could provide Essex with a real boost in the build up to the 2012 games.

Mr Castle said the IOA had yet to decide whether its athletes would travel as one group to the UK to prepare for the games or if those involved in specific sports would be based in separate locations, as in previous Olympic years.

Around 24 sites in Essex have met the standard of the London 2012 Organising Committee’s list of facilities available for use in preparation for the games, including centres in Colchester, Braintree and Chelmsford.

Mr Castle said: ?Lots of communities around the country are trying to sell themselves and these communities that can attract the big teams will bring big money and lots of top athletes.

?While I was in Delhi I set up a number of meetings with a number of sports federations and met with the head of the IOA.

?It’s early stages yet but very few people have spoken to the Indians. It doesn’t happen overnight but they liked the fact that Essex is close to London and we can accommodate all of the sports that the Indians are really successful at.?

Mr Castle said a lot of the other countries set to compete in the games had already selected their training camp locations, including Birmingham, which will host the US athletics team, but India was one of the largest teams yet to decide.

He added: ?It was very initial conversations but very, very positively received. For us to get in the door was very good.

?The Indians have yet to decide. They have previously sent sports to train individually but what they’re interested in doing is following the successful Team GB model and basing all their athletes in one place.?

Mr Castle said an agreement would only add to the Olympic legacy that the games will leave in Essex, with local coaches being offered the chance to work with the best India has to offer and young athletes an opportunity to train alongside the team.

Among those facilities that could host training sessions are the Essex County Cricket ground in Chelmsford and the Colchester Garrison.

Mr Castle also confirmed that contact had been made with the Chinese Olympic Committee about a possible training camp in the county after the close links forged during the Essex Jiangsu Festival, which will close later this month.

Intriguing stuff. If any councillor has a role in encouraging Olympic teams to base themselves in Essex, it should certainly be Cllr Castle – as he is the Essex County Council cabinet member for Economic Development, Regeneration and the 2012 Games, plus he has declared paid employment as Chair of Eastern Regional Sports Board, Deputy Chairman Thames Gateway South Essex Regeneration Partnership and as a member of the Local Government Association Culture and Tourism Sport Board.

It would be embarassing if none of the 200-odd national teams based themselves in Essex – and India is a fairly modest target. India had just 57 competitors at the last Olympics, winning just 3 medals – although it is aiming to do better in the future.

China would be a more wothwhile ‘capture’ – they had 639 competitors last year, and won 51 medals. Stephen Castle was out in China last August.

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