Save tote plea

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WIGAN’S MPs have held a top level meeting with the man who will decide the future of the Tote in a bid to save hundreds of jobs.

The town’s three MPs - Lisa Nandy, Yvonne Fovargue and Andy Burnham - met Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Westminter in advance of the announcement of the new owners - expected to be made by the Government within a week.

Book maker BetFred and Sports Investment Partners (SIP) are vying to buy the operation. which has the future of more than 540 Wigan staff at stake.

Ms Nandy concluded that with only some of the details about the rival offers in the public domain, it was “virtually impossible” to make an informed choice about which of the two bids would be best for Wigan in the long term.

The MPs have already met with both potential bidders and pressed them for assurances on the Tote’s future.

Speaking on behalf of the borough MPs Lisa Nandy said: “At a time when the borough is suffering from an uncertain economic future and cuts imposed by central government the retention of the business in the borough, and in the North West region, is of paramount importance.”

“We are pressing Ministers to pick the bid that’s best for Wigan. The racing industry benefits from having long-standing, dedicated and motivated staff. We are seeking urgent assurances they will be protected.”

Wigan Chamber of Commerce President Miranda Barker has asked for a commitment from all firms involved “to ensure that the staff currently working as part of the Tote itself, its subsidiaries and contractors, be treated fairly, honourably and in full accordance with not only the letter of employment law but also the spirit in which the law is written.”

And the MPs say they would welcome the issuing of a statement from both organisations and would be more than happy to facilitate any such discussion or communication where they could be of assistance.

Manchester United manager and racehorse owner Sir Alex Ferguson has backed BetFred boss Fred Done’s proposal.

BetFred confirmed it is in discussion with racecourse groups about the creation of a new Tote Racing Development Board to be chaired by chief executive Barry Nightingale.