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Otley councillor warns of Tour de France volunteer "shambles"
7:15am Saturday 14th June 2014 in Local news
A former Otley town mayor has blasted the way a volunteer scheme for Yorkshire's leg of the Tour de France is being run.
Councillor Nigel Francis (Ind, Danefield) is one of thousands of people across the county who have signed up to be a Tour Maker for the Grand Depart.
The scheme involves marshalling at a certain point along the race's route to ensure the public have as enjoyable and safe at time as possible - but Coun Francis says it is shaping up to be "a shambles".
He decided to publicly criticise the scheme after discovering that he and many fellow volunteers had been allocated to stages far away from their homes -making a mockery of the strong 'local knowledge' the Tour Makers were meant to need.
Coun Francis said: "We're meant to be 'the eyes and ears' of the event and direct people to local services and give directions, but how can you do that when you've been allocated to somewhere you don't know anything about?
"I've been given Green Hammerton, over by York, which I know nothing about.
"I attended the Tour Makers event in Leeds on May 24 where we were all being told how important the role was and how useful our local knowledge would be, but when I got talking to people around me they all had the same story.
"I talked to man from Sheffield who has been given Harrogate, and a fellow from Harrogate who has been allocated Aysgarth Falls, while a woman from York has been given Otley while I'm going to be over near York!
"I spoke to about half a dozen people and they were all in the same boat. I'm just worried the organisers have done this across the board - I'm not sure they know what they're doing."
Coun Francis also fears allocating people to spots far from their homes will create travel problems come the Tour's first day on Saturday, July 5 - when many roads will be closed before 8am.
The Tour Maker programme is being run by TdFHUB2014 Ltd, with backing from supermarket chain Asda.
On the Tour Maker section of its website, Asda stresses that the volunteers will play an "essential" role and "give directions, keep spectators informed and generally ensure the event is a fantastic experience for everyone to remember."
But it also warns that Tour Makers will have to be "flexible" and prepared for potentially "very early starts".
A spokesman for the Tour Maker Team at TdFHUB2014 Ltd said: "Tour Makers were given the opportunity to specify if they had a preferred location and stage on their application form.
"Their preferences were taken into account but unfortunately not everyone could be assigned to their first choice position.
"Due to the complex nature of rostering almost 10,000 volunteers and the race day requirements, not everyone could be allocated to the positions in some of the more popular areas, or indeed as close to home as they had hoped.
"Some Tour Makers will travel both within their home county and from overseas to take part in this once in a lifetime experience."
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