THE announcer for Basingstoke’s ice hockey team, the Bison, has said ‘we need scrutiny’ into the decision of the council to threaten legal action over ice rink repairs.

Sports presenter Daren Bavister, who has previously spoken out about what the rink means for many, said the sale was ‘convenient’ for the council and that the decision to threaten the leaseholder with legal action ‘smells like foul play’.

Reacting to last week’s news that leaseholder Standard Securities has put the rink up for sale for £2.4 million, Daren said: “Disappointed, I suppose is the word. A real shock and surprise, especially bearing in mind the current state of the town really, post-pandemic.

“From an outsider looking in, it does not hold the council and those who are making those decisions in a very positive light. It looks poorly thought out, ill-timed.”

Expanding on why he feels the council need to take responsibility for the outcome, Daren continued: “It feels as though [portfolio holder] Cllr Izett, who has been unhelpful throughout, has a lack of empathy, and that this is a way of them wiping their hands of something they really didn’t want to get involved with.

“They are shunning their responsibility to all those who use the facilities, with an air of arrogance. Nobody could have predicted a global pandemic, but this actually seems quite convenient [for them]: ‘If we do that, the other two parties have said they will do this and this, and it’s not our problem any more.’ And that’s not how the council should run. The council is voted in to do the very best it can for its residents, making sure our town and surrounding villages have the facilities they need.”

The father-of-two from Beggarwood added that season tickets sales for the upcoming Bison season are actually higher than pre-pandemic, but that the news has brought a ‘sour taste’ to the comeback.

“When I started back at Reading FC a few weeks ago, it felt so different. There were smiles and hugs and that experience is what fans of the Bison were looking forward to. But there is now this cloud that has suddenly appeared once again, and it's going to have a sour taste,” he said.

“[The rink] gets thousands per game, and that’s only the hockey! It’s so much more than [a building], it’s an entire complex, offering something for not only the residents, but people outside as well.

“It’s only the few that are willing to speak up, because not everybody is comfortable with that, but it feels like the few that are speaking up are being beaten down by bureaucracy, arrogance, and an unwillingness to cooperate. It smells like foul play.”

However, Daren is ever hopeful that this is not the end for the rink, and says he would like to see someone scrutinise the council’s decisions on the matter up to this point.

“The council should be ashamed of themselves, quite frankly,” he said.

“I am a floating voter, and I think the party should not come into this. The CEP councillors have changed again and somebody with some guts should come in and look at the minutes, look at what has happened. We need some scrutiny.

“Nothing is ever too late until the lights are turned off.”