Numberplate auction plan criticised

By Sharon AsplinTHE driving gloves will be off today over the sale of one of the most sought-after motoring souvenirs in the country.Bidding could soon be under way for the prized F1 number plate, which Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield has decided to put up for auction to raise vital funds.

By Sharon Asplin

THE driving gloves will be off today over the sale of one of the most sought-after motoring souvenirs in the country.

Bidding could soon be under way for the prized F1 number plate, which Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield has decided to put up for auction to raise vital funds.

It is expected to reach a six-figure sum at auction and offers of more than £150,000 are being invited.

However, a county councillor is trying to stop the sale, insisting the memorabilia is not council leader Lord Hanningfield's to sell.

In a motion to full council, Rene Morris, a Labour councillor from Harlow, urged colleagues not to sell the number plate and criticised the "secret" way the matter had been handled.

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"As I understand it, the number plate was given to us by a former officer and I do not think members or officers have the right to sell it. Some people may say it's not important, but it's a big part of the heritage of Essex," she said yesterday.

"And it has all been done in secrecy and the first I heard of it was when I saw it on the news and other councillors said the same."

But Lord Hanningfield insisted no final decision had been made to sell the numberplate. "It depends on how much we are going to get," he said.

"The plate is not going to be used by the new chairman, who prefers ECC1, so maybe it is better to use the money for some other benefit to the community.

"People do not seem to think we should have an ostentatious plate in this day and age and most people have said it's the best thing I've ever done. It seems Mrs Morris is out of touch with what people feel.

"I am sure the person who gave it to us would not object if the money was used for something of real benefit, such as children's safety."

F1 was the first car to be registered in Essex when the county council became the registration authority and the plate has been historically used on the council chairman's car.

There has already been a specific inquiry from the wealthy world of Formula 1. The identity of the person behind the inquiry is being kept secret, although the sport's supreme billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, the son of a Lowestoft trawlerman, is thought to be interested.

Bids must be received before July 9 and anyone interested in bidding should contact Dave Wheller, the council's head of procurement and direct services, on 01245 431867.

sharon.asplin@eadt.co.uk

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