Henley blames basket-case contractors for Britain in Bloom defeat

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The Independent Online

So when this year the neighbouring town of Marlow was awarded the prize for its hanging baskets, Henley's tranquillity was disrupted. Enraged by the defeat, councillors sacked the flower-basket contractors and ordered the removal of the town's 146 hanging baskets. Henley town council is now seeking compensation from the contractor English Landscapes for providing what it considers to be below-par blooms.

Elizabeth Hodgkin, chairman of the Henley in Bloom committee, said the contractors had provided a "particularly bad" service, producing baskets, at a total cost of £5,000, which "lacked colour and imagination".

She said: "The people of Henley were very disappointed. The tradesmen who bought them were very disappointed. The contractors have been dismissed and we are now in the process of refunding everybody. We have taken them away and we are asking for compensation." Jonathan Barter, a fellow councillor, was one of those critical of the baskets put up by the contractor. "I can safely say that our effort was pretty hopeless," he said.

A spokesman for English Landscapes said the company would not comment as the matter was in the hands of its solicitors. But he did confirm that the contract had been terminated. A council worker said that the contract centred on the Britain in Bloom competition.

This year was the first time Henley had faced any competition in the "town" category of the regional heat, according to Britain in Bloom's Thames and Chilterns area co-ordinator, Stan Bowes. "This was the first year Marlow entered in the 'town' category. Previously they were in the 'large town' category," said Mr Bowes. "Henley are usually very good, and indeed they were this year. The two towns are rivals but the judges ignore that."

There are nine categories in the Britain in Bloom competition - large city, city and small city; large town, town and small town; and large village, village and small village. The Thames and Chilterns region comprises the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.