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Tourist board put into liquidation

THE Thames and Chiltern Tourist Board went into liquidation yesterday with an overall loss of pounds 350,000 after a meeting of members and creditors at Thame in Oxfordshire.

When the board failed last month hundreds of holiday-makers faced losing deposits made when they booked cottages in the Thames Valley through a subsidiary of the board. They have all been rescued by a fund set up by members of the board, but some cottage owners are owed money by the board which they are unlikely to recover in full.

Regional tourist boards were set up in 1972 as a collaboration between government, in the form of the English Tourist Board, and private enterprise. It is the first time one of the regional boards has failed. Members of the board included Trust House Forte and Oxfordshire County Council as well as many small hoteliers.

Mike Oldham of Smith and Williamson, the London chartered accountants, has been appointed liquidator. He said: 'Members, creditors and the English Tourist Board have attempted to rescue the Thames and Chiltern Board, but no plan could be agreed upon.'

The Thames and Chiltern Board spent pounds 520,000 on a property for its headquarters and borrowed pounds 180,000 from Barclays Bank to refurbish it. Now, following the slump in property values, the building is worth only pounds 350,000 and the board cannot afford to pay the mortgage because its income has also dropped.

Mr Oldham said he would be investigating management of the board prior to the failure. The chief accountant of the board was dismissed and the chief executive resigned immediately before the board ceased to trade.

'Members have asked me to investigate the circumstances surrounding these events and to inquire into why the board's financial circumstances deteriorated so quickly,' Mr Oldham said. 'The internal management accounts available before the failure did not reveal the financial difficulties which the board faced. Losses for 1992 amounted to pounds 400,000 but were not identified in the internal management accounts. The losses were discovered when external auditors came in to look at accounts.'