THE prospect of surf reef contractor ASR refusing to return to Boscombe for the proposed £77,500 compromise fee was raised by Bournemouth council’s leader yesterday.

The suggested compromise arrangement – which would see ASR receive half the £150,000 retention fee if it came back and made improvements – was not agreed by cabinet members but was deferred until next month.

The reason was to allow council officers extra time to continue negotiations with the New Zealand-based reef contractors.

It would appear there is general agreement that ASR is best placed to improve the reef’s performance but not over when this should happen and who should pay for it.

Council leader Peter Charon said delaying the decision until next month would protect the council’s position if ASR refused to agree to the deal.

He said: “The advice we are being given by officers is that we want to explore all possibilities. We need to be mindful of where we are.

“This is fundamentally a commercial negotiation. If the message comes back to us, and I stress the if, that ASR is simply not prepared to come back to under any of these circumstances, it would be right to review our position.

“Clearly officers have got those recommendations uppermost in their minds but we’re accepting their advice that we need more time to achieve a fundamental solution.”

Meanwhile, council officers were once again accused of interfering with the final report of the councillors tasked to consider the future of the reef.

Liberal Democrat, Roger West, one of the four members of the task and finish group, said: “I welcome now the fact that you are trying to renegotiate with ASR, which was to be our recommendation anyway.

“But there are still many questions to be asked and I don’t like a report that in my opinion does not portray accurately what the task and finish group said.”