BOSSES of Edinburgh’s International Conference Centre have come under fire after choosing to move into the most expensive offices at the taxpayer-funded venue.
Around 50 EICC staff will relocate from the temporary office they have been housed in to plush Atria Edinburgh – a choice twice as expensive as others on their shortlist.
The decision has angered councillors who say there has been no scrutiny of the expensive option.
But staff moving from the temporary base in nearby Conference House to swanky Atria Two say they need an impressive space to help them impress prospective clients.
The move to Atria Two will swallow £4.75 million over the next 15 years.
However, moves to neighbouring Atria One, which would have only cost £2.6m over the same period, and nearby Exchange Crescent – a snip at £2.5m out of the business case over the period – were ruled out.
Opposition councillors have railed against the move, insisting the coalition administration had failed to justify the added risk to the taxpayer.
Green finance spokesman Councillor Gavin Corbett said he was “deeply disappointed” by a decision opposed by his party and Edinburgh Conservatives.
He said: “It seems like, faced with a range of choices over a new office, the board of the EICC plumped for the highest cost, highest risk option, safe in the knowledge that the city council, as guarantor of the business plan, would bear the final risk.
“Well, EICC would say that, wouldn’t they? There’s been no opportunity to examine this case properly and no attempt to justify a £4.8m burden on the business plan. There is nothing that explains what benefits there will be from those higher costs.
“As the process for next year’s budget draws near, I hope the council will be prepared to offer the same generosity to community facilities as the International Conference Centre has been offered today.”
Tory group finance spokesman Cllr Iain Whyte echoed this view, saying the decision would put a “fairly large dent in the business plan of the EICC”.
He said: “By not giving a justification, the administration have left themselves open to the accusation that they were going for the most expensive option to benefit a council company.
“I think any open-minded person would wonder why the most expensive option was recommended and would find it impossible to justify.”
The new office is part of the £30m extension that formally opened in May. Ben Reed, director at Jones Lang LaSalle, joint letting agent for Atria, said he was delighted to have achieved 50 per cent occupancy at Atria Edinburgh. He said the occupancy rate was “well beyond” expectations.