Cash-strapped Edinburgh City Council paid £250 to loosen the Lord Provost’s tight-fitting ceremonial kilt, the Evening News can reveal.
The expense comes amid a whirlwind year for the civic leader, who attended almost 900 functions and is expected to have overspent his budget by almost £250,000 come April, according to accounts seen by the News.
Lord Provost Donald Wilson has also seen his support staff swell to 12 employees as he “develops his role further”, even though his predecessor managed the department with just eight full-timers.
And Councillor Wilson’s annual Christmas party, attended by staff and community stalwarts, has been given a lavish budget of £5000.
The increased spending comes against a backdrop of swingeing cuts to services as the city tightens its belt to save around £36 million by 2015.
It is understood the city paid for Mr Wilson’s kilt alterations “out of convenience”, but has since been reimbursed by the Labour councillor, who insisted he “always intended to pay” for the fitting.
Today, critics railed against “out of control” spending – most of which has paid for additional staff costs.
Cllr Paul Edie, the leader of Edinburgh’s Liberal Democrats, said the ruling administration had to “get their act together on this”.
“The Lord Provost’s department shouldn’t be spending anything like this and I think that’s because of the number of staff he has now,” he said.
“His predecessor, George Grubb, was an extremely active Lord Provost who, in times of austerity, always had an eye on keeping expenditure to a minimum to the extent that he didn’t even agree to the traditional portrait and had a photograph taken instead. His Christmas reception was done on a shoestring and he did several hundred engagements every year, significantly up on previous years by other lord provosts.”
Unison, the council’s largest workers union, said its members would be “very unhappy” about the exorbitant spending.
A spokesman said: “When you have social workers being told they can’t use their car or people doubling up on desks at council departments, I think the average member working for the council is going to think this spending is excessive.”
North Edinburgh Fights Back campaigner Willie Black, who spearheads protests against welfare reform, said the overspend was a “disgrace”.
And the leader of Edinburgh Conservatives, Cllr Cameron Rose, pledged to call for a “detailed analysis” into the budget-bursting.
A council spokesman said the Lord Provost “fulfils an important promotional role” and has sought to “develop this role further”.
He said: “This year, his office has arranged close to 900 engagements, more than double the activity than in previous years.”
The council argued the projected £237,000 overspend would be contained within the overall service budget for 2013-14.
“Due to a reorganisation within the service area, these expenditure figures do not provide for an accurate year-on-year comparison,” he said. “The Lord Provost has proportionately fewer staff than before. Sustained and proper consideration continues to be given to all aspects of spending.”