Council pays £4k to talk poverty at plush hotel

The Carlton Hotel. Picture: Scott Louden
The Carlton Hotel. Picture: Scott Louden
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CASH-strapped Edinburgh City Council has been slammed for hosting a £4000 conference at a plush hotel – to talk about poverty.

Around 100 delegates attended the event which was held at the four-star Carlton Hotel on North Bridge, rather than any of the council’s own meeting facilities nearby.

The council insisted it had gone for the “best-value package” at the venue with catering costs kept to an “absolute minimum”.

But anti-poverty campaigners said anyone earning the minimum wage would be “shocked” by the “ridiculous” choice of venue which cost more than a year’s payment to someone getting Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The hotel serves regular lunches at £22.50 per head with a typical menu of cream of leek and potato soup with chive croutons; breast of chicken with a red wine, baby onion and bacon sauce; vanilla cheesecake with a berry coulis; and coffee with tablet.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty said: “How can you talk about poverty when you’re sitting in a fine Edinburgh hotel looking over the Old Town?

“It’s just ridiculous and a jolly for policy-makers who often play no part in alleviating poverty but just deal with the symptoms.”

Conservative councillor Jason Rust called it “somewhat incongruous” to be spending thousands on a “four-star establishment to discuss the twin challenges of poverty and inequality”.

He said: “It has to really be questioned whether this in itself is an example of good practice and the best use of the available budget or whether there may be more appropriate ways to tackle hardship or injustice in our communities. I’m sure there are sufficient spaces in a council premises to hold this type of thing.”

Green finance spokesman Cllr Gavin Corbett said the city should use properties within the council estate or renting space from charity and voluntary groups with social enterprises providing catering.

He said: “That would give a triple win: staff get to meet, local charities get an income and the council saves money.”

But a council spokeswoman said the venue for the April 3 event was the best value package for accommodating the number of staff and break-out rooms required. She said: “In addition to speakers providing their time at no fee, catering was kept to an absolute minimum.”

The authority faces making cuts of £120 million over the next four years.