THE spending row that has dogged the Lord Provost’s private office has flared up into a public spat for the first time after an opposition leader claimed he was “misled” about the affair.
Tory leader Cameron Rose slammed the Provost’s department for providing “inaccurate” information after overestimating the number of engagements organised by the civic head by around 400. It emerged his office mistakenly added private meetings to a list of public engagements – making it appear the Provost’s office had staged 900 events – when the figure was 459.
The revelation sparked the Cllr Rose’s ire at yesterday’s full council meeting, as staffing costs and the Provost’s busy agenda had been held up as key reasons for the overspend.
The dispute comes weeks after the News revealed Donald Wilson’s office was heading for a £250,000 overspend. He had also billed the city £250 to let out his kilt, which he later repaid. Today, fresh questions were raised about spending at the department after it emerged a ten-strong delegation from the Capital – comprising Deputy Lord Lieutenants, their partners and led by Edinburgh’s First Citizen – attended the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation at Westminster Abbey last June at a cost of £2500. Aberdeen City Council sent a single councillor.
Cllr Rose railed against the expense of the overnight trip – which ended with the Provost’s limo being ticketed at Waverley – and branded the 900-engagement claim a “flagrant exaggeration”. He said: “I would be concerned as to why so many people went at that cost. Taken alongside the overspend, that gives me increased concern.”
The Edinburgh Greens are hoping to introduce a radical measure to tighten the purse strings at the Lord Provost’s office. Green Finance spokesperson Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “We’ll be proposing a £120,000 cut in the budget. We need a dramatically trimmed office.”
A council spokesman defended the Lord Provost – who was yesterday pictured selling the Big Issue in support of the charity. He said: “The Lord and Lady Provost were invited by the Queen to nominate eight guests to join them at a service to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation. It was felt that the four Deputy Lord Lieutenants, and their partners, would be most appropriate to attend.” He said the cost of the trip was “met from the additional budgetary provision allowed for the civic head”.
A spokesman also said the Lord Provost fulfills an “important promotional role” for the city.