Lord Provost wants Hogmanay party sponsorship

Lord Provost of Edinburgh Donald Wilson, Picture: Comp
Lord Provost of Edinburgh Donald Wilson, Picture: Comp
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The Lord Provost is searching for private sponsors to pay for a traditional Hogmanay bash in a last-ditch bid to save taxpayers from footing the bill.

The annual event, which will cost around £1500, is being paid for out of Edinburgh City Council’s annual hospitality budget.

But after criticism of his ­ballooning budget, Councillor Wilson has spent time ­trying to drum up last-minute ­sponsorship to cover the cost to the public purse.

He said: “I made significant savings to the cost of the Hogmanay Party last year and am confident of doing so again.

“We are always looking at alternative ways of funding events, such as private sponsorship. This was the case with my first Community Garden Party, which thanks to the support from Virgin Money, didn’t cost the taxpayer a penny.”

A council spokeswoman said the authority was in talks with a potential private sponsor, but no-one had been confirmed.

Disclosure of the party’s price tag comes in the wake of last week’s revelations that the civic leader was expected to have overspent his budget by almost £250,000 come April. A generous £5000 budget has also been allocated to his annual Christmas party.

The Hogmanay gathering is a civic tradition and will this year be held in Princes Street’s Royal Overseas League – a ­private members’ club with scenic views of Edinburgh Castle and the spectacular ­fireworks display.

At least 60 guests are expected to attend, including senior council officers, leaders of opposition parties and other special guests. Room hire and a buffet accounts for most of the costs, with a cash bar in ­operation. Virgin Money, which sponsors the Hogmanay fireworks concert, is not paying for the council function.

Edinburgh Conservative leader Cllr Cameron Rose, who received an invite but will not be attending, said of the last-minute sponsorship push: “It shows the Evening News investigation, which revealed a ­quarter of a million pound overspend, is having an impact.”

City festivals and events champion Steve Cardownie, who will co-host the party, said the event started 15 years ago as a platform for interviews with civic leaders after midnight, with footage beamed around Britain from the New Year party.

“There’s been a conscious effort to keep the cost down,” he said.

“Next year we’re hoping if it does go ahead it’ll be cost neutral. It’s not a huge, sit-down extravaganza.”

Party-goers will have an ideal vantage point to watch the 80,000 revellers from around the world expected to flock to the city’s jam-packed street party. British pop duo Pet Shop Boys will headline Edinburgh Hogmanay ­Concert in the Gardens.

The expense has been made official in the wake of growing criticism over spending when it comes to the Lord Provost’s activities.

Cllr Wilson’s support staff has grown to 12 employees from the eight full-time staff used by his predecessor.

The Evening News also revealed on Monday that Cllr Wilson had wanted to use the 16th century Lauriston Castle to host gala dinners and garden ­parties for visiting dignitaries as an alternate location to the City Chambers.

dale.miller@edinburghnews.com