Comment: We have to get used to belt-tightening

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The bid to bring HMS Edinburgh “home” to the Capital was doomed as soon as the cost started to be counted in several millions of pounds.

It is a pity the warship will not berth in Leith as it would have made a terrific tourist attraction, as anyone who has visited HMS Belfast in London will testify. But the sums didn’t add up. If the 
£10 million start-up costs dangerously holed the project, then prediction of £3.5m a year losses sunk it.

As soon as councillors saw those figures they had to abandon ship. They couldn’t even contemplate such expense when they are looking to save £35m by next May.

There was a time when a report like that delivered by Pricewaterhouse Coopers would have caused the council to pause for breath – but no more. A further feasability study might have followed, looking at options like National Lottery funding and whether extra upfront investment could make the ship more profitable in the long run. Eventually, a package might have been developed that would have made the floating museum a reality for Leith.

But these are different days. After years of talking about austerity – years in which most of us have seen little difference in terms of the delivery of local services – we are seeing increasing signs of financial reality biting.

This same belt-tightening is the reason why the Engine Shed is being forced to close. No-one doubts that this much-loved city institution is doing valuable work. But the council is looking for different – and cheaper – ways of doing things and the Engine Shed is a victim of that drive for cost-efficiency.

It is partly down to the huge public deficit across the UK, but also of course the poor decisions taken at the City Chambers in the recent past, on trams, statutory repairs and so on. The result is that belt-tightening is something we are going to have to get used to.