Helen Martin: Private events not in council’s remit

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WE’VE had rows over changes in the way Edinburgh’s saunas are policed and across Scotland over the routine arming of police officers with guns.

Now another Police Scotland controversy has sprung up with their new nationwide policy of charging event organisers for policing costs.

Sounds fair enough. Why should income and council tax payers’ money be spent covering policing costs for events benefiting private enterprises, whether they are sporting events or city-wide parties?

The new policy means, for example, that staging Edinburgh’s Hogmanay could bring an additional invoice from the polis of up to £250,000.

Of course that could be a problem for Unique Events and Underbelly. They won the tender to run Hoggers on behalf of the council at a cost of £1.3 million. So do they pick up the police tab or does that fall to the council . . . ie the public purse?

The real issue here is whether or not Edinburgh City Council should have anything whatsoever to do with Hogmanay other than granting licences and permissions and taking the application fees. We are still in the grip of severe austerity. I need hardly list the priorities from rubbish and street lights to education, housing and roads, the core council responsibilities and services for which we pay. Even they are under pressure or crumbling, quite probably because funds are frittered away on throwing large-scale, show-off parties which, in reality, the citizens cannot afford.

Councillor Steve Cardownie is variously known as “Festival tsar” or “events champion” on the back of this profligacy. Various other members apart from Mr Cardownie, might like to bask in the apparent glory of feeling they have played their part in getting Auld Reekie on the telly at New Year. But at a time of such economic hardship, playing party organiser is the equivalent of fiddling while Rome 
burns.

The argument, as always, is that it is said to bring in £30m to the national economy and a good proportion of that into the city coffers. But what does that mean?

Subtract hotel and accommodation fees which may well wind up on an overseas company profit sheet; the amount spent in bars and 
restaurants which, eventually, winds up in the owner’s pocket or at best, the staff pay packets; the money for fairground rides; the fees paid to the creators of pyrotechnic firework displays, etc etc, and then ask how much of that really finds its way back into Edinburgh citizens’ pockets rather than private businesses?

We shouldn’t be paying the council or councillors to be part of this exercise or even spend time working on it and “putting it out to tender”, other than charging rents and fees to organisers, because we don’t directly benefit. We shouldn’t be bearing the costs of cleaning up afterwards either. Our council tax should be spent on necessities. If Edinburgh is such a great tourist destination for Hogmanay, private enterprises will be queueing up to run things, take the profits and risks, pay for cleaning teams and the extra policing costs.

And if the council concentrated all its attention and man hours on serving the basic needs of citizens as it should, we would all be better off.

Act shows ignorance which drove Yes vote

SO they set fire to the Alex Salmond effigy after all. Despite Sussex Police being bombarded with phone calls of protest, the town of Lewes, East Sussex, decided the grotesque Salmond float, wearing a kilt and sitting on a barrel of North Sea oil, would be burnt on Guy Fawkes Night.

To be fair, they set fire to a David Cameron “guy” in 2010, but then he was one of their own. They once also had a dummy of Osama bin Laden, but then he was recognised as an international terrorist.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that making a conflagration out of the First Minister of Scotland could be deemed an act of racism. They meant no harm. To them it was a bit of fun. They don’t see Scotland as another country anyway. We know that.

What they don’t realise is that such innocent ignorance is precisely what drove many Scots to vote for independence in the first place.

Death by hospital slop

AROUND 175 people have died of malnutrition in Scottish hospitals over the past five years. What do we expect of a system in which health boards score their own hospital meals for nutrition and compliance? Besides, there isn’t a tick box for “inedible slop”.

Donatella’s not facing up to the reality in mirror

JAPANESE women used to bind their feet to stop them growing, and the proud Masai tribe still wear rings to elongate their necks. Strange to us, but the results of both have a certain elegance.

The same cannot be said for today’s rich and famous who spend thousands giving themselves scary and ugly makeovers with filler and botox.

At 59, Donatella Versace has turned herself from first lady of fashion to a Spitting Image puppet. It’s as if a mad scientist had merged Mick Jagger and Jim Carrey and given the resulting creature a sex change.

The real fascination is what on earth she sees when she looks in the mirror and how she can possibly convince herself it’s an improvement.