A £250,000 bill for an empty building inevitably sounds like a waste of money and it is therefore no surprise that the city council finds itself under fire for the expense of maintenance and security at the former Tynecastle High School building.
The school site was meant to form part of Hearts’ scheme to redevelop nearby Tynecastle stadium but that is no longer happening and the council says it plans to advertise the building on the open market so needs to keep it in good shape until then.
It can be argued that the £80,000 a year cost involved is not massive for an organisation the size of the city council – especially when there is the £776 million tram project still under way. But the outlay for the empty school comes at a time of exceptional financial stringency, where many good projects in the city are having their funding cut.
The Engine Shed, a long-established social charity helping people with learning disabilities prepare for the workplace, is currently under threat and has won strong public support in its fight to keep going.
Its £211,200 annual funding from the council is less than the cost of maintaining the empty Tynecastle school for three years.
The pressures on the council are only going to get worse in the next few years as the size of the savings required to meet its budget increases.
Tough decisions will have to be made, with painful consequences for many. That’s why council chiefs must make sure that every penny they spend can be justified.
They have to be ready to answer for their decisions more than they might have in the past.
Everything the council spends money on must be able to withstand the most detailed scrutiny.
Because at a time of austerity for ordinary people and cuts for many valuable projects, those in charge of the city’s finances must remember every penny counts.