Taxpayers to pay for Provost’s £6K Hogmanay party

Steve Cardownie at the launch of the Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations last year. Picture: Julie Bull

Steve Cardownie at the launch of the Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations last year. Picture: Julie Bull

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TAXPAYERS in the Capital are set to fork out almost £6000 for the Lord Provost’s 2014 Hogmanay party – despite assurances the sum would be covered by private sponsors.

It has emerged councillors ran up the bill – around four times that of the previous year’s reception – after being told that taxpayers would not be picking up the tab.

Guests at the bash at the Royal Overseas League (ROSL) in Princes Street are understood to have been served “champagne, food, the lot” and to have included nearly every administration councillor, together with friends, partners and spouses.

City leaders previously said a company it named as Bathroom Solutions Limited would settle the bill as part of the sponsorship deal.

Today the local authority said it was paying the bill out of public funds, but insisted it had received assurances from the sponsor that the outstanding amount would be repaid.

Sources close to the firm have told the Evening News that, three months after the event, the bill has yet to be sent on.

It is understood staff in the office of Councillor Steve Cardownie, former festivals and events champion, were recently asked for assistance in contacting directors at Bathroom Solutions.

Council bosses revealed in a recent freedom of information response that the 2014 event had secured private sponsorship “for the first time” in its 16-year history. Previously, the annual bash, billed as a “civic tradition”, was financed from the council’s hospitality budget.

In December 2013, Cllr Cardownie said he hoped last year’s party would be “cost neutral” and would not be a “huge, sit-down extravaganza”.

Opposition politicians today urged the council to provide further details on the Hogmanay deal and who approved it.

Councillor Jason Rust, Conservative member for Colinton and Fairmilehead, said: “It’s very disturbing if it was made out that the event was paid for by private sponsorship, but in fact we learn months on that the council is to foot the bill.

“We were previously told that the event would be cost neutral. Clarity is required as to what arrangement was reached, what the relationship is between the council and sponsor, and who approved this.

“We also need confirmation that the money will be recouped. At this time of budgetary cuts to services I would sincerely hope that we are not going to be thousands of pounds out of pocket for a party.”

He added: “There are many excellent and worthwhile civic functions throughout the year recognising individuals or groups, welcoming dignitaries or celebrating aspects of Edinburgh, but I don’t think the public will see this situation in the same light.”

The row comes as the council aims to slice £67 million from the Capital’s budget over the next three years.

A council spokeswoman said: “The bill is being paid. We have been assured by the sponsor that the outstanding balance will be recharged in 
full.”

ROSL leaders declined to comment.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com