Labour councillor told off for gala fees stance

Karen Keil has come under fire. Picture: Callum Bennetts

Karen Keil has come under fire. Picture: Callum Bennetts

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A LABOUR councillor who spoke out against expensive licensing charges for community events has been reprimanded by party bosses for criticising council policy.

Karen Keil, who is councillor for Drumbrae/Gyle and also organiser of her local gala, told the Evening News last month that the escalating costs were forcing many events to be scaled back.

She said the licences and fees deemed necessary for fairs and galas seemed to change every year and called for a review of the system.

But her comments prompted an email from SNP licensing convener Mike Bridgman, criticising her for speaking out against the agreed policy of the Labour/SNP coalition.

And she was also reprimanded by council leader Andrew Burns after the SNP complained about her remarks.

In his email, Cllr Bridgman referred to the story in the News and told her: “I find your dealing with this matter totally unacceptable in terms of the coalition aspect and you being a member of the administration who set the budget and agreed the fees for licensing and now slating them in the press for some brownie points as you are chair of the Clermiston Gala Day.

“We collectively agreed these fees and for you or for that matter any member of this administration to do as you have done in the press is total hypocrisy. Collective decisions means collective responsibility.”

But Cllr Keil – who has organised the Clermiston Gala for the past 20 years – replied to him saying she stood by everything she had said.

She said she was surprised it was “such a big deal”. She wrote: “I can’t see that I have done anything at all to jeopardise the administration.

“I agreed with the fee structure – but there is a very big difference between the big wheel in Princes Street Gardens and our gala at Clermiston, but yet we are still be slapped with the same fees. That cannot be right.

“The fee structure, if imposed, will kill off our gala and probably every other gala in the city.

“Indeed it already will have an effect as the fun fair will not bring as many rides this year as they did in previous years as they can’t afford the fee. The cost of the fee they will take out of the money they usually give to us to help with the cost of the event.”

Cllr Keil had said the council was wanting to charge £3000 for this year’s Clermiston Gala – “virtually half our income” and “completely unacceptable”.

And organisers of the Corstorphine Fair have warned this year’s event will be the last unless they have their licence costs reduced. Initial costs quoted by officials totalled around £7000, though these had since been revised downwards.

In an email to SNP councillors, group whip Alex Lunn told them: “At my request this morning after a Evening News story that is negative to the council and council policy a Labour councillor has been formally spoken to by the Labour group leader.”

Cllr Keil declined to comment on the reprimand or the email exchange with Cllr Bridgman.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com