Hearts and Hibs face bill to enforce traffic rules
HIBS and Hearts supporters face being hit with parking tickets from wardens paid for by their own clubs under plans to make event organisers fork out for traffic enforcement.
Council chiefs, faced with the need to make massive budget cuts, plan to save £100,000 a year by making those who stage events pick up costs currently met by the authority.
It means organisers will be billed for wardens and pick-up trucks deployed during football matches, charity walks and other major gatherings to police no-parking zones and other restricted areas.
The proposals would see events including the MoonWalk breast cancer march, the Riding of the Marches horse trek and international rugby fixtures at Murrayfield slapped with the additional tab for enforcement action. Nearly half of the figure is set to be stumped up by the Capital’s two biggest football clubs at a time when they are under acute financial pressure.
Bosses at Tynecastle are being asked to pay around £27,000 over the 2015-16 session, while counterparts at Easter Road face a bill approaching £20,000.
Event organisers already pay for services such as vehicle diversions, erecting barriers and directing crowds. But moves towards imposing extra charges have been attacked by furious supporters at Hibs and Hearts, who warned they may result in higher ticket prices.
Mike Reilly, chairman of Hibs Supporters’ Association, said the added cost could prove a major headache for both clubs. He said: “The last thing that Hibs needs at the moment is thousands of pounds going on to their bill.
“How can the council possibly ask Hibs to pay an extra £20,000 given the state the game is in just now? It’s the easy option for [the council] – looking for money and taking money. I cannot support anything that is going to put thousands of pounds of costs on a yearly bill for Hibs – things are tight enough at the moment.
“You can understand why the council are trying to do it. I think some folk would not be bothered but personally I am against any costs going onto Hibs that are not needed.
“Hibs and Hearts are trying to cut their costs. What does Hibs do? Pass this on to the supporters to cover it? It’s possible that hard-pressed supporters might have to pay for it at the end of the day.”
While leaders at Hearts could not be contacted for comment last night, concerned directors at Hibs said the proposal had caught them by surprise.
A spokesman for the Easter Road side stressed any added expense would create serious problems in the current financial climate.
He said: “We are completely unaware of this and we fully expect the council to have a constructive and meaningful dialogue with us before taking any action to impose additional charges at a time when Scottish football clubs are already under a lot of financial pressure – and given the amount that football generates for the local economy in Edinburgh.”
Dozens of events held across the city will be subject to the new enforcement fee if it is passed, including marathons, Armed Forces Day and music concerts held at Edinburgh Castle. Proposed charges vary widely, with organisers of the Queen’s Garden Party likely to face a £561 bill and rugby matches at Murrayfield set to be hit with additional costs of more than £10,000.
Organisers of other public events in the city have criticised the fee hikes amid warnings they could make some events unviable.
Melanie Main, Green councillor for The Meadows and Morningside, and a supporter of the Morningside farmer’s market, said: “It seems unfair to penalise organisers of smaller events like a farmer’s market for the behaviour of others who have left their cars where an event is taking place. The situation clearly has to be looked at so community events are not penalised.”
The proposed action comes after recent figures suggested that the Capital’s parking enforcement service had become significantly less lucrative.
Attendants across the Capital issued 185,000 tickets in 2012-13 – a 20 per cent plunge on the 2008-09 figure of 230,000, which boosted city coffers to the tune of £7 million.
Council insiders complained the five-year fall had cost them millions in lost revenue and could be accounted for by parking spaces being gobbled up by the tram works, cash-strapped car owners being more careful and the popularity of RingGo – an app which makes it easier for people to pay via mobile phones.
However, 1,126,363 penalties were issued between April 2008 and March last year, according to figures released under Freedom of Information laws.
Income from parking fines and permits is re-invested in road repairs and other transport services across Edinburgh.
City leaders stressed that proposed fee increases for parking enforcement were not set in stone and urged event organisers and members of the public to make their views on the subject known before the current budget consultation ends.
A spokeswoman said: “We are considering whether the council might be able to save money by charging back the costs incurred from special events parking enforcement.
“It is proposed this could save the council almost £96,000. This is one of many draft budget proposals we are looking at, and all proposals are out for public consultation. We want as many people as possible to let us know what they think. No decisions will be made until we have carefully considered all of the feedback we receive as part of this process.”
WHO’S PAYING WHAT?
The organisations hit by the change include:
Farmers Market: £5,030
Easter Road: £19,171
Hogmanay/New Year: £5,666
Marathons & other runs: £10,270
James Connolly Parade: £998
John Knox Parade: £1,445
Armed Forces Day: £847
Pride Scotia: £788
Cruise Liner visits: £1,940
Queen’s Garden Party: £561
Castle Concerts: £2,823
Riding of the Marches: £1,914
Christmas Lights Switch On: £1,940