Heads must roll if council officials are found responsible over collapse of Christmas festival - Steve Cardownie

Edinburgh's Christmas in 2022 almost did not take place due to the collapse of the contract.Edinburgh's Christmas in 2022 almost did not take place due to the collapse of the contract.
Edinburgh's Christmas in 2022 almost did not take place due to the collapse of the contract.
Surely if there is any substance to the allegations of incompetence and deceit up at the City Chambers “heads must roll.”

Yesterday’s front page blasted out the headline “Scrutiny of city chiefs’ role in Christmas flop. Council officials under investigation over handling of last year’s failed festival” and sadly this came as no surprise to me. I have known for some time that something was badly amiss and that the injured parties were not going to take what happened lying down.

Their complaints, backed up with detailed, verifiable paperwork, has led to an investigation by the law firm, Pinsent Mason into what happened and who was responsible and as this is being carried out by an external company the ability of officials to potentially “close ranks” has been nullified.

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Make no mistake! This sorry situation has cost the city £3 million in potential lost revenue. Money that is sorely needed, money that could be spent on a whole manner of things which are under threat because of council cuts. £3 million! It is worth repeating!

One of the main accusations levelled at certain officials is that they misled councillors. Misled? A euphemism for lied to! If there is any evidence of this then there can only be one outcome. Those officials responsible for duping councillors must be shown the door and I don’t mean being allowed to resign with a nice golden handshake.

It seems that council incompetence may also have been at play with planning consent not forthcoming until days before the event was to take place. Council officials expected Christmas Festival operators to assume a huge risk by committing finance, and setting up, before planning approval was even in place.

Coupled with the procurement documentation not going out until March of 2022, giving interested parties almost no time at all to complete their financial projections and submit their tenders for a major, complex event that was only a matter of a few months away put them under so much avoidable pressure. Why were tenders not invited for timeously?

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In addition, after Angel Event Experience bailed out of the contract the operator who pulled the plug was engaged by Unique Events to put on the Christmas market. Did they know that they were going to be awarded this prior to ripping up the contract?

However, this debacle shines a light on the relationship between certain officials and councillors. Some see councillors as amateurs, albeit well meaning, but amateurs just the same and incapable of being able to keep a handle on things. Many councillors don’t have the time to drill down and effectively scrutinise the activities of some, not all, officials. Some others either don’t have the inclination or are, quite frankly “out of their depth.”

So, if the conclusion of the investigation is that certain officials displayed gross incompetence and were guilty of lying to committee it will be up to the other councillors, those that are diligent and competent, to ensure that the blame for this £3 million loss and the shabby treatment of Edinburgh businesses is apportioned fairly and that the appropriate action is taken!

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