Cash paid for cancelled Cannes trip for councillors not yet returned to Edinburgh City Council

A controversial trip planned for councillors to a property conference in France initially budgeted to cost £10,000 saw a contract signed valued at £12,000 for accommodation alone.

By Conor Matchett
Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 12:30 pm
The councillors were due to take the train to Cannes, but the trip was cancelled due to Covid-19. Picture: Getty Images
The councillors were due to take the train to Cannes, but the trip was cancelled due to Covid-19. Picture: Getty Images

Depute leader of Edinburgh City Council, Cllr Cammy Day, along with planning convener, Cllr Neil Gardiner, the authority’s director place, Paul Lawrence, and two other officials were due to travel to France for the MIPIM property conference, with a £10,000 budget attached.

Last year, a row erupted when it emerged they were due to fly to the conference before the council agreed to travel by train. The conference was later cancelled due to Covid-19.

However, the council is still attempting to recover some of the costs from the cancellation of the conference, but a spokesperson was unable to say how much the council had yet to receive back.

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It has now emerged a £12,000 contract with accommodation providers and travel agency Dovetail Folks was signed under waiver by council officials, exceeding the agreed budget by £2,000.

Scottish Conservative group chair Jason Rust said the information was “concerning” and called for more transparency around financial information from the council.

He said: “It seems a large hotel bill for the council to be forking out had the conference been going ahead, given councillors were advised that all travel, accommodation and ancillary costs would not exceed the already large budget set.

“It is concerning that officers signed a waiver for thousands of pounds more simply for the accommodation. Information needs to be presented in a more transparent way, especially at this time of massive budgetary constraints.”

A council spokesperson: “Attendance at MIPIM and similar events has attracted key investment into Edinburgh, like the New Waverley development and the St James Quarter.

"The council had agreed to attend the event as part of a wider Team Scotland presence and had made a significant financial contribution towards the cost.

"Five council representatives were due to form part of the delegation this year and arrangements were being made to limit the trip’s carbon footprint.

"As with similar events all over the world, the conference had to be postponed due to Covid-19, but the majority of the project costs have already been recovered and this is an ongoing process.”

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