Edinburgh Christmas Market: Collapse of festival contract 'will cost council £3 million'

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Call for rethink on how Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations are run in Edinburgh

The city council is set to lose up to £3 million following the collapse of the contract for "Edinburgh's Christmas", former council leader Adam McVey has said.

Angels Event Experience, the company appointed in June to run the festival for up to to five years, pulled out last month, saying it could no longer fulfil the £5.5m contract and leaving the council to call in two other companies, Unique Events and Assembly Festival, to rescue as much as they could of the programme.

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At today's full council meeting, Cllr McVey and his SNP colleagues will call for a rethink of the way Edinburgh's Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations are run in future, urging the council to “examine options including a joint venture model of delivery which would be publicly owned or part publicly owned”.

Cllr McVey said: "The collapse of the contract will cost the public purse up to £3m over a three-year period – that's a huge cost. That's money that was expected to come in as part of the Christmas contract, but the collapse of the contract has meant a £3m dent in what the council was expecting."

He said the issue of the best delivery model for the festival had been looked at as part of a public consultation on the future of the Christmas and Hogmanay festivals last year and it was agreed to continue awarding contracts to events companies to organise them.

But he said: "We have clearly, as an organisation, underestimated the risk attached to those kinds of companies going under or just collapsing the contract at a time when it's really difficult to recover it. We want to revisit the options and look again at some of the options around more public control, more public ownership.

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"We want to go back to the drawing board and look at what could work better because this year has been a calamity."

The company due to produce this year's Edinburgh's Christmas pulled out of the contract.  Picture: Ian Rutherford.The company due to produce this year's Edinburgh's Christmas pulled out of the contract.  Picture: Ian Rutherford.
The company due to produce this year's Edinburgh's Christmas pulled out of the contract. Picture: Ian Rutherford.

Cllr McVey said one possible model was a joint venture company. "It could be 50 per cent owned by the council and 50 per cent by people who have expertise running these kinds of events. That gives us a lot more public control and insulates us from some of the difficulties we've seen this year."

He said such a model would cost more to set up, but there were many examples of successful public venture bodies, including Edinburgh's own Capital City Theatres Trust.

Edinburgh’s Christmas includes the Christmas market as well as funfair rides at attractions, including an ice rink, due to return to George Street again this year.

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Council leader Cammy Day acknowledged the council had been due to get around £3m from Angels Event Experience, which would not now happen due to “shameful behaviour” by the contractor. He said: “It is disappointing that our trusted contractor walked off and left us in the lurch. But thankfully we have rescued it so we will have a Christmas event with Unique Assembly as local provider.”

And he said as a condition of the new contract there would be an “open book” approach which meant the council could see what money was coming in and what was being paid out. Any profits would either be reinvested in the operation or shared equally between the contractors and the council.

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