£150k police bill for Edinburgh's Christmas after Paris attacks

Edinburghs Hogmanay street party attracted 70,500 to the capital. Photograph: Ian GeorgesonEdinburghs Hogmanay street party attracted 70,500 to the capital. Photograph: Ian Georgeson
Edinburghs Hogmanay street party attracted 70,500 to the capital. Photograph: Ian Georgeson
Taxpayers were hit with an extra bill for policing in Edinburgh city centre in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Senior officers hiked up the cost of policing in the city centre by 50 per cent after ordering a safety review of the city’s Christmas and Hogmanay events in the wake of the atrocities, which came just days before the first events were due to be held.

The move left Edinburgh City Council with an unbudgeted £150,000 bill for hosting events which are worth around £240 million for the country’s economy.

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The figure was around 50 per cent more than the charge imposed 12 months previously when the new Police Scotland force began to charge for providing officers for the first time.

The increase was imposed despite Calton Hill, one of Edinburgh’s most popular vantage points for the Hogmanay fireworks, being closed to the public for the first time since official celebrations were first held in 1993.

The decision was made following talks between the city council, the police and the event’s producers.

The £150,000 policing bill was kept secret for nine months and has only now been disclosed in an official report on Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay events. It revealed a 74,000 drop in the number of people using rides and attractions.

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Singing sensation Susan Boyle was lined up to switch on the capital’s Christmas lights but the event, which went ahead nine days after the attacks in Paris, attracted only 15,000 people, compared to 28,000 the previous year.

The reduced audience, which was also blamed on bad weather and the closure of the Forth Road Bridge, meant the council was unable to recoup any profits from producers Underbelly and Unique Events, who have a £1.3 million contract to run the festivities. However, the bulk of the policing costs are thought to be for the Hogmanay street party, which attracted 70,500 people – 6,000 more than in 2014-15.

Charges for officers working at events were introduced that year under a new nationwide policy to ensure a “level playing field” for event organisers. A spokeswoman said: “We apply a consistent Scottish Police Authority-approved policy of charging for police services for commercial events, regardless of where they take place in Scotland.

“Where police services are provided for such events, we cannot absorb the costs at the expense of the public purse, and organisers should expect to be charged for the recovery of full policing costs. Appropriate resources will always be deployed to ensure the safety of the public and deter criminal activity.”

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A council spokeswoman described the bill for providing police officers for the festivities as a “commercial arrangement” between the local authority and the police force.

She added: “The policing plan for Hogmanay was carefully considered alongside stewarding arrangements to ensure a safe event for all.”