TAXPAYERS in Edinburgh will be paying for the policing of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations twice this year, after council chiefs agreed to meet a bumper safety bill for the event for the first time.
It is thought a six-figure sum will have to be found by the local authority to pay for around 200 police officers and dozens of extra stewards after concerns about the impact of a controversial new charge levied by the police “fell on deaf ears”.
It effectively means taxpayers – who already fund Police Scotland –will now have to pay again for Hogmanay cover.
Senior councillors had been resisting attempts to charge the city extra, pointing out that the Scottish Government had previously provided £800,000 a year in extra funding to the police, to help them meet the cost of major events held in the city.
The Scotsman revealed last month how Police Scotland had sparked anger by producing a bill for up to £250,000 as part of a new nationwide policy to recoup the costs of officers working at major events. Under the proposed charging regime, up to £83 an hour per officer was being demanded.
However, the council insists the final police bill has now been negotiated down substantially to ensure the extra cost to the public purse is “manageable” and avoid cutting back on the capital’s lucrative Hogmanay festivities.
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City leaders and event producers insist safety will not be compromised and the event’s reputation as one of the safest in the UK is not being put at risk.
Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, said the council had agreed to foot the policing bill after reaching an agreement in principle to allow the main 75,000-capacity street party.
The city council and Unique Events, the producers of the festival, which is worth £30 million to the nation’s economy, were told a charge would have to be imposed for the first time on the basis that it was a “commercial event”, with the bulk of tickets for the street party costing £20.
A joint statement from Police Scotland, the council and Unique Events said a full policing plan was presented last week, with the final costs to the local authority due to be confirmed by the end of the month.
Mr Cardownie told The Scotsman: “We have had a sympathetic hearing from the police in terms of this event and they have reduced the charge substantially to what we believe is a manageable figure.
“I personally believe that the police are paid through the public purse to protect the public.
“There will be 75,000 people on Princes Street on Hogmanay.
“It is a pity that they have come up with this charging regime. The whole philosophy behind it is wrong, but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
“There are usually 300 police officers working at the event. The police have told us how many officers they think should be on the ground to ensure the event is safe, and that will be augmented by extra stewards.”
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The government has helped Edinburgh in the past. That funding has been accommodated as part of Police Scotland’s budget.”
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