Edinburgh Festivals will stay on top despite spending cuts, city chiefs pledge
CITY leaders have vowed to shield Edinburgh's money-spinning festivals from spending cuts because they are the capital's "unique selling point".
Politicians and senior officials revealed they were wary of damaging the city's "golden goose" by imposing severe cuts on events such as the Edinburgh International Festival, which are worth more than 200 million a year.
A summit on Edinburgh's future heard warnings that the council faced having to shed 1,800 jobs over the next three years and grapple with a potential cut in its budget of up to 25 per cent.
But the summit, jointly organised by The Scotsman and the city council, was also told that tourism was helping Edinburgh to prove the most resilient city in the UK outside London to the impact of the economic downturn.
Council officials said they would look to expand the economic benefit of the creative industries as part of a drive to shed the traditional reliance on the financial sector.
However the council urged the private sector to help by supporting a so-called "bed-tax" to raise money for the festivals, hinting the money could pay to improve ageing venues like the Royal Lyceum and King's theatres. Business leaders said they were in favour of the move, but insisted they would only back a scheme which was voluntary.
Meanwhile experts have warned Edinburgh has to shake off "complacency" and reliance on its financial sector to help it compete better with UK rivals.
Yesterday's summit was the latest in a series of events held by the council as part of its budget planning process, with the authority expecting to have to save 90 million over three years.
Council leader Jenny Dawe told delegates the city was facing "daunting and unprecedented times" with the council and other bodies such as the police and fire service facing similar cuts amid predictions it will be 15 years before the public sector is able to return to current spending levels.
She said there should be no "sacred cows", but described some proposals put forward for savings by officials as "unpalatable".However senior figures lined up to explain the case for them to receive special treatment.
Tom Aitchison, the chief executive of the council, said: "It is very important to remember how important the festivals are to the economy. They have an international reputation and are one of the few world-class things we have in Scotland. They are the most important thing we do."
Mr Aitchison said a "bed tax" or "tourist tax" to raise money for the festivals was still being pursued by the council, despite a previous scheme being rejected by the Scottish Government.
Steve Cardownie, the council's festivals and events champion, said: "As councillors we only have a short term office and are merely the custodians of these events.
"We should not devalue the impact they have on the lives of the people of this city. But anyone unconvinced about that cannot be in any doubt about the impact they have on the city's economy."
Ron Hewitt, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "We feel tourists who are coming here for the festivals would be happy to pay a bit more on their bill.
We think it would be appreciated by most people, but we would only support it if it was a voluntary scheme."
Cameron Stott, a director at planning and development agency Jones Lang Lasalle, told delegates Edinburgh still had "a long way to go" to shake off a complacency about attracting new investment.x
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west