COUNCIL red tape is threatening to strangle some of Edinburgh’s most popular community events, an MP claimed today.
Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat Mike Crockart said health and safety and food hygiene regulations were putting unreasonable demands on organisers of fairs, galas and other community-run events.
He has called on the city council to “show a bit of common sense” rather than adopting a “bureaucratic red tape approach” to licensing.
He said one of the requirements faced by organisers of the recent Corstorphine Fair – which is held every two years and attracts 25,000 visitors – was that all food handlers must be formally trained in food hygiene or supervised at all times by someone who had.
Mr Crockart said: “A scout or church group who may wish to have a hamburger stall at a local fair is unlikely to have suitably qualified people. There are a large number of community-run events in the city. These are mostly run by volunteers who give up their own time, but are finding that they are facing health and safety requirements that are so strict, they simply cannot be met.
“Many of these events are now considering whether they can continue.”
Other requirements included “impervious floor coverings should be provided in all food handling units”; “facilities for hand washing must be provided with a supply of hot and cold water”; “a temperature probe and antibacterial probe wipes must be used to monitor hot and cold food and equipment temperatures and these temperatures should be recorded in a suitable manner”.
Ewan Irvine, one of the organisers of Corstorphine Fair said: “We find that each time we run the fair, licensing takes up an excessive amount of time, due to the increasing regulations. We found that after the council contacted the organisations who were selling food to advise them of these regulations, many of them said they might have to pull out.
“We do not underestimate the need for public safety, but the increasing rules mean many events may become extinct.”
Mary Moriarty, a director of the Leith Festival, agreed the council was taking a tougher line. “They are even getting sticky about school groups who bake cakes – everything has to be wrapped. We don’t have running water, but we advise people to bring gel to wash their hands or a flask of hot water.”
But Ms Moriarty said she thought the approach was justified. “There’s no way you would want anything to happen to one of the public,” she said.
City council environment convener Lesley Hinds said: “It is imperative that to prevent food poisoning all risks are eliminated. We always strive to help community groups with the regulations and we are happy to discuss other options provided safety is not compromised.”