Dismay as residents' discount card is scrapped

A DISCOUNT card that offers all city residents money off at restaurants, bars, shops and attractions has been ditched as the council looks to keep its budget under control.

The CityCard had proved popular after being launched seven years ago as an "Edinburgh loyalty card".

But the council has decided to abandon it after finding advertising revenue was not likely to be enough to cover its costs.

The local authority is looking to make cuts across the board in order to avert a predicted 10 million overspend.

The CityCard was valid at up to 40 restaurants, bars, shops, leisure centres and visitor attractions, and typically offered discounts of ten to 25 per cent.

One businessman has already announced plans to try to get a replacement loyalty card scheme off the ground.

Every city resident was sent a CityCard free every summer, with a booklet telling them where it could be used.

The decision to drop it was taken by council officials in the corporate services department.

Jim Inch, the city's director of corporate services, said: "CityCard has been discontinued simply because it would not have been cost effective to continue with the scheme this year.

"It was clear the benefits to advertisers and the public were outweighed by the costs of running the scheme."

But Councillor Ewan Aitken, leader of the Labour group on the city council, said: "I am extremely disappointed that a scheme that has been successful for some time is no longer providing a service to local citizens.

"I would want us to find another way of providing the same kind of service if this one isn't going to work. It encouraged people to use local services - it was like a loyalty card to Edinburgh."

Some individual businesses may still offer discounts to residents on proof of their address.

Meanwhile, one entrepreneur, who claims to have given the council the original idea for the CityCard, has unveiled plans to try to create a replacement discount card scheme.

Irfan Ul Haq, who used to manage restaurants including Ballis Tandoori on Hanover Street, said he originally discussed the idea with council officials in 1999, but heard nothing more from them.

He said he was astonished to see the authority launch the card the following year.

Now he has signed up eight businesses on new lower rates to take part in a new scheme and expects to have 100 signed up by the end of the year.

His brochures will be available in all participating businesses.

Mr Ul Haq said: "I'm delighted to get the chance to run [such a scheme] now."