Marketing Edinburgh board quits 'with immediate effect' with 16 jobs at risk

The board of Market Edinburgh, the organisation that promotes the Capital to the world, have resigned - with 16 staff jobs at risk of redundancy after a funding plea was rejected.

The board overseeing the organisation set up to promote Edinburgh to the world has resigned “with immediate effect” after councillors turned down a funding plea to take forward new proposals – putting 16 jobs at risk.

Marketing Edinburgh, which was set up by Edinburgh City Council in 2011, is now without a board, including three sitting councillors, after its strategy, which required public money to fund, was rejected.

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The council-owned company is set to lose all its funding as the local authority is expected to cut between £30m and £40m from its budget next year. Last year, then chief executive John Donnelly agreed to a compromise of a £300,000 cut – dependent on becoming self-sustainable by April 2020. But Marketing Edinburgh tabled new proposals – a change of tact from promoting tourism to managing the industry, last week.

Film aspects are set to be transferred to the city council, while the authority will investigate options to continue promoting conventions coming to the Capital. Marketing Edinburgh’s rejected plans set out a long-term vision with a streamlined structure that would have provided a forum for partners to discuss the role of tourism in the city.

In a letter to the council’s convener of housing, homelessness and fair work, Cllr Kate Campbell, outgoing chairman of Marketing Edinburgh Gordon Robertson, said: “All non-executive directors, including the councillors and myself resign with immediate effect.

“This is the only plan the board feels would meet the needs of the city by involving all, providing a forum for tourism beyond the current and driving change. We therefore have no option but to step aside and allow you to proceed the council to appoint directors that share the council’s view and plan and immediately put in place what is needed to execute your plan.

“The council’s focus now is the winding up of Marketing Edinburgh as a company whilst trying to maintain the convention bureau and the film unit on a quarter of the funding they currently run on.”

The company currently employs 16 members of staff, who are now at risk of losing their jobs.

Mr Robertson added: “Our very real regret as a board is that we could not deliver a solution for the team at Marketing Edinburgh. They work incredibly hard and do not deserve to lose their jobs.

“It has been our privilege to work with the Marketing Edinburgh team and we would urge you to redeploy them – they would be an asset to any organisation.”

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Conservative Cllr Susan Webber, who was resigned from the board, has lashed out at the SNP-Labour council administration’s attitude to managing tourism.

She said: “As board members, if the council is not interested then we have to step aside.

“The sheer disregard that the city council has to managing tourism in the city as a priority is quite frankly terrible. We are now the only city not investing in their tourism management and Edinburgh has just said no thanks, we don’t need it.”

A new sustainable tourism strategy for 2030 is being drawn up. The council will create a new dedicated tourism management job – who will work closely with in-house teams managing roads, waste, events and public safety.

Cllr Campbell said: “I’m disappointed that the board have chosen to resign but would like to thank them once again for all their hard work.

“Clearly this will be an uncertain time for Marketing Edinburgh’s employees and they have to be our priority and focus now. Our officers will be working closely with them over the coming weeks and months to offer their full support and to look at what the options are for the future.”