They have also raised the alarm over a lack of “in-house expertise” within the authority to run the festival, after calls from some councillors to stop awarding contracts to event companies.
An official report on the future of the Christmas festival, which has transformed parts of Princes Street Gardens and George Street in recent years, has also warned the council is unlikely to be able to deliver the event without external help.
The event, previously valued at around £113.2 million to the economy, was thrown into turmoil in the autumn after new organisers withdrew from a contract worth more than £1m a year.
It was rescued at the 11th hour after event companies Unique Events and Assembly, which had earlier been awarded a joint contract to produce the city’s new year celebrations, were brought on board to run the five-and-a-half-week Christmas festival.
The most recent event was said to have attracted more than 2.4 million visitors, with more than 200,000 tickets estimated to have been sold across the three main sites. Unique and Assembly’s agreement for the Christmas festival has the option of a one-year extension, subject to a review of how the event was staged.
However, councillors have demanded a full review of how the festival is run in future in the wake of the contract collapse.
The council previously ran both festivals in-house and brought in outside companies to deliver elements of their programmes. But the authority dropped its direct financial support for the Christmas festival several years ago and has handed over control of key sites in return for a share of the profits.
This approach has seen the council accused of endorsing the “commercialisation of public space”, while concerns were also raised about the impact of market stalls, bars and attractions on green spaces.
A shake-up of both winter events was promised after a 2021 opinion poll found strong support for them to continue, but with different formats. There were calls for less of a focus on selling alcohol and funfair rides in the gardens, and new measures to reduce overcrowding.
A review of the recent Christmas festival is promised by March, with options for the future of the event due to be published in May, although it is unclear how this will affect this year’s festival.
In a report for councillors, place director Paul Lawrence said options being considered for the long-term future of the Christmas festival had to “deliver on the feedback from the winter festivals consultation, ensure the event promotes Edinburgh’s cultural and local offer, is affordable, and offers sufficient flexibility”.
He added: “The council previously had an in-house delivery model for Edinburgh’s winter festivals, so officers will review this approach, recognising that it is likely that any in-house model would significantly increase the financial and reputational risk for the council, and that additional support would be required on the creative content (as the council does not currently have this expertise in-house).
"In addition, it is likely that the council would not be able to directly deliver all aspects of Edinburgh’s Christmas without support from external organisations/sub-contractors due to the significant up-front capital investment which would be required.”