Cash strapped council splurge on luxury hotel for staff


By Cara Sulieman

A SCOTS council facing hundreds of job losses over a £1 BILLION black hole in its budget is paying for a dozen staff to stay at the five-star Old Course Hotel in St Andrew’s.

Critics lashed out over news of spend on a dozen rooms which normally start at £165 a night, so staff can attend a back-slapping awards bash thrown by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Ironically for a council facing axing its own frontline staff to balance the books, the gongs they are shortlisted for include one for the council’s Job Education and Training programme.

Edinburgh City Council admitted they will spend around £2,000 on the jolly but insist they are getting the rooms at a “reduced rate”.

But the expense has been branded “unbelievable” by some as voluntary and community groups across the city face having their grants slashed by the cash-strapped council.

“Dire financial straits”

Former Lord Provost Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “While it’s great that staff are being put forward for these awards, to send that amount of people with the costs involved, particularly when we are going to be discussing cutting back on voluntary sector grants, is unbelievable.

“We keep saying that we are in dire financial straits and have to account for every single penny but somehow can afford to send a dozen people to spend a night in one of Scotland’s best hotels.

“In these times we have to think carefully about how we spend our resources and about perception.”

Director of the under threat Edinburgh based 6VT Turnaround project which helps young offenders turn their lives around , slammed the move.

Director Dot Horne, said: “It’s not very sensitive in the current climate and it just highlights the disparity of decision-making within this one council.

“In terms of the cuts to some of the smaller services, the amount they’re spending on this one night would probably equate to more than their annual grant.

“I do appreciate that good practice has to be rewarded, but it also needs to be balanced.”

“Huge honour”

Workers from the council’s health and social care, children and families, and services for communities departments will attend the awards ceremony at the Fairmount Hotel before spending the night at the Old Course.

And the council defending the decision to spend the money.

A council spokesman said: “It’s a huge honour for the council to have been nominated at the Cosla Excellence Awards, which recognises outstanding achievements by local authorities.

“The staff attending have worked hard on these innovative projects which have all benefited many young and older people living in Edinburgh and have saved the council millions of pounds.

“Staff are our most valuable resource and it is only right that they are able to attend these ceremonies to see their peers recognise their successes.”

Rooms at the exclusive hotel start at £165 and can cost as much as £960 for a suite.

The City of Edinburgh Council is shortlisted for three awards, including for the re-ablement scheme which sees home helps do less for clients to encourage them to be more independent.

The other two are for a scheme to combat youth offending via early intervention and the Job Education and Training programme, which helps youths at risk of leaving school without a job get a head start in their career.