By Cara Sulieman
A SCOTS council facing a nine billion pound black hole is splashing out more than £10,000 to send staff to the United States – to greet some sailors.
Edinburgh City Council are preparing to send a delegation to greet the city’s entry in the round-the-world yacht race.
The plans would involve a senior council official leading the group to San Francisco next month and to New York in June when the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital Clipper visits.
Bosses – who are hoping to gain sponsorship to cover some of the costs – claim that the move would boost tourism and business links.
But opposition politicians are furious at the timing when the council has to find more than £90 million worth of savings in the next three years to ward off the biggest financial crisis in its history.
They are slashing £1 million in funding to community and charity groups, leading to fears over the closure of small but important projects across the city.
Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the city council, said: “I don’t think it is an appropriate time to be spending over £10,000 sending a delegation to America.
“The council is facing severe financial challenges and I am certain that those groups who will be losing grant funding will look at this with dismay.”
Officials say that both visits would include a joint reception by staff from the investor support team and members of Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (Dema) and Scottish Development International (SDI).
Dave Anderson, the council’s director of development, said: “The Clipper reception, and corporate sailing day, will offer an opportunity to cross-sell Edinburgh’s visit, invest, study and work agendas.
“Guests will include local industry champions, target companies, higher education donors, GlobalScots, and academic centres of excellence/innovation.”
The £10,400 estimated costs will include “flights, accommodation and subsistence costs” in both San Francisco and New York for the delegation.
It may also include “representatives from other bodies and from the private sector in the city”.
Dema – heavily funded by council money – are also sending a representative although the costs are not known.
Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said that the proposed trip could still be cancelled in sponsorship can’t be found.
He said: “We are conscious about budgets and the need to justify overseas travel in the current climate.
“If we cannot achieve any sponsorship or there is not sufficient diary space, a judgement will have to be taken to not go.”