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Tourism shake-up

Concerns over liabilities at Marketing Edinburgh

Gordon Robertson

Gordon Robertson: strategy was rejected (pic: Terry Murden)

Edinburgh City Council has seized full control of its former arms-length marketing company amid concerns that the full extent of its liabilities are not known.

Marketing Edinburgh’s operations will be run in-house and a number of remaining staff will transfer their employment to the council.

Councillors agreed to contribute £55,000 to the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) to help it implement a tourism and hospitality sector recovery plan.

The council report includes the Resilience Reboot Recover plan outlined by ETAG as a way of saving the 18,000 Edinburgh jobs in these sectors which represents £1 billion of tourism related revenue.

The Council will also focus on a long-term approach to business tourism which is considered important to the city’s hospitality sector, and will work with industry and Scottish Government to secure more resources for the campaign.

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However, Conservative Group leader Iain Whyte has called for more information on the financial circumstances around the changes of control.

He said: “There is an important principle here. If this was any other company that the council was taking over then we would be clear about what the liabilities are.

“We have questioned the new board and their actions through the transition which they actually started. This has cost a huge amount, the company’s liabilities are unknown and no accounts have been filed. The public need answers here as they are footing the bill.”

Fellow Tory John McLellan supported the Conservative demands for a delay in taking Marketing Edinburgh in house until the company’s liabilities are determined.

We are very uncomfortable about how this has been handled

– John McLellan

He said: “This is a question of good governance. We don’t disagree that we must support tourism, but we have unanswered questions about how we have come to this position on Marketing Edinburgh. There’s something strange here and we have no adequate answers about the company. There are still some allegations about the previous board.”

He added:’ “We are very uncomfortable about how this has been handled.”

Speaking to The Edinburgh Reporter he said the current circumstances were rooted in the “ill-advised decision last October by the council administration to reject Marketing Edinburgh’s plans for the future and effectively collapse the company, which officers now accept was a mistake.

“There is something deeply troubling about the way the administration has dealt with Marketing Edinburgh and we are no nearer the truth now than we were nine months ago.

“Since the council took effective control, the wider tourism sector has lost faith in Marketing Edinburgh and the sooner it is properly wrapped up the better.”

Council leader Adam McVey said: “Edinburgh has a lot to offer and support for business must be channelled in the right way and we must do this work now.”

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Marketing Edinburgh was set up by the council as an Arms Length External Organisation (ALEO) to market the city, with its associate operations Convention Edinburgh and Film Edinburgh.

But the council proposed a cut of £300,000 in its 2019/20 which Marketing Edinburgh CEO John Donnelly publicly criticised, saying it would damage the city. He left last year and a subsequent report on a new strategy, proposed by chairman Gordon Robertson, was rejected. The entire board resigned and a new board comprised wholly of councillors was appointed.

One of those members, Kate Campbell confirmed during the council meeting yesterday that the auditors of the company have delayed lodging the accounts as they await the resolution by the council on the company’s future. She said the auditors felt this decision would ‘materially impact the company’.

DB Media Services News and corporate photography

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