Councillors who were “kept in the dark” during the collapse of a £5.5m contract handed to an events firm to run Edinburgh’s Christmas Market have demanded answers over why information about the deal was not shared despite a pledge by the administration to do so.
The SNP group at Edinburgh City Council said they “have not had a single briefing” since June when the three-year contract to run the festive city centre attraction was awarded to Angel Event Experience.
Approved by councillors on the basis that political groups in the council would get “regular briefings on ongoing delivery of the contracts,” it is understood no further details have been shared since and members’ requests for updates in recent weeks were met with silence.
This week it was confirmed the German events company has pulled out of the deal that would have seen £5,473,500 paid to the council – with just three months to go until the event.
Angel Event Experience were approached for comment.
The market, which comprises food stalls, funfair rides and a range of festive attractions, is the centrepiece of the Edinburgh’s Christmas festival, attracting thousands to the city every December.
Labour council leader Cammy Day said “positive discussions” are ongoing to re-award the contract to a new firm, believed to be the Edinburgh-based Unique Events which is already signed up to organise the capital’s Hogmanay celebrations this year.
“We’ll make a further announcement early next week once councillors from all parties have had the chance to view the plans,” Mr Day said.
However there is frustration amongst councillors after most of them found out about the fiasco in the press – with many still waiting for answers to why the contract could not be fulfilled.
Amy Mcneese-Mechan, SNP culture and communities spokesperson, said: “In the previous term we created an all-party Winter Festivals oversight group, but the administration failed to re-establish this, so opposition parties have been kept in the dark.
“There was absolutely no advance warning that this was happening. The SNP secured an assurance in June that councillors would be regularly updated on progress but that simply has not happened – we have not had a single briefing.
“The administration need to explain why they have not shared any information as committee instructed.
“We now understand that work has been ongoing to find an alternative provider who can at least partially rescue the situation for this time, but this was kept from opposition councillors – including the Green Party and SNP councillors, the largest group in the city – as well the public, who will have been looking forward to the return of Christmas festivities after the past two difficult years.
“Labour and their administration partners have serious questions to answer about how long they’ve known about this and why they hushed it up. This is another instance of Labour asleep at the wheel when we know these contracts need clear oversight to prevent mistakes of the past.”
Council leader Cammy Day was approached for comment.