Anger over taxpayer-funded ‘hot fork buffet’ for Edinburgh councillors

Friday September 15th 2023

EICC Edinburgh

The one-day workshop will take place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) next week.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Edinburgh Council has been criticised over a taxpayer-funded ‘hot fork buffet’ set to be provided for a networking event, with the estimated cost of over £2,000 described as ‘the next stop on the gravy train’.

City councillors and officials are set to tuck into a selection of lavish dishes including a ‘leek, blue cheese, chestnut mushroom and herb crumble’ and ‘sweet potato, apricot and herb cous cous with harissa dressing’ at the one-day workshop at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) next week.

The event has been organised to give elected members the opportunity to find out more about the work of the council’s arms-length companies, known as ‘ALEOs’, such as Edinburgh Leisure and Lothian buses.

The invite sent out to councillors added: “We will also enjoy refreshments including drinks and a hot fork buffet.”

Chocolate and honey tarts and lemon and almond cake with apricot and amaretto glaze will also be served for dessert.

Independent councillor Ross Mckenzie, who confirmed he would not be attending, said he was keen to find “ways to make ALEOs more accountable” but added being “wined and dined” was not the right way to go about it.

Whilst the cost of feeding all 63 councillors with the £31-a-head buffet, plus at least 11 other known speakers and attendees, would be north of £2,000, it is understood only around a fifth of councillors have responded to the invitation so far, putting the likely catering costs for the lunch closer to £750.

Responding to the invitation in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Councillor McKenzie said: “Next stop on the Edinburgh Council gravy train is a trip to the EICC for a ‘training event’ that starts with a ‘hot fork buffet’ and ends with free drink.

“The training? A series of speeches from ‘ALEO business leaders’, including the one that doesn’t pay the Living Wage.”

Writing on his councillor Facebook page, he added: “Edinburgh Council’s Arms Length External Organisations (ALEOs) are owned by the Council but operate at a distance from Council control.

“There are issues with a few of them – Edinburgh Leisure not paying the Living Wage and Lothian Buses not consulting enough on timetable changes are just two examples.

“I’m interested in finding ways to make ALEOs more accountable, but I don’t think being wined and dined by their overpaid ‘business leaders’ is the right way to go about it so I won’t be attending this event.”

The council said: “The event gives councillors an opportunity to hear from ALEO business leaders about their organisations backgrounds, as well as current and future plans.

“The workshop is a great opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the city’s ALEO’s, and for open discussions and networking.”

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