Admission fees could take the magic out of Perth’s Christmas lights show, councillors have been warned.
Council bosses are considering introducing a charge as part of a wide-ranging review of how the hugely successful events are funded.
But officers have already warned that imposing an entry fee might prove impossible and could ruin the event.
The idea of admission charges was first mooted last year, but rejected ahead of November’s show. It is now being considered again as part of an overhaul of the city’s Winter Festival package.
Councillors were told of the new funding review during a discussion on the success of last year’s show.
Headliners James Arthur and Pixie Lott helped pull a record 91,000 people into the city centre, generating nearly £2 million for the local economy.
The 2018 show was the council’s most expensive yet, at almost £230,000.
Members of the environment and infrastructure committee heard the council’s events strategy was being revised and officers were looking at ways the switch-on and other Winter Festival events – including the Riverside Light Nights – would be budgeted.
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Kinross councillor Willie Robertson (Lib Dem) said: “The total cost of the Winter Festival is £431,000 which, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, is a huge amount of money and all spent within the city of Perth.
“My question is why have we not recouped more of this. For example, only 16% of the cost has actually been recouped from – I presume – sponsorship and people taking stances at the events.
“That still leaves a cost of nearly £363,000. Even if we made back 40%, that would make such a difference.”
Depute director of housing and environment Keith McNamara responded: “Our events programme is based on free access to these events.
“It would be a different proposition if we charge everyone for everything, but that’s one of the factors to be considered as part of the review of the event strategy.”
He added: “The key issue here is to bring benefits to the area.
“If the game plan is a full cost recovery, then it becomes a different proposition to the one we have been delivering these last few years.
“I think there are challenges around that – because it is in the city centre it would be very difficult to physically fence off areas where we would charge people.
“We are looking at generating income through sponsorship.
“The other key thing about the events programme being free is that it gives everyone an equal chance to come onboard, as oppose to charging them.”
A shuttle bus service is also being considered to help bring more people into the city. Last year’s show attracted groups from as far afield as Manchester.
SNP councillor Dave Doogan said: “This is a tremendous achievement for Perth and Kinross and complacency has no room in the review of these events. This doesn’t just happen, this is the result of year on year building of success and achievement.
“Nothing has put Perth on the map in the way the Winter Festival has over the last few years and I am concerned to hear people wince about the price of it.”