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‘Don’t make cuts, do a better job’: Perth businessman’s plea over event budget cut proposals

The director of Perthshire Local says a lack of marketing is the real problem.

Perthshire Local director Iain Fenwick.
Iain Fenwick believes the council's events have been let down by a lack of marketing. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

A Perth businessman has called for the council to “do a better job”, rather than cut the events budget.

Officers have proposed swingeing cuts to services in the 2024-25 budget, which will be decided at a full council meeting on Wednesday, February 28.

Their recommendations include stopping financial support for events, which include the Christmas lights switch-on.

The Bonfire Night event in Perth is run by the Round Table, but the council also provides financial support.

Officers say this measure would save £220,000.

Cutting events budget is ‘ridiculous’, says businessman

Iain Fenwick, the director of Perthshire Local, hit out at the plan.

“Do not cut the events budget!!,” he posted on his Facebook page, which has more than 24,000 likes and follows.

“This is a ridiculous proposal.

“Events are good for Perthshire and, to be fair, the events team on the whole put on good events.

“The problem is, we are not getting a return on investment because of poor planning and poor marketing.”

‘Why not get Paul Young to play in the summer?’

He went on to list five events in the past 18 months that he feels could have been better advertised.

Iain labelled last August’s Gran Fondo a “missed opportunity”.

Cyclists set off for the 2023 Gran Fondo race. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

He also said that Paul Young and his band Los Pacaminos “played in front of about 30 people in a freezing cold Horsecross Plaza in December.”

“The following night they played at La Belle Angele (indoors) in Edinburgh, sold out 600 tickets at £34 each,” Iain added.

“If we are going to pay for Paul Young to play, why outside in mid-December?

“Why not spend the money in the summer and get more from it?”

Perth Christmas lights party a ‘wasted opportunity’

The Christmas lights party, headlined by pop group Boney M and 90s dance act N-Trance, was held on December 2.

This “was late, and did not coincide with the switch-on,” Iain assessed.

“Wasted opportunity.”

He continued: “Christmas Cabins were completely disorganised. Lessons were not learnt from 2022.

“Looking for traders in late October is just never going to happen.

“They have all booked their December markets by then. Wasted opportunity.

Royal National Mòd – who knew?? Wasted opportunity.”

Exterior of Perth Museum.
Perth Museum opens on the Easter weekend. Image: Culture Perth and Kinross.

Finally, he pointed out that Perth Museum opens in just 35 days.

“I was told there would be a series of launch events surrounding the opening,” Iain claimed.

“I asked for that schedule over a week ago. As of yet I have not seen it.

“If anything is happening, no one knows yet. Why?”

Perth and Kinross Council says no decision has been made

Perthshire Local, which was set up in March 2021, has an app dedicated to attractions and products in the Fair City.

Iain continued: “We deserve to expect a return on investment when we spend public money.

“Events work, when managed and marketed properly.

“Marketing can only be effective if the marketing team get the opportunity to plan a campaign in advance.

“Retrospective marketing does not work. It is not the marketing team’s fault, if they are unable to do their job.

“We shouldn’t be making cuts, we should just do a better job!

“The problem here is public sector mentality. If it isn’t working, cut it. Rather than, it isn’t working, find out why and fix it.”

Boney M performing at the Perth Christmas lights switch-on 2023.
Boney M at last year’s Christmas lights party. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

The Courier asked Perth and Kinross Council to respond to Iain’s claims.

Council leader Councillor Grant Laing (SNP) replied: “No decisions have been taken over any of the proposals put forward.”

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Councillor John Duff, said: “We recognise the need for the city of Perth, and for the wider Perth and Kinross area, to have a strong and vibrant economy.

“The many events which the Council funds and organises help to deliver that goal and bring significant benefits to local businesses as a result.

“Only by improving the economy can we hope to alleviate the financial pressures which currently exist.”

Officers admitted in their report to full council that a lack of free events would have an unfair impact on lower-income residents.

However, 68% of respondents in the budget consultation backed a spending cut on council-run events, with many in favour of adding a charge for them.