People across the Highlands should not be charged for public events which are currently free, councillors said yesterday.
Members of Inverness city committee agreed to allocate £300,000 from the Inverness Common Good Fund for the 2011-12 events and festivals programme for the city.
But an agreement in principle to impose admission charges for certain events was turned down by members. Instead they requested a further report. The move comes after city councillor Glynis Sinclair, who is an elected member for the Inverness Events and Festivals Working Group, suggested charges could range from £1 to £5 for a family ticket for the town’s Hogmanay event.
Mrs Sinclair said: “The question of charging has come up because of perceived financial pressures and a lot of suggestions by my colleagues with regards to not being able to attract reasonable sponsorship.
“If we charged £5 for a family ticket for Hogmanay, that would pay for half of the bands.
“It is to cover our costs.”
But Inverness West councillor Alasdair Christie said members should think carefully before introducing charges.
He said: “If you start charging for anything, you start excluding people and that is not what this is about in my mind. If you start charging £1 or £2 for people who are on benefits, then you start to lose the enjoyment of the events. I would urge people to think seriously when looking at charges.”
Inverness Central councillor Peter Corbett said: “I am against charging.
I feel £300,000 to give to the people of Inverness for free entry allows no exclusion and this is good value for us.”
Councillor Thomas Prag said: “I think there are events we can charge for but I don’t think we want this strategy as it is because we don’t know what the proposal means. Sometimes people feel more positive about an event if they are charged. I am concerned if we start charging for community events we will have to be careful because we will be competing with other events.”
Inverness Ness-side councillor John Finnie said he would have “grave reservations” about introducing charges. He added: “There is danger no matter how small the charge is that we could exclude people. There is great discontent among people I speak to about the Common Good Fund and we must be viewed as inclusive.”
Culloden and Ardersier councillor John Ford said: “I would be against charging for events. I hope we can grow our fund so we can provide more support.”