Aberdeen Councillors urge government to save AECC

Aberdeen councillors are urging the Scottish Government to help fund the city’s
struggling exhibition and conference centre.

Conference-news reported last week that job cuts had been announced, along with a pay
freeze at the centre, while the BBC claims Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference
Centre (AECC) debts could be as high as £28m.

The local
Press and Journal
newspaper
believes AECC
is facing “almost certain receivership” unless the local authority restructures
some of the debt.

One suggestion is
extending a bridging loan due to repaid within the next two years, until
2017.
Councillors are set to
discuss delaying the deadline for the AECC to repay its loan, as well as
converting debt into shares in the centre, when they meet on 10 February.

Another suggestion is
that council
leader John Stewart and chief executive Sue Bruce write to the Scottish
government and formally request a new title status for the
AECC as the country’s national energy exhibition and conference
centre, in an attempt
to build on its trump card as the ‘oil capital of Europe’.

Scottish
Enterprise has provided £5m of funding to Glasgow’s SECC, but Aberdonians are arguing
their local council has been left to foot the bill for the
AECC.

Opposition
Labour group spokesman Willie Young says: “Glasgow gets money and Edinburgh gets money. We are the oil capital of
Europe, we’re bringing billions of pounds into
the Scottish economy.

“Alex Salmond
(first minister) and John Swinney (finance secretary) said they wouldn’t leave
Aberdeen in the
lurch – now is their chance to prove it.”

AECC managing
director Brian Horsburgh says suggestions that AECC
could be facing imminent receivership are “incorrect”. “We have a fully funded
and agreed budget for the coming financial year 2010/11. I believe it is also
inaccurate to describe this proposal as a rescue package or bail-out as we are
not asking for any additional funding, instead we are seeking a restructuring of
some of the existing loans. I understand EICC received loans from Edinburgh
Council which are repayable in 107 years time.

“Unlike
our counterparts in Edinburgh and Glasgow, namely the EICC and SECC
respectively, to-date
we have never received any financial support from the likes of Scottish
Enterprise or the Scottish Government. We would of therefore welcome any outcome which enables
AECC to operate on a sound financial footing in the longer
term.”

Horsburgh also says that having a new hotel onsite would be an important part of
AECC’s infrastructure going forward. “This would enable us to attract more
conference business and would also create a significant number of new, local
jobs – both during the construction phase and once the hotel is operational –
thereby playing an important economic role, not just at AECC but within the
North-east as a whole,”
he says.

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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