Generally the spending cuts applied by local authorities have coincided with council services being maintained or enhanced. However one of the more outrageous exceptions is Labour-run Brent Council which is closing six libraries – while spurning the option of maintaining them with volunteers.
Yet the same council is spending £20,000 on a new sculpture. The brief from the Arts Development Administrator of Brent Council is that it should be "sensitive" to "landmarks such as Wembley Stadium". It sounds as though whatever is approved will be hideous. Not merely wasting £20,000 of public money, but detracting from the new Chalkhill Park, where it will be placed. There is not just the £20,000 sculpture commission, but the Arts Development Administrator's salary on top, of course. The council is also paying "Scruffbag Productions" to make a film on Olympic values. What sort of madness is this?
I have written a piece published in the current issue of Standpoint magazine about the importance of Boris Johnson dismantling Ken Livingstone's legacy at City Hall in terms of cultural policy. Under Ken, arts spending was politicised with greater regard to nurturing sectional grievances and "diversity", rather than excellence. There should be competitions, exhibitions, open air concerts – provided they are of merit, and of nil or very modest claim on the Council Taxpayer. This is a area where I am optimistic that Boris will make strides in his second term.There is less cause for optimism regarding Brent Council.