Will Forster

Mayor of Woking and Lib Dem County Councillor for Woking South Learn more

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Dismay as “broke” County Council gives huge grant to Surrey art gallery with £38 million in funds

by willforster on 11 October, 2017

During yesterday’s Full Council meeting, my Lib Dem colleagues and I have condemned a decision by Conservative-run Surrey County Council to award a £400,000 grant to an art gallery which has £38 million of funds and an income of £1.2 million a year.

The Watts Gallery in Compton, south of Guildford, was awarded the money following a decision by the Leader of the Council at a meeting on 12th September 2017.  In the papers produced, the County Council’s Chief Finance Officer warns that the County Council’s financial position is extremely serious, that the proposed expenditure has not been budgeted for and that the gallery was already “financially viable”.

At a time of huge spending cuts in Surrey, I think it is quite incredible that the priority of the Tories is to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on an art gallery which appears to be in good financial health and well supported.  Just last week, the Conservative Cabinet voted to cut Housing Related Support by £3.7 million to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

The Leader of the Council undermines his own case for better funding from the Government if he thinks that these spending priorities are sensible and in the best interests of Surrey residents.  How on earth can he look residents of sheltered housing in the face who are about to lose some of their warden schemes and tell them that this is a sensible use of public money?

This decision should be reversed as quickly as possible, with the money re-invested in Council services to the benefit of local residents.  The Lib Dems and I support the arts, but I support sheltered housing for vulnerable people even more, and furthermore I suspect GF Watts would too.

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