Backlash over Rusty Reg LOOK II statue as full cost revealed – Plymouth Live

Loading ....

The total cost of the Look II statue on the waterfront at Plymouth has appeared in a city council document listing a ‘Mayflower 400 Monument’ at more than three-quarters of a million pounds.

The entry of £764,038 was highlighted by Conservative councillors who criticised spending under the city council’s Labour administration at an online public meeting to set next year’s budget and council tax.

The 12ft cast-iron statue by Sir Antony Gormley was installed at West Hoe last year as part of the Mayflower 400 celebrations and to mark the opening of The Box, the redeveloped museum and heritage centre on North Hill.

Tory councillors described the statue as a waste of money and a white elephant, which critics had named ‘Rusty Reg’.

The city council has refused to say how much it paid for the artwork as it is covered by a confidentiality agreement with the sculptor.

But it put a figure of £425,000 on the installation costs, including strengthening and repairs to the listed West Hoe Pier where the statue stands.

The council confirmed on Monday that the £764,038 item listed in a budget document was for Look II and ‘all the associated works’. Taking away the installation sum, that indicates the cost of the artwork alone was around £339,000.

Supporters say the sculpture is a major cultural attraction by a world-renowned artist which has brought global attention to the city. The total of almost £5million capital spending on the Mayflower programme was given cross-party support and was largely funded by grants from outside bodies.

The item listed in the council’s five-year capital programme was questioned by Tory group leader Nick Kelly at the meeting, then Cllr Mark Deacon criticised the spending on Look II.

Cllr Deacon told the council meeting that the ‘unimpressive’ statue was a ‘white elephant’ which had been named ‘Rusty Reg’ by those who hated it. He said it was in the wrong place, and added: “Is it really bringing value for money, since it cost three-quarters of a million pounds to install?”

The councillor said: “For me Rusty Reg stands as a testament to folly, brought about by this incompetent administration.”

Cllr Patrick Nicholson, deputy leader of the Conservative opposition, said the statue was a ‘disgraceful waste of public money’ during the pandemic, describing it as a ‘rusty wreck’.

Cllr Nicholson said the council’s Labour leadership had not defended the decision to buy the artwork and had hidden the cost, refusing to disclose the amount in response to Freedom of Information requests.

City council Labour leader Tudor Evans said the budget for Mayflower 400, including the statue, was agreed with cross-party support, and the opening of The Box and unveiling of Look II had resulted in huge publicity for the city.

He said the council’s spending had included work to secure the historic pier, and he viewed the nickname ‘Rusty Reg’ as a sign of endearment.

The council leader said it was a tragedy that the previous cross-party support for The Box had unravelled with the Conservatives’ attack which was designed to grab headlines.

The ‘Monument’ was listed for the current 2020/21 financial year in the council’s five-year capital spending programme up to 2025. That covers longer-term investment, funded by grants and borrowing, and is not part of the council’s day-to day spending on services of just under £200million a year.

The Labour-controlled council approved next year’s budget and an increase in council tax of 4.99per cent, including 3per cent to go on adult social care, at the four and a half hour meeting on Monday.

The capital budget listed capital spending on Mayflower 400 in the current financial year of just under £4.9million, including £975,000 for signs on the A38.

The Look II statue was announced by the city council as one of the key artworks for the opening of The Box museum and heritage centre, and to mark the planned Mayflower 400 celebrations.

It was described by the city council as a ‘world class’ artwork and major cultural attraction for the city. Objectors during the planning process said it was ‘ugly’, ‘out of place’ and a ‘waste of money’.

The council has said the amount of the fee to the artist was being withheld in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act because disclosure “would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the council and The Box.”

The council has said disclosing the fee would breach a confidentiality agreement with Sir Antony, famous for his work including the 200-tonne Angel of the North at Gateshead, which was finished in 1998 at a cost of £800,000.

The funding for the Mayflower 400 capital projects came from the city council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, the Pilgrim Trust, Great Western Railways and the Mayflower Descendants.

A programme of events planned in 2020 to mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth, carrying the founders of one of the first settlements in North America, has been moved to 2021 due to the pandemic.

More stories from Plymouth:

Woman soaked by angry Devon man with a watering can

Council tax is going up again in Plymouth from April 2021 – this is by how much

 

Loading ....