Plan for new City Gallery in Leicester to be scrapped
Plans for a new art gallery are to be scrapped and will not be replaced.
Instead the £266,000 annual arts budget given to the City Gallery is being slashed to £34,000 and used to fund three exhibitions a year at New Walk Museum, a new report reveals.
The city's culture boss, Councillor Rob Wann, said: "This was a massive decision. The council is funding Phoenix Square, De Montfort Hall, and something had to give.
"The money has got to come from somewhere, and at a time of cuts this is what we've chosen to do.
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"I think it would be wrong, while we're making people redundant at the council, to continue funding an expensive art gallery."
Until January this year, the former City Gallery was housed in a leased property at 90 Granby Street, which the council said had become unsuitable due to its small size, lack of facilities, and location.
Consultants commissioned by the council a decade ago said there was a need for a new City Gallery, potentially in the Cultural Quarter.
But a £9 million price tag meant the scheme was shelved until 2007, when council officers were requested by councillors to look for a site for a replacement.
A site at 50 New Walk was selected two years ago, and it was agreed to create a new development on the site at an estimated cost of £2.4 million.
In August last year the council's cabinet agreed to push ahead with work on the proposed city gallery replacement on New Walk.
But question marks over the project began to emerge in March this year, when the cabinet said it could only go ahead if it presented "value for money".
Now the plans have been dropped, and arts services are set to be moved to the museum on New Walk.
However the exhibition programme will have to be reduced and incorporated within the temporary exhibitions programme at New Walk Museum.
As a minimum it would include three specific shows per year rather than an all year round programme.
Off-site learning activities and exhibitions are also unlikely to continue.
The city's Conservative opposition leader Ross Grant said: "This doesn't come as a surprise, but it's very frustrating.
"So much money has been wasted on plans for a new gallery on New Walk which wasn't needed. In my opinion, this was a vanity project by previous leader Ross Willmott and some of his cabinet members. If something a lot less grand had been proposed then perhaps we wouldn't be in this situation today."
The city council contributes £129,000 each year to fund the gallery, and the Arts Council also gives it £137,000. It works out as a public cash subsidy of £10.79 for every person who visits it.
That funding is now due to be cut to £34,000 each year. The city council has already spent £308,000 on plans to develop the site at New Walk, but says it can save £95,000 each year by scrapping the project altogether.
The council's report concludes: "This option provides the cheapest and most cost effective solution."
A report due to go before the city council's decision-making cabinet this month shows that the council considered various options.
Cancelling all visual art exhibitions was ruled out due, in part, to the "likelihood of negative publicity".
Developing a contemporary art gallery in the Central Lending Library or continuing with the plan to build a gallery at New Walk were both ruled out due to high costs.