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Grantham council won’t pay for Thatcher statue unveiling

Posted at Mar 02, 2021

Plans to use £100,000 of taxpayers’ money to underwrite an unveiling ceremony for a statue of Margaret Thatcher in her home town have been scrapped.

Councillors in Grantham, Lincolnshire were heavily criticised when they voted in December to set aside £100,000 to cover the costs of an event to reveal the statue, hoping donations would recoup the money.

The decision reignited divisions in the town over the statue and Thatcher’s legacy, and when the matter was put before a scrutiny committee on Monday it was decided delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic would provide enough time to raise the money through private donations.

Councillor Lee Steptoe, the chair of Grantham Labour, called the U-turn a “victory for common sense”. In December he said it was “absolutely perverse” for the council to have made the decision in the middle of a pandemic when funds were scarce.

The bronze 10ft (3m) statue of Thatcher, created by sculptor Douglas Jennings, was offered to South Kesteven district council after proposals for it to be placed in Parliament Square were rejected over fears it would attract protests.

Rows over the sculpture have raged for years, and when it is eventually unveiled in Grantham in May it will be placed on a 10ft plinth to prevent vandalism.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Conservative-led council confirmed the decision to remove the £100,000 underwriting from budget plans.

The leader of the council, Kelham Cooke, said the unveiling event and preparations for it would now be “privately funded through donations without the need for any underwriting or forward funding for this event, and the funding for this will be removed from the council’s budget”.

Opposition councillors forced the leadership into revealing a breakdown of costs for the unveiling ceremony, which included an estimated £50,200 on an external events organisation, including audio and media, staging, seating and an unveiling mechanism, and £24,250 on public safety.

Last month a local artist, Mark Robla, placed a carved plaster head of Thatcher on a pike on top of the empty plinth, saying he was saving the council money.

Thatcher was born and raised in Grantham and her father, Alfred Roberts, who owned a grocery shop in the town, was mayor from 1945 to 46.