City council leader lashes back at county economy chief’s Drill Hall comments

The leader of the City of Lincoln Council has lashed back at comments about the Drill Hall funding cut from the county council’s economy chief.

Labour leader Councillor Ric Metcalfe accused Councillor Colin Davie of “hypocrisy” after he said the city authority should have listened to residents and “tapered” the “brutal” grant cuts to the venue to give it time to form a business case.

Councillor Metcalfe said Councillor Davie was “playing to the gallery” over the decision.

“The city council has been very gradually reducing the Drill Hall’s grant since 2013 and trying to encourage it to adopt a more financially sustainable business plan for the whole of that time,” he said.

“At no time in the past has the Conservative county council been willing to give financial support to the Drill Hall and, despite Councillor Davie’s promises, will not do so now.

“This is despite the fact that a substantial number of its patrons are from outside Lincoln – the Drill Hall having always been a resource for the county.”

He said “successive” Conservative government public spending cuts since 2010 had “helped bring about the situation where the city council has been unable to continue the grant to our wonderful Drill Hall,” adding the Councillor Davie had been an “enthusiastic supporter” of his party in that time.

“Speaking of “brutal decisions” Councillor Davie, how about the decision you supported of the county council to close our much loved Usher Art Gallery?” he asked.

“It’s very simple, the Conservative controlled county council has launched a bid to have a county-based unitary council for Lincolnshire so it can control all public services in Lincolnshire. That could become the “brutal” reality.”

The Drill Hall may be forced to close.

Speaking to Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Jaines Thursday, Councillor Davie stood by his authority’s decision to give notice on the Usher Gallery to focus more on the neighbouring Collection as part of a heritage shake-up.

Business cases for what happens to the gallery are still being drawn up and examined.

Mr Davie said “people no longer want to stare at walls in the old way. An art collection is an art collection and only so many people want to go and look.

“The future is going to be around digital art in my view. The way people engage with art, and the kind of art they engage with is changing and making the arguments for keeping things as they were is no longer sustainable.

“People have to adapt to change, and they need to embrace the new forms of communication the new forms of opportunity.”

“You cannot continue to put public money into things without the public being asked to have a view on it and the wider taxpayers don’t seem to support the position adopted by the small group of people who are so vociferous, about the Usher.

“My personal view, is that we need an offer for Lincoln that appeals to more visitors from further afield around the arts and culture and entertainment and I believe the Collection can be the centre point for that offer.

“How the Usher adapts to that is down to those who are making a case for it.”

Mr Davie also revealed how estimates showed a proposed devolution deal could save up to £50million in local government costs.

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