South Kesteven District Council has U-turned over a decision to underwrite a £100,000 event for the unveiling of a £300,000 statue of Margaret Thatcher in Grantham town centre.
The council controversially agreed to put aside £100,000 to cover the costs of the event, hoping that private donations and fundraising would mean it might not be necessary to stump up the money.
However, council leaders on Monday said the delay to the event caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would give organisers the time needed to raise the cash.
During a meeting of the full council on Monday, Councillor Adam Stokes said: “I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that at tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) cabinet meeting a decision will be taken to no longer allocate £100,000 from the local priorities reserve to underwrite the public realm improvements to support the unveiling of the statue.”
The decision caused controversy when it was agreed in December, with many criticising the council. The story made its way to the nationals and caused debate at the top levels of society.
Concerns were raised that “political vandals” would damage the structure after it was erected, and tens of thousands of people signed up to an “egg throwing contest”.
Opposition councillors eventually forced the leadership into reviewing the decision and revealing a breakdown of the costs, including an estimated £50,200 on an external events organisation, and £24,250 on public safety.
Last week a local artist took it upon himself to create his own version of the Margaret Thatcher statue out of plaster and office chairs. The effigy showed the Iron Lady with her head cut off and placed on a spike, next to a handbag.
The artist placed it on the 10ft plinth awaiting the Thatcher statue, but the council dismantled the piece shortly after.
Council leader Kelham Cooke said the latest decision had been taken based on the unveiling taking place in May 2021.
However, he added: “As (the unveiling) has now been delayed until COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, we now have the time to fund-raise all of the funds required prior to the event and therefore no longer need to use any allocation of underwriting or forward funding from South Kesteven District Council.
“This will mean the whole unveiling event and preparations will 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.”
The plans for the 10ft statue include placing it on a 10ft high plinth meaning the installation will be 20ft high in total.
When planning was approved for the original statue, the height was a requirement for security purposes, along with CCTV cover.
Margaret Thatcher (nee Roberts) was born and raised in Grantham and attended Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, before gaining a scholarship to study at Oxford University.
Her father Alfred, a grocer, was Mayor from 1945 to 1946. She was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She entered the House of Lords in 1992.
Plans to build the statue on Parliament Square, in London, were previously rejected by Westminster Council due to the fear of it being targeted by protestors, like the 14,000 people who joined an egg-throwing contest when the Grantham statue will be put up.