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Southampton City Council criticised for paying £2,000 towards Rhino
SHE was one of the most eye-catching of the iconic beasts that captured the imagination of animallovers and tourists alike in Southampton this summer.
But civic chiefs have found that all that glitters is not gold after paying towards her £4,000 price tag.
Leisure chiefs have faced a barrage of criticism after successfully winning a joint bid to buy Go! Rhinos sculpture Glint at the climax of the flagship Marwell Wildlife project.
They netted the blinging beast when all 36 life-sized sculptures were auctioned at the Grand Harbour Hotel on Wednesday to raise £124,700 for three local charities.
Today councillors defended the purchase, stressing Glint was bought as part of a joint deal with Capita, with the authority paying its £2,000 out of Economic Development and Relationship Fund cash.
Critics agree the Rhino Trail has boosted the city’s economy, but branded the new purchase as a “despicable” waste of money at a time when the authority is slashing jobs to cope with £20m budget cuts.
City Tory group leader Councillor Royston Smith said: “If they are spending money, it is obviously coming from somewhere else.
“At a time when the council has no money, is having to cut vital services and is investigating selling some of its art, I question whether this is a good use of public money.”
Councillor Don Thomas, of Labour Councillors Against the Cuts, added: “This is despicable at a time when people are having to make cuts and cut jobs. They are supposed to be putting out the message that every penny counts and people are supposed to be tightening their belts.”
Lib Dem group leader Councillor Adrian Vinson stressed it is a “modest sum” but added: “There must be better ways they could spend the money to promote Southampton.”
But Cabinet member for economic development and leisure Councillor Matt Tucker said: “It is a fantastic piece of public art and will bring people to the city. The money was part of a budget and it is going to three charities, rather than into a private pocket.”
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