Art spend is justifiable

First published in Letters

SIR — Your lead article and comment of February 11 questioned the merits of spending public money on modern artwork by local artists. This was a reference to Hampshire County Council’s Art in Offices collection, built up over the last 20 years, and displayed in council offices, corridors, meetings rooms and reception areas of public buildings.

We have been working very hard over the past few years to create galleries like the one at the Winchester Discovery Centre that are secure enough to be able to put the highlights of this collection on display to the public in a more accessible way.

Visitors to the Hampshire Treasures exhibition, which was held in The Gallery at Winchester Discovery Centre last year, will have seen some of the collections that we keep in store, including the Eric Gill sculpture of the hog, which can usually be seen in the entrance to the council’s offices in Winchester.

Hampshire County Council is dedicated to providing opportunities for residents to see the art and museum objects we hold, and also to bringing into the county exotic and interesting items from national institutions, such as the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum.

We are proud to be known as patrons of the arts, and strong supporters of our local Hampshire artists.

Hampshire County Council is planning to start in excess of £300 million worth of construction-related projects over the next three years, and will be purchasing something like £700 million worth of services from suppliers across the county and beyond, and this small investment in art which improves our quality of place, should be looked at in context with this.

We made £20.5 million of efficiency savings last year alone, and are planning a further £19 million next year.

In this way we can maintain good-quality services and acclaimed value for money, yet keep the council tax increase to just 1.9 per cent.

This collection is, we feel, a real asset to the county and has seen a rise in value over the past 21 years.

This alone justifies the public money that has been spent.

Cllr Ken Thornber, Leader, Hampshire County Council.

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