Council sets aside £100,000 to underwrite event which will unveil statue of Margaret Thatcher in Grantham
The district council will set aside £100,000 to underwrite the event unveiling the Margaret Thatcher statue in Grantham, but insists that the money will ultimately come from fund-raising and private donations.
The cabinet of South Kesteven District Council agreed today (Tuesday) to underwrite the event which is due to take place some time next year.
The unveiling of the statue of the Grantham-born Prime Minister has been held up by the coronavirus outbreak, although the plinth on which the statue will stand has been in place for some time on St Peter's Hill.
News of the unveiling ceremony has provoked a backlash on social media. One Facebook group has encouraged people to throw eggs at the statue.
At the meeting of the cabinet, SKDC leader Councillor Kelham Cooke insisted that no taxpayers' money would be spent on the event.
Coun Cooke said: "This event will undoubtedly draw a large number of visitors to the area. Importantly, the statue and the unveiling event will give a much-needed boost to our local economy.
"This report recommends that the cost of this event is financed through a comprehensive fund-raising campaign. Our expectation is that the cost of the event will be fully met through voluntary donations, not the public purse. This is for us to provide cash flow and forward funding for that event and then when we start to receive the donations, it will pay in full for this event."
Coun Cooke also said that an experienced events company will be employed to make sure the event operates safely and effectively.
He said: "This major event provides a fantastic opportunity to celebrate its heritage and promote the district of South Kesteven to a national and international audience."
Cabinet members were quick to praise Mrs Thatcher. Councillor Robert Reid said: "She was the first woman Prime Minister. She put the economy back in order, she got rid of the old guard grandees who had put the Conservatives in the dark ages. She put Britain back on the world map."
Coun Dr Peter Moseley said: "It's not very often a small town in Lincolnshire can lay claim to the first female Prime Minister and some of the great success that she had. I appreciate there are those who see her as a divisive figure but I very much think that we should be celebrating this."
Coun Ray Wootten told the meeting: "I recall my period of office as mayor of Grantham in 2009-10 being asked why do we not have a statue? Where is Mrs Thatcher's museum and why is there no street named after her? I lost count the number of times I was interviewed by journalists from around the world,asking those same questions. That interest is still there today. She put the great back into Great Britain and restored pride in being British."
Councillor Ian Selby, an Independent, said 18 months ago he had called for a referendum of the people of Grantham to vote for or against the statue but it had been flatly refused.
Coun Selby said: "It should be private money and not public money that is used. Otherwise it just adds insult to injury and it will antagonise. It is asking for trouble and stirring up a hornets' nest."