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Letter: If the council can underwrite the unveiling of a Thatcher statue, then why not a community centre for Grantham too?

I read the coverage of Margaret Thatcher’s statue debate (Journal, January 8) with some interest as the only councillor speaking at the culture and visitor economy meeting who also formerly spoke against the statue at the planning stage in 2019.

The debate around SKDC cabinet underwriting the cost of an unveiling event raises a number of questions.

The statue may well draw people into our town, to the good or bad, but we need to have a heritage trail and other things for visitors to see to keep them here to benefit local businesses. Otherwise, as I have witnessed with Sir Isaac Newton’s statue, coach loads of people can take a quick photo of the statue and move on.

SKDC has underwritten the unveiling of the Margaret Thatcher statue to the tune of £100,000. (43324824)
SKDC has underwritten the unveiling of the Margaret Thatcher statue to the tune of £100,000. (43324824)

In the following presentation on the agenda the committee looked at tourism plans for Lincolnshire. Committee members were told that not enough is being done by councils to promote our area on an ongoing basis.

I have repeatedly made this statement to councillors at district and county level. Let us hope someone finally listens.

Tourism can bring millions of pounds into our town and district, but not just from unveiling Margaret Thatcher’s statue or other one-off events.

The committee rightly found theunderwriting of a £100k budget for the statue unveiling by SKDC’s cabinet requires closer examination. The sum is more than the £70k originally allocated to Sir Isaac Newton’s Gravity Fields event.

It was a decision made in haste without due process, nor consulting the people of Grantham, by a cabinet more concerned about a statue unveiling than the people it has a duty to protect. A cabinetmore concerned with attracting headline stories than protecting our heritage assets or delivering an ongoing promotion of our area thus costing our local economy potentially millions of pounds every year.

Grantham has a remarkable story bigger than both characters and involving so many more, but no appropriate space to display it.

With our fabulous church we have so much more to share. Over 4,000 artefacts were removed from our town taken from the Spitalgate dig.

Despite the great work volunteers there do, the museum is too small to tell our story and closed much of the time. I have fed this into InvestSKs workshop bid for town centre funding. I trust they can look at more than a retail offering.

I am delighted the culture and visitor economy scrutiny committee has agreed to listen to my concerns over the missing Spitalgate artefacts and receive a summary paper on our town’s history.

The statue debate has wider implications than politics, culture and tourism, however. The cabinet lead has turned away local organisations in desperate need of help and/or sent a clear signal funds are not available this year, yet without due process can underwrite the unveiling of a statue. What message does this send about the cabinet’s priorities?

When I stated this during the debate last week, [leader] Coun Kelham Cooke said SKDC is working with local groups to help them. In fact officers are largely signposting them elsewhere to make labourious long shot bids or requirematch funding.

Coun Cooke scoffed at a request for a new Grantham community centre, shared by a number groups, requiring £750k, yet why on earth shouldn’t the largest growth town in our district, and housing over 20,000 local people, many on low incomes, have such an amenity?

We need a community centre available to support everyone. One proposal put forward by community groups would save The Old School House on Station Road East.

Having a base would prevent vulnerable users traversing the town to different agencies for help and give our community groups somewhere stable to work from, allowing them to focus on delivering services for us.

SKDC has the ability to do much good. If it can underwrite the statue unveiling then why not underwrite the community centre project too?

Councillor Charmaine Morgan

Grantham St Vincent’s Ward

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