If there’s one good thing you can say about Harrow Council, it’s that they look after their own. That’s what they did last month, when the plans to loan £1,000,000 of taxpayers money to Cultura turned into a £1,000,000
gift grant (source, page 32, extract below). That’s right: the Arts Centre, which the council said was costing £500k a year to run, has just been lobbed, with seemingly few strings attached – £1,000,000 of taxpayers money. Truly an act of sheer magic by Cllr Shah’s Labour group. Our very own Paul Daniels (but shorter). Still, it’s only other peoples’ money after all.
Cultura, of course, is the outfit headed up by non other than Sandra Bruce-Gordon, the ex-Council officer who held the role of Interim Service Manager Arts and Heritage at the Council – the very position which would have probably recommended giving the Arts Centre away to Cultura London in the first place. Ms Bruce-Gordon, you’ll recall, interviewed potential CEOs for Cultura, and by some stroke of good luck, landed up with the job herself. Isn’t that strange? We said Cultura had a funny smell about it back in March.
And those strings? Well, Cllr Sue Anderson, portfolio holder for Community, Culture & Resident Engagement said at cabinet recently that the £1,000,000 would be paid out upon presentation of “receipts” – with little or not apparent guarantee that the Arts Centre would ever get completed. Harrow could end up £1,000,000 poorer, and with a white elephant of a half-finished arts centre as well. Still, it can always be steamrolled, and used for housing.
It’s also strikingly odd that Cllr Anderson, is also on the board of Culture. We’re no experts, but you might be wondering, like us, if that might just be a teensy-weensy bit of a conflict?
Cultura has been rattling the collecting tin recently: it has to raise £2.8m if it has any hopes of getting this project off the drawing board, and yet, it seems to have just managed £655,000 so far. And something else that seems odd: the £1,000,000 will “only be spent once it is clear their new independent cinema is ready to be built” says Cllr Anderson. And yet, the “state-of-the-art 600-seat theatre, capable of hosting more technically ambitious shows as part of the centre’s programme of professional performances” is in the “final phase of Cultura’s vision.”
It all seems terribly strange. But our loving, caring and trustworthy council would never do anything wrong, would they?