The total cost of the Look II statue on the waterfront in Plymouth has appeared in a city council document at more than three-quarters of a million pounds.
The entry of £764,038 was highlighted by Conservative councillors, who criticised spending under the city council’s Labour administration at a public meeting to set next year's budget and council tax - which is set to go up by close to 5 per cent.
The council confirmed on Monday 22 February that the £764,038 item listed in a budget document was for Look II and 'all the associated works'. Taking away the installation fee, that indicates the cost of the artwork alone was around £339,000.
It follows the city council refusing to say how much it had paid for the artwork as it was covered by a confidentiality agreement with the sculptor.
The 12ft cast-iron statue by Sir Anthony Gormley was installed at West Hoe last year as part of the Mayflower 400 celebrations and to mark the opening of The Box museum.
Supporters say the sculpture is a major cultural attraction by a world-renowned artist which has brought global attention to the city.
But Cllr Mark Deacon told the council meeting the ‘unimpressive’ statue was a ‘white elephant’ which had been named ‘Rusty Reg’ by those who hated it.
Meanwhile, Cllr Patrick Nicholson, deputy leader of the Conservative opposition, said the statue was a ‘disgraceful waste of public money’ during the pandemic, describing it as a ‘rusty wreck’.
Cllr Nicholson went onto say the council's Labour leadership had not defended the decision to buy the artwork and had hidden the cost, refusing to disclose the amount in response to Freedom of Information requests.
However, city council Labour leader Tudor Evans said the budget for Mayflower 400, including the statue, was agreed with cross-party support, and the opening of The Box and unveiling of Look II had resulted in huge publicity for the city.
He said the council’s spending had included work to secure the historic pier, and he viewed the nickname ‘Rusty Reg’ as a sign of endearment.
The ‘Monument’ was listed for the current 2020/21 financial year in the council’s five-year capital spending programme up to 2025. That covers longer-term investment, funded by grants and borrowing, and is not part of the council’s day-to day spending on services of just under £200million a year.
The Labour-controlled council approved next year’s budget and an increase in council tax of 4.99per cent, including 3per cent to go on adult social care, at the meeting.
The capital budget listed capital spending on Mayflower 400 in the current financial year of just under £4.9million, including £975,000 for signs on the A38.
The council has said the amount of the fee to the artist was being withheld in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act because disclosure “would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the council and The Box.”