Labour bid to have City of Culture money spent across County Durham fails

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A proposal by Labour councillors within to distribute the City of Culture cash across County Durham, rather than reviving a local military museum, failed to win approval.

Local Conservative MPs have called for the £125,000 – which the County will receive for finishing as runner-up to Bradfordto go towards the revival of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Museum. However, Labour councillors have described this as a city “vanity project” and want the money to be distributed across the County.

Labour’s Councillor Alison Batey put forward the motion to distribute the £125,000 award, plus £15,000 from Council reserves, among 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) amidst the cost of living crisis.

But at a meeting, members of the joint administration consisting of Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent Councillors, rejected the proposal. One Conservative Councillor said the motion was “just time-wasting”, while another argued that it was not up to the Council to decide how to spend the money.

Councillor Batey said: “It is important that the whole of County Durham benefits from this runners-up payment when it is finally awarded. Every area sees culture in a different way. We need to be mindful that it is not just about what goes on in our city.”

“We’re sat here arguing over 25p per elector. It’s just ridiculous”

cOUNCIllOr Mark wilkes

Batey was supported by fellow Labour Councillor Maura McKennon who said: “This seems to me to be the best way to guarantee that every part of the county gets its fair bite of the cherry.

“It just seems like a way of making all of the residents of the community feel like they’re part of this process in a way they maybe haven’t done so far, and for us all to celebrate together”.

However, Liberal Democrat Councillor Elizabeth Scott said it was not for MPs or the Council to decide what happens to the money.

She told councillors that “The £125,000 has been awarded to the (Culture Durham) partnership that put the bid in initially. So although it might be in our bank account at some stage, it will not be ours to make a decision about.”

Meanwhile, fellow Liberal Democrat Councillor Mark Wilkes ridiculed the proposal by saying that: “We’ll be investing hundreds of millions of pounds across every part of this county over the next few years. And we’re sat here arguing over 25p per elector. These are the kind of reasons why you guys got chucked out of power. It’s just ridiculous”.

Councillors eventually voted 52-49 against the motion.

Image: Durham 2025

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