I have just read the front page of Today's Daily Echo. I have to say I am quite annoyed.
The Southampton Partnership is planning to £120k of tax payers' money on a replica foam model of Southampton which it would like stored underneath the stairs in the civic centre art gallery. They also plan to spend £25,000 on 13 roads signs around the city.
The first I heard about this plan was just now when I read it in the paper. From the sounds of it the city council wasn't consulted either. Given that the Southampton Partnership is supposed to be a "partnership" I am surprised by that.
Reading the comments on Echo's website the majority of people are scathing in their criticism and quite understandably think that the decision is the council's. It isn't. The Southampton Partnership is body which is unelected and unaccountable to the public.
I blame the Government largely. When they talk about improving local democracy and local decision making, its precisely this sort of thing that they have in mind - bodies which bypass locally elected representatives, making public expenditure decisions.
The money itself to pay for this comes from SEEDA, another unelected body.
The only hand the Council has had in this sorry saga has been to propose its own idea. The new Conservative Council argued that the money should be spent on a bronze replica of a spitfire plane on the roundabout by the DeVere. This suggestion as rejected by the Southampton Partnership as not being sufficiently exciting. Well, it received almost overwhelming public support and in my view would have become a symbol of the city.
When the spitfire proposal was rejected, I didn't really expect any alternatives to be proposed instead. The SEEDA money I expected would be lost, as it needs to spent next year. No, in a last minute, desperate attempt, a new proposal has come forward. In my view its an abuse of public money!