Wirral Council loans come under fire in battle to save Williamson art gallery

Wirral Council loans come under fire in battle to save Williamson art gallery

Wirral Council loans come under fire in battle to save Williamson art gallery

First published in News
Last updated
Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Wirral’s acclaimed Williamson Art Gallery and Museum have blasted the council’s decision to lend millions of pounds to other authorities.

Wirral Council emerged as a surprise benefactor to other cash-strapped Northern authorities last July.

Tory councillor Leah Fraser was taken aback to find the authority has negotiated deals to lend £35.5m at low rates of interest to at least a dozen councils.

Now Friends of Williamson Art Gallery are asking why its budget, and that of historic Birkenhead Priory, is being cut by a combined total of £400,000  - when the loans are making close to that figure in interest.

Five of the loans have already come to an end, earning the council £226,469 in interest.

When the remaining loans are repaid later this year, a further £137,879 will be earned, taking the total up to £364,349.

Alan Southall of the Friends group told the Globe he had contacted council leader Phil Davies demanding answers.

He said: "It really got my goat when I learned they're lending out millions to other authorities.

“They must have tonnes of money lying around if they can afford to lend it in short-term deals with such low interest rates.

“The interest they make on the loans might be miserly due to the extremely low rates but even so, it would keep the Williamson afloat.”

Councillor Davies said: "Many local authorities at a particular time of year have reserves just sitting there not earning any interest.

"So all local authorities borrow from each other and loan to each other – it is a standard local government process.

“It earns interest and that interest can be used to fund frontline services and is being used to give additional benefits to Wirral tax-payers.”

Councillor Davies said cash earned from interest could be used to help places like the Williamson, but that it would only act as a short-term solution.

He said: “These are one off payments so we could possibly help a service like the Williamson for a year, but then we would be back to square one – what would we do the year after that?

“I think there is a way forward for the Williamson.

“There is some speculation that the Williamson is going to close, but it is not going to close – Wirral Council is committed to working with the Friends group for the Williamson to continue."

Councillor Fraser said: “Wirral Council is not a bank. They have to serve the people of Wirral and not the money markets.

"The council has just invested £1.3m into the Williamson – they really don’t plan ahead.

“They are asking people to come up with a management plan in eight weeks.

"But they will need longer than that. They are setting them up to fail.

“Our council seems to be more concerned with using Wirral's money to help out other local authrorities, and getting back what is actually very little in the overall scheme of things."

 

Comments (3)

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10:13am Fri 24 Jan 14

artemis81 says...

What an absolute red herring. The Friends group and especially Cllr Fraser, with her head for business, should know better. No big organisation can be viable without reserves and if you can generate some income from investing these reserves in a low-risk way, it's a bonus. Using reserves to fund something like the Williamson would be like using your savings to get the weekly shop in; it'll get you by in the short term, but it's not sustainable; you just end up running out of money and starving to death anyway. If Cllr Fraser is such a friend of the arts, maybe she could ask her mates in Westminster to lay off the swingeing cuts a bit or help find the Williamson a rich, philanthropic local Tory to 'patronise' the gallery...
What an absolute red herring. The Friends group and especially Cllr Fraser, with her head for business, should know better. No big organisation can be viable without reserves and if you can generate some income from investing these reserves in a low-risk way, it's a bonus. Using reserves to fund something like the Williamson would be like using your savings to get the weekly shop in; it'll get you by in the short term, but it's not sustainable; you just end up running out of money and starving to death anyway. If Cllr Fraser is such a friend of the arts, maybe she could ask her mates in Westminster to lay off the swingeing cuts a bit or help find the Williamson a rich, philanthropic local Tory to 'patronise' the gallery... artemis81
  • Score: 2

12:35pm Fri 24 Jan 14

Llamedos 1 says...

Artemis81, the main gripes from all the WBC critics was the very low interest rate....if I remember correctly, most of the loans were below 1%. This was not a fair rate compared to interest rates being charged to the public and businesses, so it was argued that WBC were effectively giving our money away to other councils. I think most of us accepeted that if there were reserves it was prudent to invest those reserves. However, when Leaders and CEO`s were whinging that services were having to be cut, we were kept in the dark until someone blew the whistle and let the cat out of the bag.
Artemis81, the main gripes from all the WBC critics was the very low interest rate....if I remember correctly, most of the loans were below 1%. This was not a fair rate compared to interest rates being charged to the public and businesses, so it was argued that WBC were effectively giving our money away to other councils. I think most of us accepeted that if there were reserves it was prudent to invest those reserves. However, when Leaders and CEO`s were whinging that services were having to be cut, we were kept in the dark until someone blew the whistle and let the cat out of the bag. Llamedos 1
  • Score: 2

4:00pm Sat 25 Jan 14

sandals_wearer says...

Llamedos 1 wrote:
Artemis81, the main gripes from all the WBC critics was the very low interest rate....if I remember correctly, most of the loans were below 1%. This was not a fair rate compared to interest rates being charged to the public and businesses, so it was argued that WBC were effectively giving our money away to other councils. I think most of us accepeted that if there were reserves it was prudent to invest those reserves. However, when Leaders and CEO`s were whinging that services were having to be cut, we were kept in the dark until someone blew the whistle and let the cat out of the bag.
The interest rate depends on the risk. The public and businesses don't always repay, councils do.
[quote][p][bold]Llamedos 1[/bold] wrote: Artemis81, the main gripes from all the WBC critics was the very low interest rate....if I remember correctly, most of the loans were below 1%. This was not a fair rate compared to interest rates being charged to the public and businesses, so it was argued that WBC were effectively giving our money away to other councils. I think most of us accepeted that if there were reserves it was prudent to invest those reserves. However, when Leaders and CEO`s were whinging that services were having to be cut, we were kept in the dark until someone blew the whistle and let the cat out of the bag.[/p][/quote]The interest rate depends on the risk. The public and businesses don't always repay, councils do. sandals_wearer
  • Score: 0

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