Monday, September 26, 2011

From Bard to Verse in RCT…..

Ok, I apologise for the bad pun, but sometimes these things can’t be helped.
As mentioned some weeks ago as part of the redevelopment of Pontypridd a poet and two artists have been commissioned to work with local schoolchildren and community groups to design some paving slabs with bits of songs / poems / miscellaneous writings.
Now strangely enough the website which was set up to explain what this was about seems to have disappeared and I cannot find any reference to it on the Council’s ‘Love Ponty’ website either.  One may almost think that they want to keep it quiet – perhaps hoping to avoid too much criticism.  After all people weren’t impressed by the ‘Unity’ sculpture in Ponty, or the lights on Sardis Bridge, or the ‘Y’ in Porth.
Anyway, artistic merit aside, we wanted to know what the cost to the overstretched public purse was – cost and value do not always go together but if you know the cost it can help you make up your mind as to the value!
As there was no hope of this ever appearing in any sort of press release or budget report I submitted a FOI request 0n 23rd August.  Today I received the reply, and a very artistic piece of work it is too
Question1 :  What is the total cost of commissioning the poet and artists and completing the project referred to here:
Reply:  The total cost of the Pontypridd Town Centre Regeneration Project, including all public realm improvements, and townscape enhancements, is £10.559M. The Authority confirms that the materials and labour used in respect of the artists and poets work are inextricably interwoven into, and form part of, the overall regeneration project costs detailed above.
 In addition, the enhanced design work was subject to a competitive tender process, and  we are not in a position to provide the details, due to the commercially sensitive nature of this information. We feel that this is exempt information under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ("the Act") which deals with prejudice to commercial interests.
This is a qualified exemption and we have therefore applied the public interest test. In making this decision we have weighed such factors as the Council's desire to be open and transparent in all its dealings against the need to ensure that it is able to contract openly in the market place
The Council’s desire to be open and transparent?  Since when has that been the case in RCT? Perhaps that could be interwoven into the fabric of the paving stones!!
Question2:  How is the cost broken down? i.e. payments to artists, cost of work?
Reply:  The total cost of commissioning the artists and poets is £15,000. Again, the council in not is a position to be able to provide a breakdown of the costs of the works referred to in your request as it does not hold this information in recorded form due to the reasoning outlined above namely that the materials and labour used in respect of the artists and poets work are inextricably interwoven into, and form part of, the overall regeneration project costs.
So they built the cost of a few paving slabs into the project but then decided afterwards to employ a few extra people to make some pretty patterns with words??
Now call me naive but we have some excellent art departments in schools in RCT.  Why not run a competition to get students to come up with some designs?  The Council and their contractors Costain keep bragging about how much community involvement they are encouraging.  Could have saved a few bob.  Or isn’t £15K a significant enough amount for Labour to bother about?  Maybe on its own it is not, but this is part of a mind-set that seems to have completely forgotten the old adage that if you look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves.
Add that £15K (plus the unidentified amount on materials) to that spent on other public works of art and it all mounts up to quite a tidy sum that many residents feel could be better spent.  On the other hand to three jobs Russell it is probably insignificant.

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