Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Gallery Hits Back in Overspending Row; 'Council Held Purse Strings for Revamp'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Gallery Hits Back in Overspending Row; 'Council Held Purse Strings for Revamp'

Article excerpt

Byline: Joanne Butcher

ART gallery bosses have hit back after being blamed for a multi-million pound overspend on a regeneration project.

In a letter to The Journal, the board of the Waygood Gallery said it was the city council which held the purse strings of the revamp.

They also claimed gallery staff had tried to cut costs on the project.

Spiralling costs of rebuilding the gallery, on Newcastle's High Bridge, are now set to pass pounds 10m, and city treasurers will have to borrow cash to ensure work continues.

At least part of this is directly the fault of "fragmented project management", according to the council's own officers. In a report to councillors, the effectiveness of Waygood as "a partner, senior user and fundraiser" was also labelled "inconsistent".

And project mishandling has led to expensive delays, with pounds 500,000 funding from the European Commission lost because deadlines were missed.

Peter Allen, the council executive member for resources, last week appeared to blame Waygood bosses, including creative director Helen Smith, for the "mismanagement".

Speaking at a council executive meeting, he said: "I think there are concerns about the ongoing governance arrangements and I know there is a review taking place.

"At the end of the day we will need another report to look at the governance issues and to makes sure we do not have future calls on our limited finances because of issues within that organisation."

And deputy council leader David Faulkner said: "We put a lot of pressure on (people such as) Helen Smith who were not appointed to do that and were asked roll up their sleeves and get stuck in and involved in things," he said.

"It has been said already that in the case of this project we should have got much closer than we did but we were respecting the independent nature of this organisation. …

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