First Person: Without a plan, when does the spending stop?

I am worried by the city mayor's knee-jerk reaction to the failure of his speculative UK City of Culture bid and what it will cost the public. Sir Peter Soulsby is set to invest money in the Haymarket Theatre before giving it away, saying he is investing in culture.

As he does this it is worth remembering what he said when his bid failed:

"Our bid was brilliant… I am not sure what more we could have done…. the judges decided we in Leicester are making our way successfully and didn't need it as much." So rather than there being short comings in the bid or cultural offer of our city, it was that Hull needed it more.

To emphasise the point he said he would put on a cultural programme that "shows-off Leicester as the centre of culture we all know it is".

His tune has now changed.

To justify spending public money on the Haymarket Theatre, the city mayor has told councillors he is looking to invest in culture in Leicester to strengthen it in response to the failure of the bid. This goes against everything Sir Peter said following his bid's failure.

Also, making distinct improvements in Leicester's cultural offer through specific projects is a difficult undertaking, as was proven by the council's experience only recently.

Despite the creation of a digital media centre, the City of Culture judging panel criticised the digital offering of Leicester's bid. Millions were spent creating and supporting the running of Phoenix Square by the council, overseen for some of the time by Sir Peter's close Labour party ally, Ted Cassidy, but in the eyes of the judges Leicester still fell short of the mark.

Sir Peter himself attacked the Curve theatre project, saying it was "the most expensive and most disastrous project this city has ever seen in its history".

Now all this seems to have been forgotten, even though the mayor expressed some of these views so strongly himself. Smarting from the embarrassing failure of the City of Culture bid he is now prepared to spend public money without having any plan for public scrutiny.

Without a plan, when does the spending stop? When Sir Peter stops smarting over losing to Hull?

People will wonder though how the city mayor, who constantly talks of Government cuts, who increases their council tax by as much as he can, who can't find money for services they want to save, can always find money for these high-profile projects.

Ross Grant is a Leicester city Conservative councillor. He represents Knighton ward.

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