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Boris Johnson facing backlash over spending on Downing Street art

Written by on 09/08/2021

The Prime Minister is facing a backlash following reports that almost £90,000 was spent on two works of art to be displayed in Downing Street.

The Daily Mirror reported that the works were bought through the Government Art Collection Fund, which is largely made up of donor contributions – though supplemented by the taxpayer.

The fund’s accounts show £70,200 was spent on a painting by Belfast artist Cathy Wilkes.

A further £18,775 was spent on works by Willie Doherty, a photographer and instillation artist, taking the total to £88,975.

Opposition MPs have labelled Boris Johnson “selfish” and branded the works an unnecessary luxury when difficult decisions on potential spending cuts and tax increases lie ahead.

Labour MP Neil Coyle tweeted: “Johnson finds more lavish treats for himself, just as he cuts Universal Credit, freezes frontline police pay, and cuts help to disadvantage schoolchildren.

“Totally out of touch.”

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The Labour MP for South Shields Emma Lewell-Buck told the Daily Mirror: “The selfishness of this prime minister is galling.

“When shelves are bare in my local food banks, businesses have gone to the wall, public sector and key workers have suffered pay freezes and cuts, his priority is once again himself.”

Support for the purchases came from Tory peer and former culture secretary Lord Vaizey, who tweeted: “Govt art collection has supported British artists for 120 years – a unique cultural asset for our country.”

He added: “(Boris Johnson) would have had no involvement in acquisition, which wld have come from existing budget.”

Defending the spending, a government spokeswoman said: “The Government Art Collection helps to promote the creativity of British art and culture by showcasing its works in the UK and across the globe.

“It acquires new works after consulting and securing the approval of an independent expert panel, and the majority of funding for acquisitions comes from philanthropic sources – not taxpayers’ money.

“The Government Art Collection is committed to public engagement and lends extensively to public exhibitions and collaborates with public facing national events and through its digital platforms.”

 Sky News

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