COUNCIL bosses have been slammed for proposing spending £24,000 to buy an oil painting while West Dunbartonshire households grapple with the growing crisis in the cost of living.

Councillors are looking to splurge on the expensive artwork despite facing an estimated £5.5m funding cut from the Scottish Government.

Last week the Reporter shared how a food bank had accused the UK Government of being “blind” to the level of poverty in Dumbarton and the Vale.

Ofgem announced the new energy bill price cap will rise by 54 per cent from April in Scotland which means that energy bills will rise by £693 a year for millions of households.

A list of cuts options were presented to councillors last week at a full meeting, including reducing the number of pupils who qualify for school travel and introducing fees for brown bin collections.

Other options include charging over 65s and disabled people for a garden maintenance service they currently receive for free, as well as reducing the number of school crossing patrollers.

Last month it was revealed that West Dunbartonshire Council had spent almost £75,000 on fine art to add to its collection - including a nude sketch by one of Scotland's best known artists.


Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter:

A meeting of the council’s cultural committee, chaired by Bailie Denis Agnew, was scheduled for last week but did not take place.

However, an email had been sent to councillors about an “urgent item of business” which was “at the request” of Bailie Agnew.

Attached was an image of “Evelick” - a painting by Scottish artist Alison Watt - which has a price tag of £24,000 excluding VAT.

A committee paper from last month stated that officers had continued to research “acquisition opportunities” and make contact with selling galleries.

That report stated: “A particular focus of this activity has been on identifying works by Alison Watt currently available on the open market.

"It has not been possible to bring any firm recommendation to committee on purchasing any works by Watt at this time.

“Should a suitable work by Watt be identified by officers, they will seek to bring this before committee as a matter of urgency.”

READ MORE: Nude sketch bought by West Dunbartonshire Council as authority spends £75,000 on fine art

Councillor Martin Rooney, leader of the authority's Labouropposition group, said: "I’m absolutely appalled that the SNP council are giving this serious consideration.

"Everybody knows that West Dunbartonshire has some of the worst areas of deprivation in Scotland, child poverty was already on the rise, life chances for our young people are below the national average, we have families struggling to buy food, pensioners who are facing sky-high fuel bills, demand for help from foodbanks is increasing as donations are squeezed.

“The real matter of urgency in our area is the cost of living crisis but the SNP council priority is to spend almost £28,000 on an oil painting that will be locked away in a cupboard.

"How can the SNP justify this? It’s absurd at the best of times but completely bonkers in the middle of a cost of living crisis.”

The council's cultural committee met in November and selected 14 works to purchase with cash from a £100,000 fund set aside for the purpose last year.

Another two pieces were approved for purchase at the committee's December meeting, including "Nude Study" by Samuel J. Peploe from 1930.

Council leader Jonathan McColl (SNP) said: "The funding for this asset investment comes from a capital fund specifically for this purpose; accounting rules prohibit us using capital funding for revenue costs, revenue being the funding that delivers council services.

"That means that this has no impact or relation to the savings options referred to by Cllr Rooney. I suspect that Labour do know this, but perhaps not since Labour have not had their member of the committee in attendance since May 2018; in fact out of 26 meetings since September 2017, Labour's member has attended only that single meeting.

"It's disingenuous of Labour to criticise reports from officers or decisions of the committee when they can't be bothered to show up, be part of the debate, and do their job. A member of staff wouldn't get away with nearly four years of absence from work and I think that Labour Councillors should hold themselves to the same standard we expect of council staff."

A spokesperson from West Dunbartonshire Council said: "In March 2018 the Council agreed to create a £4m Cultural Capital Fund to invest in West Dunbartonshire’s cultural and heritage infrastructure. From this, £100,000 was committed to establish an Acquisition Fund to purchase fine art works  with a particular emphasis on works by Scottish women artists."