Speaking at last night’s Council meeting, Councillor Geoff Barraclough explains how the £6 million Marble Arch Mound and £10 million planned on Oxford Circus piazzas demonstrates Westminster Conservatives’ financial waste.
“Nowhere has Westminster Conservatives’ cavalier approach to spending public money reached more heights than the Marble Arch Mound. Because this spectacular failure is so high profile and so very visible, it has highlighted many issues which have been familiar to us for so long.
Retailers have been telling us for years that the Oxford Street is no longer of global standard. Too much traffic, too much pollution, crowded pavements, too few leisure options, badly in need of more marquee names. Tired and in need of investment.
This council’s response? Hire a Rockstar urban planner at an eyewatering salary of £220,000 and build a motheaten artificial mountain. The Result? £6m wasted and this council a global laughingstock.
After six months of embarrassment, workmen have finally begun to dismantle the Mound despite a last-minute campaign by a couple of students to preserve the structure as a giant wine fridge to fill with suitcases of booze smuggled from number 10. It would make a great place for a work do.
But It wasn’t meant to be this way. The council prepared a glossy brochure in its attempt to attract sponsors for the Mound for what it called an “immersive and interactive experience.” The brochure says:
Marble Arch Mound is a new London icon. We therefore expect it to receive significant media coverage both prior to its opening as well as throughout its operation.
It certainly did that. My guess is it got much more media coverage than any sponsor could have dreamed of. Not in a good way.
Yet the cabinet member is still defending his project. He boasts of 250,000 visitors but these folk haven’t paid an entry fee. Quite the opposite. They have been subsidised by our residents at the cost of £25 each visit.
And he cannot substantiate that any of the visitors are incremental or that any of them spent any additional money in the West End.
If it’s footfall we’re after, it would have been cheaper and more effective to give every one of our residents – men, women, children, even babies – a £25 voucher to spend at Primark.
But we’ve got some better ideas, instead of the Mound we could have
- Built 20 new homes for overcrowded families Which is it Mound or Homes?
- Employed 35 extra police officers for the next five years;
- Installed solar panels on 500 blocks of flats
- Filled 120,000 potholes in Westminster’s roads
In fact, we had a narrow escape with just £6m of taxpayers’ money wasted on the Mound.
We then learned that the cabinet member was about to spend £10m on “temporary” piazzas at Oxford Circus, to be forced through under special powers and with no resident consultation at all. The piazzas were then “paused” after all the bad publicity for the Mound.
This evening would be a good opportunity for the council to tell us what are the plans for Oxford Circus today. At the last Full Council meeting, Cllr Green promised consultation with residents. When will this begin? Voters in the West End want to know the impact on their neighbourhoods. Piazzas, Cllr Green? Yes or no.
And with more than £100m remaining in the Oxford Street budget, this council needs to sharpen its business cases. For such vast capital sums, residents want to know how we will get our money back.”