Downing Street has forked out almost £100,000 of taxpayers’ money on two sets of artwork while PM Boris Johnson has planned to cut public sector pay and benefits.
The pieces of artwork were bought through the Government Art Collection fund, The Mirror reported.
A unnamed painting by Belfast-born artist Cathy Wilkes was purchased for £70,200. The 24x28 inch piece – bought from the Xavier Hufkens gallery in Brussels – is a washy blend of muted pink, turquoise and green “egg tempera on linen”.
A set of four black-and-white photo prints of vegetation and their shadows called ‘Ashen, Restless,’ by photographer Willie Doherty was bought for £18,775 – from the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin – to also go on display at 11 Downing Street.
Downing Street was unable to say how much public cash was spent on the art but a spokesman said the “majority” of the money came from “philanthropic” donors.
In less than two month’s time, low-income households will receive less money in benefits.
The £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift, that was put in place at the start of the Covid pandemic, will be “phased out” from the end of September and mainly October – Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey confirmed last month.
Also in July, public sector workers such as teachers and police officers received a real-terms pay cut when their salaries were frozen.
Referring to the new art, Labour MP Neil Coyle tweeted: “As his Government cuts Universal Credit and freezes frontline nurse/police pay, Johnson has found more money to treat himself. Again. He could not be more out of touch.”
Last year, civil servants splashed out £696,700 on new works for the Government Art Collection, more than 60 per cent up on the £432,071 spent the year before – The Mirror reported.
The Collection has bought more than 90 works by 45 artists for £230,000 in a bid to “support the British visual arts sector during the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to the The Art Newspaper website.
More than 14,000 pieces in tota; are in the collection, and are displayed in government buildings in the UK and in British embassies and residences around the world, it also said.
Last year, Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie were criticised over the £200,000 redecoration of the Downing Street flat they live in with their son and dog.
The Cabinet Office paid £58,000 towards the makeover by designer Lulu Lytle last July, then millionaire Conservative peer and Tory donor Lord Brownlow was secretly asked to cover the cost before Mr Johnson then paid for it himself.
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