Paying to the gallery to tune of £43 per visit

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Milton Keynes Gallery has been slammed as a waste of public cash just hours after it was awarded a major expansion grant via the government.

And the Citizen can reveal the prestigious arts facility is so heavily subsided that each of its 30,000 visitors last year COST £43.

This toll of £1.3 million a year makes it one of the least viable galleries in the UK and, according to the local Taxpayers’ Alliance group, a “black hole” for public money.

But leaping to the defence of its cultural value is Milton Keynes Council leader, Labour Councillor Pete Marland, who is a gallery director.

Though his group is chopping £22 million from this year’s council budget, MK Gallery’s £259,000 council grant will not be touched.

“I think ever city needs a cultural heart as well as an economic one. The gallery’s expansion will create jobs, investment and more people coming to MK,” he said.

In December Arts Council England granted £2.95 million towards the gallery’s£10 million expansion plan, which will double the exhibition space and add two independent cinemas.

The gallery receives annual arts council funding of around £400,000. It stages between four to five exhibitions a year but is involved in many community activities.

This week the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) announced the facility was one of ten projects in the region to share £46.7 million Local Growth Deal cash.

MK Gallery director Anthony Spira was “delighted”.

Local Taxpayers’ Alliance spokesman Andy Silvester was not so happy and branded the gallery a “vanity project”. He said; “This gallery is turning into a black hole for taxpayers’ money. The amount spent per visitor is ludicrous. Our money simply has to go to front-line essential services.”