An attempt to have City of Culture cash spent across County Durham, rather than on the revival of a military museum has failed.

Durham MPs have called £125,000 which the borough will receive after finishing as runner-up to Bradford for City of Culture 2025 to go towards the revival of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Museum.

Labour councillors have called for the money to be distributed across the county rather than focused on a city "vanity project".

At a Durham County Council meeting, members of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat-Independent joint administration rejected the opposition's proposal as "ridiculous" and "time wasting", saying it was not their money to spend.

Read more: Row over Durham City of Culture cash and DLI Museum

Labour's Councillor Alison Batey put forward the motion to distribute the £125,000 award, plus £15,000 from council reserves, to 14 area action partnerships (AAPs) amid the cost of living crisis affecting people's budgets.

She said: "It is important that the whole of County Durham benefits from this runners-up payment when it is finally awarded.

"Every area sees culture in a different way.

"We need to be mindful that it is not just about what goes on in our city.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Alison Batey. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr Alison Batey. Picture: Durham County Council.

"It is about ensuring we create and support ventures in all our localities across the county where we can, and the award of this money gives us the means to start that process."

She said it would ensure "no one in the county is disadvantaged by where they live, thus enabling communities, people and organisations that give so much to our rich cultural offer some sort of benefit and support for their hard work".

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said it was not for MPs or the council to decide what happens to the money.

She told councillors: "The £125,000 has been awarded to the (Culture Durham) partnership that put the bid in the first place.

"So although it might be in our bank account at some stage, it will not be ours to make a decision about.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Elizabeth Scott. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Elizabeth Scott. Picture: Northern Echo.

"Discussions are already well underway within the partnership, which is made up of people from around the county, and I believe that partners are moving forward.

"It would not be in the spirit of partnership for this council to try and dictate what that partnership does."

She said AAPs were already under great pressure: "They can't get through the cash that they've got so to add this to their burden would not be a welcome move.

"Regrettably I can't go for this. It isn't within the council's gift to decide."

Deputy Labour group leader Cllr Rob Crute said: "It's not a diktat. It's a proposal from the council on behalf of the people we represent that the partnership use this money for the way it was intended.

"It was a county-wide bid and any benefit from that should be spread county-wide as well."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Rob Crute. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Rob Crute. Picture: Northern Echo.

Fellow Labour member Cllr Maura McKeon said: "This seems to me to be the best way to guarantee that every part of the county gets its fair bite of the cherry.

"It just seems like a way of making all of the residents of the community feel like they're part of this process in a way they maybe haven't done so far, and for us all to celebrate together."

Others spoke against the motion. Liberal Democrat cabinet member Cllr Mark Wilkes said: "We'll be investing hundreds of millions of pounds across every part of this county over the next few years.

"And we're sat here arguing over 25p per elector. These are the kind of reasons why you guys got chucked out of power. It's just ridiculous."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Mark Wilkes. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Mark Wilkes. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

Independent Cllr Paul Sexton said: "Nothing has been agreed. It isn't our money at this moment in time."

Conservative Cllr Patricia Jopling said: "This to me is just time-wasting."

Cllr Batey's motion fell as councillors voted 52-49 against it.


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