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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 11:01 GMT
Assembly defends modern art spend
The assembly debating chamber is currently under construction
The assembly debating chamber is currently under construction
The cost of the modern art which will be shown in the new Welsh assembly's debating chamber in Cardiff Bay has been defended by the presiding officer.

Around 300,000 is being spent on four pieces of modern art to decorate the new building currently being built.

Assembly Conservative leader Nick Bourne said the money should be spent on public services instead.

But Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said it was money well spent enhancing the landmark building in Cardiff Bay.

It was announced in May that four artists had been commissioned to create modern artworks for the debating chamber.

Among the pieces is a blue and a gold glass dome which will rise out of the debating chamber's floor and a sculpture consisting of 44 slate slabs which will form a public seating area outside the entrance.

Model of debating chamber (Pic from Welsh assembly)
A glass dome will be in the centre of the chamber

There will also be a "wind hedge" made up 32 glass plates for one corner of the building and another display of 600 fabric-covered acoustic absorption panels.

Mr Bourne said the art represented a waste of money when there were paintings in storage at the National Museum of Wales because there was no room to display them.

His party has opposed the cost of computer equipment, furniture and art at the site, and also the escalation in the building cost of the chamber itself to almost 60m.

"The cost of these works of art beggars belief when you of think of the paintings gathering dust at the National Museum, said Mr Bourne.

"It is a monument to Rhodri Morgan's assembly waste when we should be tackling deep-seated problems in Wales such as health and education."

'Landmark building'

But Lord Elis-Thomas has said the modern art commissions, which have been commissioned by an independent firm of consultants, were an "integral part of the structure of the building".

His spokesperson said the four artists chosen "worked closely with the architects and the building contractors".

Slate sculpture (Pic from Welsh assembly)
Slate slabs will extend from the front of the building

The spokesperson added: "The senedd (parliament) will be a landmark building for the whole of Wales and it's important that the art in the building is also world class.

"The cost of the art is a very small part of the overall cost of the building and is money well spent in ensuring that the art complements and enhances the building."

An assembly government spokesperson added that the new building - which will be signed over to the assembly in September - was progressing within budget.

"Within the overall project cost of 59.5 million there has only been a small increase in the construction costs - from 41m to 41.5m," the spokesperson said.

"The remainder of the overall cost figure is accounted for by VAT, professional fees, budgets for furniture, ICT media facilities and art."

The spokesperson added the building had a 100-year lifespan which represented "good value for money".

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