London politician accused of “snooping round” Kirklees

Francis Bacon's Figure Study II, dubbed the "Batley Bacon" and thought to be worth upwards of �20m, is on the council's list of assets.
Francis Bacon's Figure Study II, dubbed the "Batley Bacon" and thought to be worth upwards of �20m, is on the council's list of assets.

A conservative councillor in London laughed off suggestions at a “capitalist takeover” in Kirklees.

Harry Phibbs, a member of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, submitted a Freedom of Information request to Kirklees Council recently asking for a list of its artworks.

Coun Phibbs, who is also a journalist on the London Evening Standard, insisted this was for a research project, but a post on the Kirklees Labour blog, accused him of “snooping round”.

It read: “What’s going on here? Harry Phibbs a conservative councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham is snooping round Kirklees asking for a full list of all our assets and art works. Is this a Capitalist bid for a take over.”

Coun Phibbs said he had sent the request to numerous councils across the country.

“It is for a research project that is not finished yet,” he added. “So obviously I am a bit limited with what I can say about it.

“The project is being used to find out the type of assets local councils have and how many of these assets are in storage. Some people may be interested if they have a council with millions of pounds worth of art in storage.

“It will all become clear when the research is published.”

Coun Phibbs said he hoped to publish the work within the next couple of months, but denied this had anything to do with the upcoming General Election.

Heckmondwike councillor and Kirklees cabinet member coun Steve Hall confirmed councillors responded by sending a Freedom of Information request back to Hammersmith and Fulham Council asking for a similar list of their artworks and assets.

He added: “He was wanting to know what art works Kirklees Council has, and that does seem a little bit strange for a councillor in London.

“We have been getting a lot of strange FOI requests recently – one of them asked how many councillors have a grit bin outside their house.”