Dundee councillor turns down V&A invitation because of ward’s “deprivation”

© DC ThomsonLochee councillor Charlie Malone.
Lochee councillor Charlie Malone.

A Dundee councillor has turned down an invitation to the V&A opening ceremony to stand with those of his constituents who live in poverty.

Lochee councillor Charlie Malone will not be attending the grand opening of the £80.1 million museum on September 15.

While insisting the decision is not a “snub” and wishing the museum the best of luck, the Labour councillor said the decision was made to show not everyone in the city will be able to enjoy the V&A.

Mr Malone said: “As a councillor in a ward that suffers from areas of multiple deprivation — where poverty affects one in three children — I cannot indulge.

“Many of my constituents will never be able to afford to take their families to visit the exhibitions, nor indeed, the bus fare. In the last few months, I have met people who did not have enough money to feed themselves or their kin properly because of the grinding consequences of austerity.

“Poverty is not a lifestyle, it‘s a punishment for the weakest for the failure of others.

“I was brought up in poverty so I know what it is like to be miss out on things like this.”

Mr Malone also cited as a reason for rejecting the invitation, elderly people who, “in spite of a lifetime of contribution”, have been left “stranded” by a depleted bus service.

He said: “This generation who helped build the city will struggle to engage in its current ‘renaissance’ as a consequence of real or perceived isolation.

“Then there are those for whom everyday life is a fight just to survive: inadequate housing, mental health, drugs driven anti-social behaviour, the list goes on.

“I sincerely hope the Waterfront project will succeed and the V&A prospers but, whilst poverty leads inevitably to the economic isolation of hundreds of my constituents from it, I cannot bring myself to indulge in the celebration.

“I am not critical of those councillors who will be involved. I will celebrate when socially inclusive Dundee is a reality.”

Mr Malone said he will visit the V&A “in my own time” but not in an official capacity.

The decision comes after news of anti-poverty protests planned for the build-up to the opening.

Unite the Community Tayside is planning a series of protests across the city in the run-up to the museum’s opening and on the day.

A spokesman said: “Banners will draw the attention to the shocking level of child poverty, food bank usage, benefit problems, low wages and drug deaths in the city.

“Anticipating attempts to restrict and limit our rights to so demonstrate, the banners will be raised in areas of the city associated with poverty in the build up to opening and we call for the fullest support for our protests.”