Andrew Allison: The Toads of Hull

Here’s another one in the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ category.

This year is the 25th anniversary of Philip Larkin’s death. Why we want to celebrate someone’s death is something that has always puzzled me, but leaving this aside, Hull and the Philip Larkin Society want to do something ‘Larkin-esque’ this year, as Larkin was Librarian at the University of Hull.

What do you do though? Leaving people who have too much time on their hands to decide these matters can be dangerous, and unfortunately for the taxpayers of Hull, it is going to be very costly.

Two of Larkin’s famous poems are called Toads and Toads Revisited. Therefore one hundred fibreglass toads are going to be manufactured and placed around the city. If you desire, you can have a wander and try and find every one of them. No doubt the prize will be a toad in the hole in one of the city’s many watering holes.

The cost of all of this is £290,000; and £200,000 of this is coming from a grant from Hull City Council. This news has been revealed in a week when the council is asking the government for more money to repair Hull’s crumbling roads. Indeed the Hull Daily Mail  has worked out 3,500 potholes could be repaired for this money.

Just when you think you have come across all the ways taxpayers’ money can be wasted, someone comes up with something new. Not that Hull City Council is repentant. 

Councillor Rick Welton, Liberal Democrat cabinet member for regeneration, said the toads would attract visitors and publicity to the city during the Larkin festival, bringing in extra investment. He also said they would be used in schools as  curriculum projects promoting poetry and literature.  "Instead of looking at the negatives, I believe there are going to be a lot of positives from this," he said.

So next time you drive in Hull and you think the roads resemble those in Eastern Europe in former communist days, remember in the battle between toads and roads, the toads have won.

UPDATE: This decision has been reversed by Cllr Carl Minns, leader of Hull City Council. He told me on the phone that a council officer approved this grant without his knowledge. He was away at the weekend, attending the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, and this morning was the first chance he had to review this decision. He couldn’t justify spending £200k  of our money on such a project.

Well done, Cllr Minns. You have made the right decision. It’s good to see taxpayers’ money will not be wasted.


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