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Antony Gormley's iron men must be scrapped, demands Lib Dem candidate

Claim that beach sculptures costs £250,000 a year is denied by angry art experts

A prospective councillor in Merseyside has been condemned for talking "rubbish" after he denounced Antony Gormley's "iron men" as a waste of money and called for them to be scrapped.

Moulded from the Angel of the North sculptor's own naked body, the 100 cast iron statues face out to sea along a two-mile stretch of beach in Crosby and have become a leading attraction in the area.

But Jack Colbert, a Lib Dem candidate campaigning for a seat on Sefton council in a ward on the Crosby coast, argues that the statues have lost their appeal to tourists and are expensive to maintain.

"I say get rid of the iron men," Jack Colbert, from Seaforth, said last week. "Jobs and services are more important." He has claimed that the statues, erected in 2005 and titled Another Place, cost £250,000 a year to look after, an assertion denied by the council. "When services such as nursing homes and youth centres are closing due to lack of funding, how can I stand by and let them pay hundreds of thousands for art work," Colbert told the Crosby Herald.

"I sometimes park down by the beach and only ever see a few people down there," he said. "At first they were a novelty; now they are just draining much-needed money. Rather than spending money on metal people, we need to be thinking about real people."

Colbert's claims were countered by Sefton's deputy mayor, Labour's Paul Cummins. "What he said was absolute rubbish. I have spoken to people all over the country who have seen the iron men and really enjoyed them," Cummins said. "After these comments came out I went down to the sea to buy a sandwich and the car park was absolutely full because there were so many people having a look at them. It was also rubbish to say they cost us £250,000. In fact, it doesn't cost us any money. Gormley put something aside for us for that.

"I absolutely love them and my wife loves them. People dress them up and have fun and Gormley loves that too. We love seeing them in the different seasons and different lights. They are part of the community now."

A Conservative councillor for a neighbouring ward, Peter Papworth, has underlined the deputy mayor's defence of the statues: "There is simply no truth in the suggestion that £0.25m has been set aside for this purpose. In fact, not a single penny has been set aside.

"The reverse is actually the case. The deal with Mr Gormley was completed before I rejoined the council four years ago, but I gather that the artist deposited a capital sum with our planning department in case it should become necessary." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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