The most recent story on this is: Column Story
The money spent on it didn't just vanish, someone had to be paid to do all the work to actually make it, the item itself does exist, so the money did find its way back into the (local) economy, despite the end result never actually materialising.
It's seems that today the big shout out always seems to be that everything is a waste of money, that the money should have been spent on something better. Life is not about existing or how much money you can make/save, because in the end it doesn't matter.
If we sold all the parks for building land imagine how much we'd make, and with no upkeep just think of the savings. In return the local council can employ more street cleaners to tidy up the rubbish that people are too lazy to put in a bin, and more police to sort out the problems caused by the young who now have nowhere to go. The funds might then be swallowed up by the NHS costs as people don't go to the park to exercise or socialise, cricket and football clubs have nowhere to go and obesity rates continue to rise.
Every problem/action has to be looked at long term, and how it effects everything else, we've all seen that knee jerk quick fix solutions don't work well in the long run.
Having the same amount of money running around in one area won't work, it needs to grow, and the only way is to bring in funds from other areas, but there has to be a reason for people to spend it.
When we had the huge "puppets" there were cries then of how much it cost, and then the figures showed how much the spectators spent, which everybody benefits from.
Okay so the column of water/steam was a failure, and it ran a bit late for the Olympics it was meant to celebrate as well, but this doesn't mean that we shouldn't do the same again. It was Lottery money spent on this, not local government money. Lottery money is VERY specific, it's not to prop up local health services or supplement food supplies, that's what we pay, and complain about, our taxes for. If the Lottery were to change it just becomes a voluntary tax and each week a lucky tax volunteer gets to change their life, sounds very Orwellian to me.
Look around, see the trees and enjoy the "waste of money" spent on "art", because if someone listens, and stops spending, one day when everyone finishes their day job that everyone goes to, and arrives back to their one bedroom per person home that everyone has, the only way you'll see them is on repeat, and that is all you'll have, because anything new is a waste of money.