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Calls for inquiry into claims over art sell-off
CONTROVERSIAL plans to sell off some of Southampton’s prestigious art collection are at the centre of calls for an investigation.
It comes after council bosses originally claimed it would be unlawful to sell of any of the works of art.
Now Tory Cllr John Hannides wants an inquiry into claims made by Cllr Warwick Payne, the former Cabinet member of leisure services at Southampton City Council, and former Labour leader Richard Williams selling any of the city’s £150m collection would be illegal.
But Cllr Payne has hit back by adding he always had a “pragmatic approach” to the future of the collection, reiterating his stance that any sale needs to benefit the Chipperfield Trusst which oversees the collection.
On Saturday the Daily Echo revealed that city council bosses have written to the Government asking ministers to relax rules which they say currently forbid them from selling items from the 4,000-piece collection.
Cllr Hannides said: “I suspect the position that was taken previously by Warwick Payne was indicative of the position that the then leader took.
“I think it was convenient for them to say that it was unlawful to sell art.
“At a recent council meeting I raised that point and Cllr Payne’s clarification was to say it’s unlawful to sell art to spend on any projects that the council felt like, such as roads.
“I think there should be an investigation. I have suggested the same in previous council meetings.”
But Cllr Payne said he does not see grounds for an investigation.
He said: “The situation is simple. The leader of the council has written to the Culture Secretary Maria Miller to ask if there is any legal position to selling art. Nothing has changed.
“However, we are urging the Government to look at what can be done with the art collection and that is why we have sought clarification. One of the points that Cllr Hannides forgets is that I happened to say I was pragmatic on the art collection. I didn’t go into it with a view of selling art or protecting it.
“I wanted to find out as much as anyone what the legal situation was.”
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