CLOSING an internationally renowned Southampton museum would take away a vital part of the city's identity, a leading archaeology expert said yesterday Professor Matthew Johnson, head of archaeology at the University of Southampton, said that the closure of the Museum of Archaeology at God's House Tower would be a huge loss to the city.

The Winkle Street museum, which displays artefacts from prehistoric, Roman, Saxon and medieval Southampton, appears in this year's list of proposed budget cuts.

The blueprint produced by the council's finance team would also see services slashed, council tax raised by five per cent and other service charges increased if it is agreed in February.

Professor Johnson said: "The museum is so much more than just another local museum - it is one of the top ten such collections in the country. When I moved to Southampton two years ago, one of the attractions was the city's reputation and track record in caring for its heritage - God's House Tower has a national and international reputation in this respect."

The council claims that closing the museum could save £55,000, but Professor Johnson said he remained unconvinced. He added: "I understand only too well the realities of budget cuts but I remain to be convinced that closure makes sense in terms of economic realities, and that closure will in fact yield the cost savings quoted.

"Southampton city council is rightly proud of its commitment to the rich heritage of the city and also to cultural institutions such as its museums. I urge the council to maintain and extend its commitment to the city's past and present and save this museum."

Southampton City Council said that no formal decision had been made on the proposed cuts.

The council is keen to consult members of the public about the proposals.