SOME of Southampton’s art collection could be sold off to fund £1.4m repair work at the City Art Gallery, the Daily Echo can reveal.

The gallery has a leaking roof and an out-of-date air conditioning system which desperately needs to be replaced.

But city council chiefs have refused to fund the work from the cash-strapped authority’s central budget.

Instead they could be forced to sell items from the city’s largely-hidden, £150m collection as a “last resort” to pay for the work if other funding bids fail.

But the Daily Echo can reveal that the plan by Labour civic bosses to sell some of the works to also help fund the £21m art complex for the city has suffered a major blow.

Yesterday it was revealed that a plea to the Government to relax tough rules around selling public art had fallen on deaf ears.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey has refused a written request from city bosses to sell off items from the 4,000-piece collection to pay specifically for the art complex, without suffering major financial penalties.

At a full meeting of the city council yesterday, leader Simon Letts said the letter confirmed that the council remained bound by the same conditions of the Arts Council.

That means the city would lose its accreditation and it would be stopped from applying for grants in the future.

The news came as the Daily Echo continues its Show us the Monet campaign, which has pushed for a better use of the collection, most of which is hidden away in vaults and not seen by the public.

Council bosses had wanted the freedom to sell non-core collection artwork such as Rodin’s Crouching Woman and Sir Alfred Munning’s After the Race to partly fund the city’s £21m arts complex without fear of sanctions.

Labour leader Simon Letts has said he would also consider the sale of art to repair the roof of the gallery’s West Wing which is leaking and replace the air conditioning system serving the entire gallery which has reached the end of its service life. Council officers have estimated that work would cost up to £1.38m.

But at a time when the cashstrapped council has announced £13.5m of cuts and the loss of almost 100 jobs in 2013/14, repair work cannot be funded by the council.

Cllr Letts said: “We intend that by working with the Museums Association and Arts Council England we can raise new funds to repair the roof.

“We are reasonably confident that we would be able to obtain funding from the Heritage Lottery and other similar sources.

“But as a last resort we would look at selling art.

“We would aim to ensure those pieces of art sold would be publicly-viewed, so for example the Tate Gallery could buy a piece from us and then show it in London.”