SHOULD Southampton’s city artwork be sold off? That’s the big question that will be debated at a special event in Southampton next month.

The City Art Gallery will fittingly be the venue for the Big Debate event at 5pm on March 6.

Two sides will fiercely debate the subject of selling off parts of the 4,000-piece collection, and you can have your say too.

One the one side, Daily Echo editor-in-chief Ian Murray and Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts will argue the merits of selling art to fund vital projects in the city.

The Daily Echo has long argued for a better use of some of the largely-hidden collection, through the Show Us The Monet campaign.

The previous Conservative administration at the council had been keen to sell off art, and current Labour leader Cllr Letts had wanted to sell off some pieces to fund the £21m arts complex.

His plans were halted by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, who said they could suffer harsh financial penalties if they did so.

Opposing Mr Murray and Cllr Letts will be Liz Goodall from the Chipperfield Advisory Committee, which advises the council on the art collection, and Maurice Davies, director of the Museums Association.

They are among figures to have argued that the artwork is a precious cultural resource which should not be sold to fund civic works.

Much of the collection was originally bequeathed by a former alderman.

The debate will be chaired by Gareth Lewis, from Southampton-based PR firm Carswell Gould.

He said: “This is a powerfully emotive issue that is being followed closely by local authorities and museums across the UK. Southampton is very much a test case, so this is a debate with the potential to create ripples across the entire country.

“Our speakers are the key players at the very heart of the debate. We are giving them the platform to make their case so our audience and the whole city can make up their own minds. We expect a lively, combative evening in the inspiring surroundings of the very artworks whose future is on the block.

“This is just the first of a series of must-attend events designed to help the city take a big step forward on some of its most pressing issues.”

Mr Murray said: “I’m really looking forward to the debate.

“The Daily Echo has been championing the selling off of some small part of the art collection for several years. It makes sense to use this asset to benefit arts and culture in the city instead of placing extra debt on its residents. I am certain it will be a lively debate.”

You can attend the event by emailing bookings@business or calling 023 8068 2520.

Tickets cost £20 plus VAT for Business South champions, £30 plus VAT for Business South associates and £40 plus VAT for other delegates.