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Campaign to force u-turn over Riesco sale persists

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FRESH attempts are being made to force Croydon council into a rethink of its decision to sell off part of its Riesco collection of Chinese ceramics.

Labour councillors were furious when they were told last week that the sale of 24 of the most valuable items of the collection was not a key decision, because it did not involve council spending of more than £1million.

They wanted it ruled as a key decision so it be could be subjected to examination by the council's scrutiny committee.

When the council first announced its intention to sell the pieces, it suggested the sale could raise £13million.

The corporate services committee was told the intention was to use much of the proceeds for a refurbishment of Fairfield Halls.

This week, Labour's shadow cabinet member for culture, Councillor Timothy Godfrey has written to borough solicitor Julie Belvir, reopening the expenditure question.

Cllr Godfrey said: "I believe auction house commission fees for selling the items could be ten per cent or higher, and that would cost the council at least £1million.

"I am therefore asking whether, when these fees are taken into account, the sale should now be a key decision."

The council's decision has also come under fire from David Anderson, president of the Museums Association. He said the decision "threatens not just its own reputation but that of the museum sector as a whole."

"It would undermine the widespread public trust in museums," he added.

Mr Anderson suggested it could lead to Arts Council England taking away the Croydon Museum's accredited status, and that the Museums Association would now have to consider disciplinary action and expelling Croydon from the association.

At last week's meeting, Paul Greenhalgh, the council's executive director for children, families and learning, anticipated the move.

He said if it lost its accreditation, the museum would still be able to function and the council would gain "the bigger prize" of having a large cultural investment which would benefit more people.


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