THE sale of 24 items from Croydon Council's prized Riesco collection of Chinese ceramics will take place in Hong Kong in November, auction house Christie's has announced.
The controversial sale is expected to raise between £9 million and £14 million and the council has said the money would go towards the £24 million refurbishment of Fairfield Halls.
News of the sale comes in the same week as the Museums Association's ethics committee has said the council will face disciplinary action over the sale proposals.
Council officials will now be asked to attend a disciplinary hearing to explain the reasons for the sale and if the authority is judged to be in breach of the association's code of ethics, it could face expulsion.
Councillor Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children, families and learning, has given short shrift to the threats from the association, also dismissing suggestions that the sale is taking place in Hong Kong to reduce tax burdens.
He said: "The fact is if the items are exported VAT is not payable. If they stay in this country then the necessary VAT will be paid."
Cllr Pollard said the items would go into a sale of other pieces of Chinese ceramics taking place on November 27.
It made sense, he said, to include the Riesco pieces in a specialist sale.
Cllr Pollard accepted expulsion from the Museums Association could damage the council's cultural reputation.
He added: "There are a number of people who care very passionately about this collection and feel the sale is the wrong thing to do. I understand that.
"But when you talk to ordinary Croydonians, they either don't know about the collection or when they find out keeping it will cost council taxpayers £1 million a year say 'why on earth would you keep it?'"
Councillor Timothy Godfrey, Labour opposition culture spokesman, said: "Expulsion from the Museums Association would cut Croydon's cultural reputation to pieces."