Page last updated at 19:33 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Southampton authority criticised over art sell-off bid

After the Race, oil on canvas, by Alfred Munnings (1878  1959). Copyright Tate, 2009
Sir Alfred Munnings' After the Race was due to be sold (Copyright: Tate)

A council has been criticised by the Charity Commission over its plan to sell off art work in order to raise £5m to help fund a new Titanic museum.

Southampton City Council had planned to sell work by French sculptor Auguste Rodin and British painter Sir Alfred Munnings but later dropped the idea.

The commission noted the council's conflict of interest as trustees of the work and the decision-making authority.

The council said it would review a letter sent by the commission.

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BBC South Political Editor Peter Henley, who obtained a copy of the commission's judgement on the dropped proposal, said: "It said [the council] should have been much more clear and transparent about the conflict of interest."

It said as the paintings were bequests the authority did not have the right to sell them all at will.

The commission also said in future the council had to consult experts before deciding to sell gifts.

Southampton Save our Collection Group outside Southampton's civic centre
Campaigners held a protest outside the city's civic centre

Councillor John Hannides said: "We are now reviewing the letter they have sent so we can respond appropriately."

It is planned that the heritage museum will open in 2012 for the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated Titanic voyage and will form part of a new cultural quarter in the city.

The council now hopes to raise funds by selling land and forming partnerships.

When the plans to sell art work were announced, critics of the move held a protest and handed in a petition.

The Southampton art collection is valued at £180m.

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