David Palethorpe

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Sekhemka Statue – Has a Sale Already Been Agreed?

Had the Conservatives already agreed the sale?

Sekhemka Statue – Has a Sale Already Been Agreed?

I was asked this morning by a supporter of Northampton Museums while campaigning in Parklands why the all party committee of councillors who investigated the decision to sell the Sekhemka recommended that the sale should go ahead.

The resident was really surprised when I said that it wasn’t a recommendation and said that she had been told by her local Councillor that the Cabinet had accepted the recommendation from the Committee following the “call in” of the original decision by the Borough Labour group.

It seems that once again the people of Northampton are being intentionally misled by the Northampton Conservatives.

The extract printed below is taken straight from the minutes of the meeting where the decision was taken by the Conservative Cabinet.

Report of the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny (Copy herewith)

Decision:

(1) Cabinet did not accept the first recommendation arising from the Call- In.

(2) Cabinet accepted the second recommendation to carry out further consultation with various stakeholders such as Friends of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, tourist/heritage groups and local users of the museums.

Minutes:

Councillor Matt Lynch, as the deputy Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committee presented a report on the recommendation of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee consideration of the Call in of the Cabinet decision relating to the disposal of the museum artefact. Councillor Lynch advised Cabinet that the Committee had taken evidence from a number of sources including the Call in authors, the relevant Cabinet member and Director authors and representatives from a number of interested groups.

Following the submission of all the evidence the Committee upheld the Call-in, in relation to reasons 2 and 5 as detailed below:

2 The Cabinet report says the proceeds of sale of the statue would be ‘entirely reinvested in the town’s cultural and heritage priorities, including the restoration of Delapre Abbey’. Much more clarification needs to be given, as this statement is very vague.

5 The Cabinet report says consultation is underway. The sale of the statue should only be considered once consultation has been completed. More consultation needs to be carried out with various stakeholders such as Friends of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, tourist/heritage groups and local users of the Museums.

The Chair reminded Members that there had been a debate at the Council meeting on 10th September when it was agreed that there would be further public consultation on how the proceeds from the sale could be used.

Councillor Eldred, as the relevant Cabinet Member, stated that he believed the statue was a lot lighter than had been raised by the public, but that it was not just the issue of supplying the case that was required to ensure the statues safety but staff hours and insurance. The statue had been in a vault for two years. The resulting revenue from a sale could be spent on a more important aspect such as museum expansion.

RESOLVED

(1) Cabinet did not accept the first recommendation arising from the Call- In.

(2) Cabinet accepted the second recommendation to carry out further consultation with various stakeholders such as Friends of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, tourist/heritage groups and local users of the museums.

What is very clear is that the Borough Conservatives in reaching their decision deliberately have omitted the words from the committee’s recommendation that,

”The sale of the statue should only be considered once consultation has been completed”.

and have shown that they had every intention to sell the statue irrespective of what the committee or public thought. What it also shows is that in accepting to consult with the Friends of Northampton Museums and the Art Gallery as well as the local users of the museums that when the groups said they hadn’t been consulted they were telling the truth and that claims from the Conservative Cabinet member responsible that they had been consulted with were false.

What this sorry episode of deliberate avoidance of the truth may lead too especially the possibility that Northampton Museums will lose the support from organisations that have supported them for decades, or worse still lose their accreditation only time will reveal.

Why did the Borough Conservatives say they had consulted with organisations when they clearly hadn’t? Who is telling the truth?

The other big question is why did the Conservative administration say they had consulted with all of the organisations when they clearly hadn’t and why go ahead with the sale before the consultation has been completed?

Perhaps the answer is as simple as that suggested to me by a member of the Museums supporters that the Northampton Conservatives didn’t realise the opposition there would be which was summed up by Cllr Eldred when he said “this isn’t from Northampton and adds nothing to the heritage of the town” and had already agreed the sale of the Sekhemka Statue even before they had made the official decision to sell it.

That would be the £2 million question, but wouldn’t it be amazing if following from what in effect would be a privately agreed sale the statue was to find itself in a public auction and fetch £3million, £4million or even more?

Sadly if this was the case, no-one in Northampton would be surprised.

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This entry was posted on October 16, 2012 by in Uncategorized.

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