Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Presentation (on behalf of Sue Edwards) by Judith Hodgkinson to Full (Northampton Borough) Council re Proposed Sale of Sekhemka 2nd June 2014

Judith Hodgkinson, Lecturer, previously employed in Northampton’s Museum Service for 32 years.

The Chair of the Save Sekhemka Action Group, Gunilla Loe, is not absent because of the undue intimidation which has been directed at her, but because she is unavailable tonight.
You are all aware of the background to the proposed sale of Sekhemka on 10th July at Christie’s Auction House in London.

Making a legal case for the sale came after the decision to sell.

Every major museum and arts body opposes the sale on the grounds that it is unethical.  

Should the sale go through, it is almost certain that our Museum will lose Accreditation – the professional equivalent of being struck off – and will not be entitled to any future grants from which it has benefited to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of pounds in the past.

So far NBC has spent over £40,000 to override the 4th Marquis of Northampton’s apparently       watertight deed drawn up for the benefit of local people. 

Councillor Mackintosh says this sale is legal but refuses to show any member of the public the new documentation or agreement drawn up between NBC and the Marquis.  Christie’s response is quote ‘Northampton Borough Council believe they have full title, however, following legal discussions with Lord Northampton an agreement has been reached’ end of quote.  When did the word ‘believe’ become a legal term to use with regard to ownership, and if ownership were clear, why would it need to be a joint agreement?    

The Action Group has asked for the documents to be scrutinized by a qualified legal expert but Councillor Mackintosh refuses.  He also refuses to answer many of our legitimate questions and refers us to Freedom of Information, which still results in unanswered questions or answers extensively redacted. If the new documentation is legal, why all the secrecy?

The sale should be stopped or at the very least postponed for further enquiries as to legality.  Is it appropriate morally and ethically for a public body, charged with proper guardianship of the public purse, to act in this manner?  

The recent announcement in the Chronicle and Echo shows plans for a museum extension costing £14 million.  Even if the sale were to go ahead, if the Council is no longer eligible for grants, where will the rest of the money come from?   

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