Not for the first time, a senior member of Croydon Council’s ruling Tories has been caught out, saying one thing when there is clear evidence to demonstrate the opposite is the case.
And as a consequence, Croydon has been accused by a senior public figure of “running away from facing its responsibilities”.
This time it is Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of the Conservatives who control the Town Hall, who has bleated – somewhat pathetically, it must be said – that Croydon Council was resigning from the Museums Association because they had only learned “through the media” of the summons to a disciplinary hearing over their unethical sale of 24 items of precious China from the publicly owned Riesco Collection.
Inside Croydon reported on the decision to hold the hearing on September 18 – nearly two weeks ago. Croydon Council announced its decision to quit the Museums Association late on Monday.
And according to the Museums Association, Pollard’s version of events is not correct. They have copies of the letters which they sent to Pollard and to the council’s executive who is in charge of this latest piece of politically inspired cultural vandalism, Paul Greenhalgh, to prove it.
It is not the first time on Riesco that Pollard has, shall we say, been “economical with the with the vérité”: he has repeatedly claimed that part of the reason for the sale was that the council could no longer afford the cost of insuring the collection. Yet a Freedom of Information request to Croydon Council revealed that they have not paid any insurance premiums on the priceless collection for at least five years.
Last month, a Museums Association’s sub-committee charged Croydon Council with a breach of its ethics code over the sale of part of the Riesco Collection. As a result, the council was to send representatives to a disciplinary hearing. The sanction facing Croydon if the charge was upheld would have been expulsion.
Only two local authorities have ever been ejected from the Museums Association in the past four decades. Not being accredited to the Museums Association renders almost impossible for Croydon to go to funding bodies, such as the Lottery Fund or Arts Council, to seek investment in future projects.
Pollard’s decision for Croydon Council to resign from the MA smacks of the actions of the man in the dock, who having been caught “bang to rights”, takes the advice of their “brief” and pleads guilty to the charge to avoid other damaging evidence emerging in court.
Any Museums Association hearing would have been certain to explore the secretive machinations by Croydon Council in trying to flog off the borough’s cultural heritage.
Maurice Davies, the MA’s head of policy and communications, said: “It’s unfortunate that Croydon Council is running away from facing its responsibilities.
“It’s also a shame that the council ignored letters we sent and didn’t take the trouble to look in detail at how our disciplinary regulations work before complaining about them.”
Pollard, together with his joint deputy leader of the council, Dudley Mead want to use the proceeds from the Riesco auction to pay towards the £27million commitment their council has made to the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls. Mead is also a senior member of the board of the Fairfield Halls.
The auction is due to take place in Hong Kong next month, in the expectation that China’s nouveau riche millionaires will pay top dollar for the historic pieces.
Hamida Ali, a member of the campaign to stop the Riesco sale, told Inside Croydon: “Museum collections belong to all of us. In Croydon, that principle has been broken. The council argues the profits will fund refurbishment of another venue but the move breaches both its own policies and the Museum Association’s code of ethics.
“The council flippantly argues that leaving the Museums Association means little more than losing its monthly subscription to Museum Journal. But the repercussions are far more significant. Few funders will invest in a local authority that takes its curative responsibilities so lightly. The council remains vulnerable to challenge from the Arts Council. If they remove the museum’s accreditation, it will be only the third museum in 25 years to face that censure.
Ali, who will be standing for Labour at the council elections next May, said, “The Tories don’t understand that these objects aren’t their property to sell. Our cultural heritage is worth more than just its market value.
“In Croydon the council has thought only about the financial windfall – not the impact on the collection. These assets aren’t in a piggy bank for raiding when times are tough – they’re on public display to be enjoyed, and to enrich us.”
- Arts Council chief says Croydon “short-sighted” on Riesco
- Council’s Mr & Mrs act that defies proper declarations
- Tired tribute acts represent poor value for £13m Riesco sale
- Riesco family opposes “unethical” china collection sale
Coming to Croydon
- Tea at Five at the Spread Eagle: Oct 2-4
- Minster’s musical celebration for Silver Sunday: Oct 6
- Rent at the Secombe Theatre: Oct 9-12
- Debate the future of arts in Croydon: Oct 10
- Stanley Lives – open day in South Norwood: Oct 12
- Lakes Playground group’s fundraising Zumba-ween: Oct 26
- PJ’s enterprising look at Black History Month: Oct 29
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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- Council warned over ceramics auction (bbc.co.uk)
- Riesco Collection at Croydon Museum (lineandwash.blogspot.com)
- Council faces massive compensation bill over housing failings (insidecroydon.com)