The fall out from the sale of the Egyptian Statue of Sekhemka by Northampton Borough Council and the Marquis of Northampton may be continuing to inflict collateral damage on the reputation of Northampton Council and its Leader, Councilor David Mackintosh. It has been reported by the Arts Newspaper that the Heritage Lottery Fund has turned down a £240,000 grant application by Northampton Borough Council and the London College of Fashion to enhance the boot and shoe collection at Northampton Museum. As a result speculation is growing that the decision is one of the first results of the decision by Arts Council England to remove Accredited Museum status from Northampton Museums and Galleries and the subsequent decision of the Museums Association Ethics Committee to expel the Council for five years. Actions which it is suggested would limit the Council’s access to public and lottery finding.
Appearing on the 3 November edition of the BBC Radio Northampton Drive Time programme Museums Association Ethics Panel Chair David Fleming told presenter Dan Chisolm, “It is quite clear to me that what Northampton Council were warned about is at risk of coming to pass which is that people won’t trust them to spend public money.” Mr Fleming was responding to a statement given to the programme by Northampton Borough Council which suggested that the bid to the “Collecting Cultures” fund failed because the fund was over subscribed. Observers of the workings of the Heritage Lottery Fund point out that the two views are not mutually exclusive. Many HLF funding streams are oversubscribed and HLF’s officers and adjudication panels will use a number of criteria to come up with a short list of eligible bids and eliminate others.
Critics of the Sekhemka sale would now suggest that the true cost of the sale is mounting up and that to the £40,000 plus spent on legal fees to facilitate the sale, the sellers premium paid to commercial auctioneers Christie’s on the £15.8 million sale and the £6 million pounds from the proceeds of the sale given to the Marquis of Northampton, can be added the £240,000 of the failed HLF bid. Meanwhile the Museums Association are due to hold a summit of funding bodies with a view to toughening up the regulatory and monitoring regime for museums with a view to preventing another local authority or museum body attempting to follow NBC in cashing in its museum collection on the commercial auction market.