PAINTINGS donated to the people of Batley should not be sold off to boost council coffers, an art buff has claimed.
Lesley Hirst, 84, spoke out after Kirklees chiefs confirmed they are looking at putting some artworks on the market.
Tory deputy leader Coun David Hall cited examples like a sketch by JMW Turner languishing in storage.
One piece, Figure Study II by Francis Bacon was donated to Batley Art Gallery in 1952 by the Contemporary Art Society and could now be worth at least £19m.
Retired decorator Mr Hirst, of Northorpe, Mirfield, thinks the Turner sketch is among six items donated by Batley-born Tory MP Sir Marcus Fox.
He claimed Sir Marcus, of the family that founded Fox’s Biscuits, gave them to Batley Borough Council in the 1960s.
The sextet, he said, were on show at the town hall but taken to Huddersfield after the creation of Kirklees.
Mr Hirst said: “I don’t think anything should be sold without the families of those who donated them being asked.”
He added he would prefer they were not sold and said: “These artworks don’t belong to Kirklees. They were given to the people.”
Kirklees has about 3,000 works last valued at more than £30m, of which just 15 per cent is on display.
Coun Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal) proposed selling a fraction of these to raise £600,000 for council funds.
As part of that he wants the collection re-valued and an inventory completed to see what can be kept or sold.
A council report in May 2012 said some items are subject to legally-binding covenants preventing their sale.
The Francis Bacon piece is protected by such a covenant and is also regarded as one of the most important works in the collection.
The report added: “Figure Study ll is a very significant painting which is regularly requested for international art exhibitions.”