Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman may sell off �20m Henry Moore sculpture

A Henry Moore sculpture belonging to the people of London’s East End thought to be worth up �20 million could soon be up for auction.

The unique artwork by Britain’s leading sculptor of the 20th century has been languishing in a field in Yorkshire for 15 years.

Its fete is being discussed on Wednesday by Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman and his cabinet as an asset which could to be sold off.

He wants to use the cash for “local heritage projects” and schemes including “improving opportunities and prospects for youngsters.”

But the move has angered some council members accusing the mayor of trying to sell off the East End’s heritage.

Opposition Tory group leader Peter Golds told the Advertiser: “It’s absolutely outrageous to sell Henry Moore’s sculpture which was a gift to the people.

“The mayor wants to use the proceeds for his favoured organisations run by friends and cronies.”

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It was the Tory group that discovered the artwork’s whereabouts two years ago when a Freedom of Information inquiry revealed it had been packed up and sent off to Yorkshire Sculpture Park 200 miles away.

The council passed a motion in 2010 to consider options for its return. These options are in a report being discussed on Wednesday.

Costs of adequate protection if the sculpture could be relocated to a public site are said to be “prohibitive.” The money would have to be diverted from essential services, the Town Hall points out.

Mayor Rahman said last night (Friday): “If returning the sculpture is not a realistic option, we need to seriously consider selling it.

“We’re faced with a stark choice in these times of recession—whether to keep this valuable sculpture in Yorkshire, or try selling it to release funds to invest in local heritage projects, affordable housing, improving opportunities and prospects for our young people and keeping our community safe.”

The report identifies “serious risk of damage and theft” if the 1.5 tonne sculpture was to be erected in Victoria Park or Mile End Park.

Cllr Rania Khan, cabinet member for Culture, said: “It is only due government cuts having to reduce our spending by �100 million that we are considering selling the statue.”

But Opposition Conservatives suggest the Town Hall negotiates with Canary Wharf Group which might be prepared to give Moore’s ‘Draped Seated Woman’ a safe haven.