COUNCILS across the country are hoarding millions of pounds worth of publicly-owned works of art, an investigation has revealed.

Freedom of Information requests by Sky News to local authorities reveal many do not know how many pieces they have or how much they are worth.

In Newcastle, where the city council last year scrapped its £1.2m core arts grants as part of £100m savings, there are 10,000 costumes and textile pieces alone, with currently just three per cent of items on public display.

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Calls have been made for authorities facing austerity measures to sell some pieces to raise money.

Art critic Rachel Campbell Johnston said: “These works are lying around, unseen, in store rooms, gathering dust, costing money. Flog them off! Make the most of them and let’s hope that somebody somewhere can actually enjoy them.”

Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives said that large numbers of the city's art collection was rotated or loaned to other museums and that many items were held for study purposes only.

Jim Edwards, a Newcastle-based artist, said: “I definitely think that if there is stuff that they don’t need and will end up remaining in storage, it is probably quite a sensible decision to sell it on.

“I can’t see who would be upset by it. It seems sensible to sell on stuff that they are never going to have on their walls.”

Sky News asked ten authorities from across England to reveal what percentage of pieces were on public display, the total insurance value, and how many pieces have never been on public display.

Leeds City Council said it had no recorded information and no figures were available for Bradford Council.

Birmingham City Council's valuation was £235m but it refused to reveal which were the most valuable pieces in storage.

Liverpool and Bristol said their valuations were confidential. Manchester said the valuation for local authority artworks was £371m but along with Nottingham and Southampton it refused to allow Sky News access to film items in storage.

Bristol nine per cent of it's collection was on display while Sheffield put the figure at five per cent.