WILTSHIRE Council has been accused of hoarding more than 2,000 works of art and failing to put them on public display.

The Taxpayers' Alliance, a grassroots campaign group, says Wiltshire has 2,099 artworks hidden from the taxpayers who own them.

Its research has revealed councils throughout the UK have an art collection worth nearly £1.9 billion but only a third of council-owned art is on public display.

Cllr Richard Clewer, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for heritage and arts said: “The 2099 items mentioned are actually school learning resources, including ceramics, tapestries, screen prints and framed pictures which we actively share with schools to help with learning.

“We do have displays of art in a number of our locations, for example a piece by artist Tania Kovats in the Atrium at County Hall, and three pieces of art on temporary display in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

" The Young Gallery in Salisbury, a separate trust, also has some of its art collection on display in rooms at County Hall.

“The three pieces of art were purchased through a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded project called Collecting Cultures.

"Wiltshire Council as part of this wider fund has purchased 11 artworks including prints, photographs, puppetry and ceramics for its archive collection held at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre (WSHC).

"Independently-run accredited museums in Wiltshire hold most of the artworks from this project

“Anything held at WSHC in our archives is accessible to the public free of charge. It is not work that can readily be displayed, but held in our archives in the correct environmental conditions and is produced on demand, usually within 30 minutes of the request – no appointment required.”

Darwin Friend, researcher at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "With council tax hammering hard-working families, town hall art aficionados should question whether hidden collections of costly artworks deliver value for taxpayers.

"Of course there are instances where councils have been donated art or are forbidden from selling, but surely town hall leaders ought to be making the most of what they have by putting as much on display as practically possible for residents to enjoy?

"Some councils are able to maximise value for money by maintaining collections which are small enough to be displayed for the enjoyment of the public at all times.

"Other local authorities hoarding their own mystery masterpieces should be following in their footsteps."