Northampton has been banned from the Museums Association (MA) for at least five years following the sale of an Egyptian statue.
The MA said Northampton Museums Service had breached its code of ethics by selling the ancient Sekhemka statue for £15.8m.
The council intends to use its share of the proceeds to fund a £14m extension of the museum. However a disciplinary panel ruled that the council had not demonstrated the sale of the statue was the ‘last resort’ for funding the development.
David Fleming, chair of the MA's ethics committee, said: ‘We do appreciate the huge financial pressure that many local authority museums are under at the present time, but the MA's Code of Ethics provides for such a sale only as a last resort after other sources of funding have been thoroughly explored.
‘At a time when public finances are pressured it is all the more important that museum authorities behave in an ethical fashion in order to safeguard the long-term public interest. Museums have a duty to hold their collections in trust for society. They should not treat their collections as assets to be monetised for short-term gain.’