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Effective from January 1, the premium, formerly set at 15% plus VAT will now adopt a staggered format charged at 17.5% plus VAT on the first £25,000 and 12.5% plus VAT thereafter.

Bruce Cairnduff, marketing director at TFAAG, said that the new charges – the highest in the country outside London – had been necessary for a number of economic reasons reflecting both the soft market for many standard items and the trend within the industry towards aggressive vendors’ charges.

However, he was keen to stress the gap that remains between charges in the country and charges in London, the quality of service provided by the specialists at both Dreweatt Neate rooms and the newly-acquired Neales and a new policy of realistic estimating that has kept lots in their rooms buyable.

Mr Cairnduff reported minimal negative reaction to the change at their first major sale of the year at Donnington Priory on January 12.

With a full year of Dreweatt Neate sales under their belt and the contribution of sales conducted by Neales since the acquisition in mid-November, the Fine Art Auction Group are now the dominant single force in the provincial saleroom scene.

Combined sales across their saleroom network for 2004 were £12.8m.