A firm decision to axe the work Horses at Bradford Industrial Museum was actually taken months ago by Bradford Council, it has now emerged.

Any consultation which has been taking place since the authority’s budget-making process in February has been over the future of four members of staff – and not the two Clydesdale horses Murdoch and Darcy, bosses have admitted.

Talks have been continuing about where the horses will go when they leave the museum, but not over whether the pair can be given a reprieve.

The confirmation by the Council will come as a blow to visitors to the Eccleshill museum, many of whom have been fighting to save Murdoch and Darcy in a belief that their future was out for consulation.

A public campaign began in earnest two months ago and the Telegraph & Argus then reported a statement from Council bosses that a consultation process had just begun over “a proposal to find a new home for the two working horses” at the museum.

Now those same bosses have admitted what was referred to as a “proposal” was in fact a firm decision made months earlier.

Tony Stephens, the Council's assistant director for culture and tourism, has now said: “The decision to close the Horses at Work unit was taken in February to save £126,000 and we are currently trying to find appropriate homes for the horses.

“Subsequent consultation has been about jobs in the unit. There are four full time staff but casual staff have been helping out due to sickness.

“Difficult decisions have had to be made following the Governement's Comprehensive Spending Review and the retirement of the horses from the Industrial Museum is part of £80 million savings the Council has to make over the next two years.”

A petition containing more than 1,500 signatures has been collected by campaigners trying to save the horses and pupils at Allerton Primary School presented a package of posters and letters to the Council urging leaders to spare the museum’s two working horses.