Agenda item

Review of street or building names and monuments in the Stroud district

The purpose of this report is to receive the recommendations of the Review Panel in the review of street or building names and monuments in the Stroud District.

Minutes:

The Chair of the Review Panel, Councillor Bennett, introduced the report and advised that since the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, the Council had committed to carrying out consultation with its communities and undertaking a review of any street and building names, statues and architectural features in the district that may have been considered offensive. They thanked the Review Panel for all of the work they had put into the review over the last 11 months. A public consultation had been launched in 2021 and over 1600 responses were received which helped the panel to compile the recommendations laid out in the report. The Review Panel had concluded, following the consultation, that the Blackboy Clock and Statue should not be on display in the public realm but should be redisplayed with detailed interpretation in a place that provided learning and education. The recommendation that Council was being asked to consider was to explore if removal of the statue could be achieved. Councillor Bennett also drew Members attention to the additional recommendations of the Review Panel.

 

Councillor Bennett invited some of the Review Panel Members, who attended the meeting, to give their thoughts.

 

Mr Guthrie, community representative on the Review Panel, highlighted the following:

·         They had written to the council in June 2020 regarding the clock

·         Thanked the Review Panel members, family and friends for support

·         They had taken the time to read through the 1600 responses and take on board what the consultations responses said.

·         Asked Members to think of the report as a series of starting points rather than an ending

·         The conversation about how the district could become more inclusive for everybody needed to continue.

 

Ms Hoskin, community representative on the Review Panel, highlighted the following:

·         Impressed by the thoroughness of Stroud District Council in conducting the public consultation and the processing of the results.

·         People were beginning to realise that diversity enriched communities.

·         Encouraged by the proposal of a task force that could implement some of the ideas.

 

Mr Butler, historian and member of Radical Stroud on the Review Panel, highlighted the following:

·         The conception of education should go beyond the demographic of youth.

·         Resources should be developed for community education in a variety of accessible ways, means and media.

·         Community education could strengthen community cohesion.

 

The chair thanked the Review Panel members.

 

Councillor Pearson raised concerns regarding the validity of the consultation results and whether it was a representative snapshot of views across the district. Councillor Bennett confirmed that based on the electorate for the district, which was around 96000, a representative sample would be 1,058 with a margin of error of 3%. The number of consultation responses received was above the numbers needed for a standard representative sample for the district.

 

In response to further questions from Councillor Pearson, Councillor Bennett confirmed that until January 2022 they believed that the residents of the building owned the clock and statue and they had consulted with them. However, it became apparent that the clock and statue had been put into a trust 20 years ago, they had contacted the trustees however they had not been able to respond and so they had been in contact with a member of their family instead.

 

CouncillorGreen asked whether Stroud Town Council had provided any funds to repair the clock and statue following an application for a grant. It was confirmed that they had received a grant from the Town Council.

 

Councillor Green also questioned whether a plaque should be provided on the building and a further consultation carried out once the contextual information had been added. This was so that the public could revaluate whether the information provided changed their views as to removal. Councillor Bennett advised that it was their plan to provide a plaque even if the clock and statue had not been removed but had received very strong responses in favour of removal.

 

In response to questions from Councillor Braun, Brown and Studdert-Kennedy the following was confirmed:

·         They wanted the communities to help shape any future community events or commemorations and that the task force would help to progress this work.

·         They were hoping that schools would be encouraged to use this as a way to educate pupils on the issues surrounding the Blackboy Clock and Statue and the task force would be engaging with communities.

·         The figure of £33.5k was for the relocation of the clock and statue and further information on the financials were included in the implications on page 78.

·         The plaque would not be placed on the building but would be placed nearby.

 

Councillor Sutton raised concerns over the removal of the clock and statue and stated that he had spoken to many people who thought it should remain in situ. Councillor Bennett reminded Members that they were not recommending that the statue was removed immediately but that they should pursue removal based on the results of the consultation.

 

Councillor Patrick asked questions regarding Blackboys Road in Dursley. Councillor Bennett confirmed that the recommendation was for a consultation to be carried out with the residents of the 8 houses in conjunction with Dursley Town Council and that a larger consultation had not been ruled out.

 

Proposed by Councillor Bennett and seconded by Councillor Cornell.

 

Councillor Pearson acknowledged the extensive work that had been carried out by the review panel but stated that the implications of the project had not been thought through and it had been poorly costed. He further stated that there was no guarantee that the statue would go to the Museum in the Park and that the consultation did not provide a true representation of the district. He stated that a more thorough consultation should take place.

 

Councillor Aldam advised that they understood the concerns regarding manipulating history or destroying it and provided reassurance that history didn’t change but how we see it could.

 

Councillor Jones stated that following Councillor Aldams’ statement he had been tempted to change his decision and thanked the Review Panel who had produced one of the most thorough pieces of work he had seen. He highlighted his concerns with the budget and the consultation results not being representative. He also drew Members’ attention to Historic Englands position which stated ‘parts of our heritage may confront us with aspects of our past which we now question, which may be associated with injustice and which may be painful. It is right that as a society we respond to such associations, but we believe that this is best done, not by removal, but by preservation, and responding to them in ways which can explain their context and prompt reflection”.

 

Councillor James thanked the Review Panel members and stated that we should be removing the statue and clock and put it into a museum as leaving it where it was would be a mistake. They stated that the statue and clock would not be erected now and therefore we needed to acknowledge that and remove it.

 

Councillor Turner stated that the finances were not exact at this point however they were confident the final figures would be robustly interrogated by the Section 151 Officer. They also confirmed that the majority of responses were in favour of removal and that the statue was not in its first home and had been moved previously, it therefore did not need to be the final location for the statue.

 

Councillor Evans queried whether a plaque could be included on the anti-slavery arch so that the good and bad sides of history were on display.

 

Councillor Braun reminded members of the statement that the political group leaders had released in 2020 condemning racism. They also stated that there had been many residents who had responded to the issue and that they need to listen to what people were telling them. They drew Member’s attention to page 102 and stated that if the recommendations were approved then they would proceed at every stage with community engagement.

 

Councillor Cornell commended Members for the level of respectful debate at the meeting and thanked the Review Panel for all their work. Councillor Cornell reminded Members of the anonymous email they had received prior to the start of the review. The email stated that the figurine wasn’t based on a specific individual but served as a monument to the commodification and later exotification of black bodies that emerged as a result of slavery and that the statue was symbolic of systemic racism. They stated that if all the recommendations were implemented their understanding of the past would be enriched, and would be enhanced.

 

Councillor Bennett confirmed that a robust process had been followed and that the recommendations would make a positive difference. They urged Members to vote in favour.

 

On being put to the vote, the Motion was carried with 26 votes in favour, 2 against and 12 abstentions.

 

RESOLVED               To

a) Thank the Review Panel for their contribution to this work; and

b) Accept all recommendations of the Review Panel outlined in section 4 of this report.

 

Councillor Crews and Councillor Pearson left the meeting and gave their apologies.

Supporting documents: