Has the District Council lost its head?

June 12, 2020 7:00 PM
By Peter Dobbs

Emergency Committee responds to removal of 'Black's Head' Blacks Head (BBC)

Following a question by Cllr Claire Raw at the meeting of the District Council Emergency Committee (put in place to allow input by Councillors to Council decision making during the pandemic), DDDC Chief Executive Paul Wilson said, "I can reassure members that the part of the sign structure that was removed [the Black's Head] is now back in the Council's possession in safe storage." A further clarification requested by Cllr Clare Gamble revealed that it was returned by 4pm on Thursday 11th June, almost 3 days after it had been taken down.

Cllr Gamble also requested a review into the way that the Council had handled what she described as a predictable problem, following the two petitions - one seeking the removal of the head (63,000 at the time of writing) and one seeking its retention (8,700). She said "We do really need a review into how these events unfolded and how we got into a situation where 150 people gathered in defiance of social distancing, with no PPE, some of them committing the criminal offence of obstruction of the highway whilst breaching safety guidelines on the use of ladders, all this to steal council property. I understand that the council has had to negotiate to get this back.

"This review has to look into who was involved - were Councillors involved and who took the decisions" [to allow the artifact to be removed].

Cllr Paul Cruise (Lib Dem) added that he thought that as a council they needed to be pro-actively anti-racist and wondered if there was anything else in the District Council's inventory that could be as provocative [as the Black's Head]. He hoped that the decision over the destination for this item would come back to a full meeting of the District Council and would follow a broad consultaion, including from minority groups.

He endorsed the request for a review and emphasised the need for it to be independent. Cllr Cruise said, "This is not about us looking at ourselves. We need to get some fresh eyes into our organisation to see how we are operating and how we are behaving."

In response to these requests Chief Exceutive Paul Wilson indicated his willingness to put in place arrangements to secure such a review and indicated that its report would come back to Council within 6 months. The Council meeting can be viewed on YouTube.