Saturday 8 October 2016

Still no fly zone at County Hall - The Carmarthenshire Herald

This week's Carmarthenshire Herald reports again on the mysterious business of the Council's flag flying habits. Of particular interest over the past year or two has been the reluctance to fly the Rainbow flag, the universal symbol of support for diversity and inclusion for LGBT rights and which flutters from most civic buildings during Pride celebrations.

Rainbow Flag at Llanelli Police Station

Despite the council appearing in the rankings of Stonewall as a LGBT employer, back in February 2015, requests to fly the flag by the council's own diversity group were refused. The final say resting with the chief executive. The council chose to fly the Duke of York's flag instead, in honour of his birthday (the Duke of York's, not the chief executive's...I think).

Moving forward to August this year and after the flag failed to appear again, the Herald made some enquiries and discovered that there were 'procedures' about flag flying. Indeed, Herald columnist Cadno also made some interesting observations, covered on this blog here.

The article prompted a freedom of information request to enquire about the council's policy on flags and when such a policy was adopted by council. The response stated that a policy had been adopted on July 10th 2015.

Having studied, in detail, all published agendas and minutes around that time neither the Herald, nor I for that matter, could spot any reference to a 'flag policy' being referred to councillors for approval, or even endorsement.

One of the earlier reasons given for refusing to fly the rainbow flag was that County Hall was besieged with 'so many' flag flying requests from groups, it chose not to fly any.

On that basis the FOI request also asked for some numbers. How many requests were made before the policy? How many were made after?

The answer to the first was 'We do not hold the information', so presumably they, if there were any, went straight into the Presidential Pedal Bin. And after? There had been two, both rejected. One was from CEMTA, (Community Engagement, Media, Technology and Arts) and the other from Seafarers UK.

With the lack of recorded requests, and only two since last July, it's difficult to justify a policy, even one dreamed up over a cup of Earl Grey in the confines of the Presidential Suite, with no publicity whatsoever.

As CEMTA are involved in LGBT and Pride projects, the Herald asked them why their request was rejected. It turns out that they have made two requests to fly the Rainbow Flag. Their 2015 request appears, coincidentally, to have been made just before, or at the same time, as this 'flag policy' was adopted. It seems it was refused under the premise that there was some sort of lengthy procedure and they were out of time.

Incidentally, the Rainbow Flag made a brief appearance over Jail Hill, once, just after the Orlando nightclub massacre, in response to a request on Twitter, and without any procedures at all. Aside, perhaps, for a damage limitation exercise with regards to the potential for negative publicity on social media...

As nobody knew about the 'policy', CEMTA asked again this year, in plenty of time for the Pride celebrations in Llanelli. The chief executive gave a personal response, and although he was happy to support community ventures, due to the 'many' requests 'we have taken a view that this does not extend to flag flying at civic centres'. 

Was this the usual 'Royal We'? Or did leader of the council Emlyn Dole (Plaid) know about it, and agree? If so, then it's disappointing.
One might even conclude that 'flag flying' was not a matter for the chief executive, an employee, at all, and to introduce a policy, even if it was conjured up in the executive broom cupboard, without any record of necessity, is highly questionable, even irrational.

Of course the perception that anyone in County Hall has a particular aversion to the colourful Rainbow flag, and all it represents, would surely be wrong...though a 'policy' to refuse 'all', captures the repeated requests to fly this one...

As The Herald concludes;

"As it stands, on the face of Mr James’s words, the policy is redundant. Mr James will never give permission to fly any flag. On the basis that nobody will get permission, of course, the policy cannot be said to be discriminatory in any way.
Which, of course, it isn’t."


Anonymous said...

So, if there were requests to hold Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, Zoroastrian or sun-worshipping prayers before every Council meeting, they'd refuse to allow any prayers then?

And to be perfectly clear, this "policy" is most certainly not the kind of petty, homophobic abhorrence of anything LGBT that might be shared by, say, conservative, right-wing evangelical churches then?

It did occur to me that the large expanse of County Hall roof would be perfect for an illuminated image of a rainbow flag to be projected
onto, if any nearby property would care to host a projector. An ideal crowdfunding exercise. I'd love to see the legal machinations of our Dear Leader and his (Not Acting Anymore)Head of Legal Services to try and stop it!

Anonymous said...

Nice idea, but rather misses the point. If the Council were to fly the rainbow flag,it would send a message of solidarity and support for the significant section of the community who have suffered from persecution and discrimination because of their sexual orientation, and who continue to do so. Mark James's diktat is a vile snub and reveals him in his true colours.

Anonymous said...

About time we had a Straight Pride flag put up...and how about a Straight Pride Parade?

Elderly Neil. said...

A suitable flag to fly from the County Hall flagpole would be :- " THE JOLLY ROGER."

Anonymous said...

Totally agree Elderly Neil

Teifion said...

Too many councillors and officials really are the worst sort of bigoted "christian", I bet they feel no shame whatsoever

Anonymous said...

An Office of National Statistics report recently revelaled that, in the U.K. less than 2% of the population regard themselves as "gay", and less than .02% as "transgender". The highest percentage of gay people reside in London i.e. 1.9 %. How these official figures relate to " a significant section of the community " I don't know. It may suit, in particular, the P.C. broadcasting/media organisations to imply that 25%+ of the population is LGBT, but this does not stand up to scrutiny. I am not homophobic, but am simply stating facts. The LGBT community, especially Stonewall, does not do itself any favours by exaggerating either their numbers or that they are discriminated against to the extent they invariably describe.

REDHEAD said...

Boy, this chap must know where lots of the bodies are buried at CCC!

Anonymous said...

But does anybody care about flag flying?

It's the most insignificant "topic" I can think of.

If rehashing stupid non-stories like this is what CCC-bashing has come to, either the council really has changed its ways or Mark James has finally managed to fill in all of the County Hall mole tunnels!