THE TOWERING 80ft high memorial at Carmarthen to war hero and slave colony governor Sir Thomas Picton will not be demolished, removed or renamed – but information boards telling his story in full will be erected. The decision was made by the Plaid Cymru led Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board today after they’d heard that a substantial majority of the 2,500 people who replied to a public consultation favoured keeping the monument at its present location. Cllr Cefin Campell, Chair of the cross-party group tasked with holding the consultation, said that more must be done to fully educate people about the life and times of colonial era people like Thomas Picton, and that information boards placed in prominent positions near the monument and elsewhere is a step towards achieving that aim.
“The fact that almost 2,500 people responded to our questionnaire justifies our decision to ask the people of Carmarthenshire for their opinion on the future of this historical landmark and associated street names, in view of the worldwide attention given to statues of people with known links to slavery,” said Cllr Cefin Campbell, Chair of the cross-party Task and Finish group which held the public consultation.
“Our result clearly shows that a majority were in favour of keeping the monument, as it commemorates a war hero who fell in the great battle against Napoleon at Waterloo. But others felt that commemorating a cruel slave owner who permitted legalised atrocities against black people when he was Governor of Trinidad was totally unacceptable.
Given the level of opinion, and the fact that respondents on both sides of the debate felt that more should be done to fully educate people about Sir Thomas Picton and other historical figures, it was unanimously decided that information boards be prominently placed near the monument and in the vicinity of the former courtroom in the Guildhall where his portrait hangs. The Group believed we all have a responsibility for how historical figures are understood and remembered and how their history is presented, especially for future generations. The provision of information boards is a step towards achieving this aim.”
Cllr Gareth John, who took part in the consultation as Mayor of Carmarthen, pointed out that the monument debate is just part of the County Council’s wider approach to addressing racism and discrimination in the society.
“Whilst others focused on the clamour to remove public monuments, Carmarthenshire County Council are formulating a wide-reaching set of policy actions to address all the issues surrounding discrimination and inequality within our society, which included racism and the appropriateness of monuments and memorials such as the one to Thomas Picton.
“It really saddened me at the time this consultation began that the main topic of discussion centred around the future of the Picton monument. Regretfully, this was fuelled by certain individuals spreading the false information that the council had already decided that the monument should be removed, which resulted in opinion becoming very polarized extremely quickly, with many becoming totally intolerant of any debate.”
“Picton’s appalling role and actions in the Trinidad sugar slave colony must be weighed against his subsequent military career and death as a war hero, laid to rest in St Paul’s Cathedral. The original memorial in Carmarthen was paid for by local public subscription and as Mayor I’m glad that the recommendations being made reflect the views of the present residents of our town.”
“Removing or demolishing the massive Picton monument would have been out of the question – not to mention hugely expensive,” said Cllr Alun Lenny, who represents Carmarthen Town South and is a local historian. “Iconoclasm, being the destruction of monuments for political or religious purposes, is just sweeping history under the carpet. Renaming or rededicating it to someone else, no matter how worthy, would be disingenuous. It was erected by the people of Carmarthen in a past age for a specific purpose. It is a visible historical edifice which speaks eloquently about the values of our ancestors, both good and bad. However, since most contemporary values and attitudes differ to theirs, we, the people of Carmarthen today, must tell Sir Thomas Picton’s story in the round.
“General Picton was a product of the British colonial era, of which conquest, slavery and the looting of other countries were central elements. That dark story, and his part in it, must be told. But Picton was also a brave man, as demonstrated by his heroic conduct during the hour of his death at Waterloo, a battle which changed the course of European history.”
The Council have confirmed to The Carmarthenshire Herald that the Picton monument issue is just one element of a far-reaching inquiry to address racism and discrimination in Carmarthenshire by the Task and Finish group, which was set up following a Notice of Motion to full council last July by Plaid Cymru members. The cross-party group will take evidence and ensure that the concerns and suggestions of black and ethnic communities are fully heard in order to inform future policy. Amongst a raft of other measures, the council agreed to work with schools to include such themes as colonialism and exploitation in the new National Curriculum, encourage more members of the BAME community to apply for posts on the County Council, and work with the police on addressing racism and discrimination within the judicial system.
Expressions of interest sought for Carmarthen mart
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council is looking for a business to operate its livestock market in Carmarthen.
The council intends to offer the lease of the mart at Nant Y Ci by open-market tender.
Businesses are being invited to get in touch with the council if they are interested in knowing more about the tender opportunity.
The Carmarthen mart is a traditional and prominent fixture in Carmarthenshire’s vibrant agricultural industry.
Occupying a purpose-built modern building, the mart has two auction rings with associated livestock pens for cattle, sheep and pigs. There are loading areas to the side and rear with lorry parking and wash down facilities, a reception and mart office, café area and kitchen facilities, a bar, and ten business units occupied by agricultural supply/service companies.
The council is looking for applicants that can demonstrate proposals for a progressive and forward-looking regional livestock market, operating regular livestock auctions and managing all ancillary functions including sub-letting of concessions, catering functions, and business units.
The council’s Rural Business Development Centre could also be included within the lease.
Cllr David Jenkins, the council’s Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “We are absolutely committed to supporting Carmarthenshire’s farming community and rural economy and recognise the important role the Carmarthen mart has to play in that.
“This is an exciting opportunity – as well as operating this busy mart, we hope to attract applicants that will also look at wider opportunities to create a viable and sustainable enterprise. We very much look forward to seeing the mart operating again.”
Further details are available on the council’s website – visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/business or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach
THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.
Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.
The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.
Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.
The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.
The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.
In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.
If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.
With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.
If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.
If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.
The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.
Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.
The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.
During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.
They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.
A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.
“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”
Have your say on Carmarthenshire County Council’s budget
PEOPLE are being encouraged to get involved in Carmarthenshire County Council’s annual budget setting process.
The council is inviting local residents, businesses, community and voluntary organisations to have their say on its draft budget so that councillors can consider public feedback before making a final decision in March.
The council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget every year, ensuring that income from sources such as Council Tax, revenue from paid-for services and grants is enough to cover its expenditure.
With Covid-19 having had a significant impact on services, this year councillors face the added pressure of funding extra costs incurred and ensuring future contingencies can be met.
Pressures are being particularly felt across social care services because of the pandemic, and across the environment department associated with school transport, flood and coastal defences, and enhanced resources to tackle cleansing and fly-tipping in targeted areas.
No new savings proposals are being put forward for consultation this year, however the council’s Executive Board has reiterated its commitment to delivering the three-year savings agreed in the 2020 budget.
Meeting earlier today (Monday, January 18, 2021), Executive Board members rejected a proposed 4.89 per cent Council Tax increase in favour of proposing a more modest 4.48 per cent increase in recognition of the pressures being faced by people because of the pandemic.
“The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked personal and financial havoc on our county, and the good people of Carmarthenshire have paid a huge price,” said Leader of the Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole. “Given the circumstances of Covid-19 and the way that people are currently affected, I propose reducing the proposed Council Tax increase to 4.48 per cent to give the people of Carmarthenshire the support that they so rightly deserve.”
The consultation has now opened allowing people to have their say on the proposed draft budget.
Cllr David Jenkins, Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “It’s so important that we are able to take people’s views into consideration when setting our budget. Although we haven’t put specific proposals forward this year, we have to plan for areas of spending and saving. Hearing from people about what matters to them allows us to understand public opinion and as such we encourage everyone to share their views with us before our final decisions are made.”
People can share their views online at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultation until 5pm on February 3, 2021.
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