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Warwick District Council: Fly the rainbow flag at Leamington Town Hall for Pride

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I recently sent an email to Warwick District Council to enquire about the possibility of having the rainbow flag flown at Leamington Spa Town Hall in the week leading up to Warwickshire Pride and also on Saturday 20th August, which is the day of Warwickshire Pride 2016. At the same time, I enquired about whether it was also possible to fly rainbow flags along the Parade (Leamington's high street). Soon after, I received a reply from Councillor Andrew Mobbs, Leader of Warwick District Council. In his reply, Cllr Mobbs stated that flags can only be flown for national events, not local ones, and that this is not a new policy. Regarding flying flags on Leamington's Parade, he said that all of the flag spaces have been taken by the Bowls Championships, who fly flags on the Parade throughout their event. Cllr Mobbs said that alternative locations to the Parade could be discussed.

Whilst I accepted that there isn't space on the Parade and welcomed a discussion around alternative locations, I felt disappointed that the rainbow flag could not be flown from the Town Hall. It was my view that Pride is a national celebration, that is also celebrated internationally. I replied to Cllr Mobbs asking him to reconsider his decision, pointing out that Pride is a national celebration that Warwickshire Pride and our local LGBT+ community are part of. I also explained to Cllr Mobbs that councils around the UK fly the rainbow flag at their Town Halls and public buildings in support of their Pride events, and that it would be nice for Warwick District Council to show the same support. Finally, I highlighted the numerous violent hate crimes against LGBT+ people globally and even here in Leamington Spa, where there have been a number of violent assaults on LGBT+ people in recent times.

At this point, I decided to involve local councillors. I sent an email to every Warwick District Councillor representing a Leamington ward and every Leamington Town Councillor to enquire about whether they would support the rainbow flag being flown at the Town Hall. Many of the councillors have replied, saying that they do support the rainbow flag being flown at the Town Hall. Some have said they do not understand why it cannot be flown, and several stated that they were not aware of a flag policy existing. Leamingtons' MP Chris White was also contacted and he stated that he too supports the rainbow flag being flown at the Town Hall. It was agreed with him that I'd await a response from Cllr Mobbs before he intervenes.

In the email reply I received from Cllr Mobbs, he said that the rainbow flag would be flown at the entrance to Jephson Gardens in Leamington. This is directly opposite the Warwickshire Pride site. He also pointed out that the Warwick District Council events team had been helpfully having input into this year's Warwickshire Pride. While I welcomed the rainbow flag being flown at the Jephson Gardens and acknowledge the support that the events team at Warwick District Council have provided, I was also disappointed that Cllr Mobbs did not mention the rainbow flag being flown at the Town Hall anywhere in his email.

At this point I replied to Cllr Mobbs once more. I kindly accepted the gesture of flying the rainbow flag at Jephson Gardens and spoke of my appreciation for the support that the events team have provided. I also spoke of my appreciation that Warwick District Council had awarded a grant to enable promotion of this year's Warwickshire Pride. However, I did raise concerns that he had not addressed the rainbow flag flying at the Town Hall and I asked him some direct questions about it. I asked for an explanation of the flag policy so I can understand it a bit more, asked who was involved in the decision making, and also whether it means Cllr Mobbs does not recognise Pride as a national event.

Sadly, Cllr Mobbs has now taken to ignoring me. I know this because people from the community have emailed Cllr Mobbs to express their views and he has replied to them with a response that doesn't address the Town Hall issue at all. It simply states that the council support the event.

On Friday 29th July, I was contacted by a local councillor. He informed me that he has discovered that Warwick District Council do not have a flag policy. This is deeply concerning, as Cllr Mobbs specifically mentioned a council flag policy in his original email to me.

As it stands, Cllr Mobbs appears to be unwilling to have a discussion about the issue and it does not look like he will be changing his decision. With their being no flag policy at Warwick District Council, I can now only assume that Cllr Mobbs is letting prejudiced views cloud his judgement. Is this a case of anti-LGBT+ views getting in the way?

With the current situation as it is, we are now calling for the following:

1. For there to be a democratic vote of Warwick District Councillors on whether the rainbow flag should be raised at Leamington Spa Town Hall for Warwickshire Pride.

2.For there to be an investigation into Councillor Andrew Mobbs due to his misleading email about a flag policy at Warwick District Council that does not actually exist, and due to what we perceive to be homophobic views getting in the way of his professionalism.

3.For a full apology from Councillor Andrew Mobbs for the deep offence he has caused to the LGBT+ community and its allies.

All we ask is that the LGBT+ community in Leamington Spa receive the same visible support that councils around the UK show to their communities for Pride. A small gesture would go a very long way.

Daniel Browne
Director of Warwickshire Pride and Chair of Push Projects LGBTQ Youth Support

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