Agenda item

Public Open Forum

The public open forum will commence at 1.00 p.m. and the following formal business of the Council will commence at 1.30 p.m. or whenever the public open forum ends, if earlier.


Question 1


From: Gene Plews


To:      Councillor Amanda Wheeler


“During the Black Lives Matters protests held in London, the Bomber Command Statue, the Canada Memorial in Green Park, the Royal Marines Graspan Memorial on the Mall, the memorial to PC Yvonne Fletcher, the Allies Statue of Sir Winston Churchill, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Statue in New Bond Street were all defaced with coloured paint and graffiti.


Does Councillor Wheeler as a supporter of the BLM movement and member of the Stamford Anti Racism Group agree with these actions, or does she publicly condone them?” 


Councillor Amanda Wheeler confirmed that she was a supporter of the Stamford Anti-Racism Group and fully supported the ‘Black Lives Matter’ statement. Councillor Amanda Wheeler highlighted that she did not support the defacing of statues or any form of violent protests. She provided examples of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign; England football team’s powerful anti-racism stance throughout the European Cup Finals in Summer 2021, a former West Indian cricketer speaking publicly on the subject last year and the ongoing allegations of racism surrounding Yorkshire Cricket Club, meaning that further actions were required to tackle racism.


Councillor Amanda Wheeler provided statistics in relation to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign:


·         That black people had a harder time economically and that a young black man would be twice as likely to be unemployed.

·         That people with an ‘African-sounding’ surname sent twice as many job applications before getting an interview.

·         That a black female graduate, on average, earnt 10% less than a white female graduate.

·         That black people were 47% more likely to be on a ‘zero-hour’ contract with less employment rights.

·         That black people had a harder time medically; black women had a 40% higher chance of a miscarriage. A disproportionate number of black people died as a result of COVID-19.

·         That black people were more likely to be affected by crime, were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police and five times more likely to be murdered. 


She highlighted that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ march that took place in Stamford in July 2020 was an entirely peaceful event and no statues were damaged or vandalised. Following on from the gathering, Stamford Anti-Racism Group was formed with an aim of making Stamford and the surrounding areas a welcome place for everyone irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity, and heritage. It was also noted that the group hosted a Diversity Festival in August 2021, which was supported by South KestevenDistrict Council community grant and was attended by the Leader of the Council, District Councillors and Officers.


Question 2


From: Gene Plews


To:      Councillor Amanda Wheeler


“The allied statue of our war time leader, Sir Winston Churchill in London had the words sprayed across it in black spray paint: ‘was a racist’.


Does Councillor Wheeler as a supporter of the BLM movement, and a member of the Stamford Anti Racism Group agree with these words in sentiment?”


Councillor Amanda Wheeler confirmed that she did not agree with any statues being defaced in any way. She highlighted that her work as a local Councillor would be to focus on issues in relation to racism within the local area and tackle these within her own community.


Supplementary question


From: Gene Plews


To:      Councillor Amanda Wheeler


“The Black Lives Matters movement aligns itself in many areas in both policy and direction with the similar run black American and proven violent, "Antifa" movement.


Does Councillor Wheeler as a supporter of both the BLM, movement, and a member of the Stamford Anti Racism Group either support or publicly condone this link?”


Councillor Amanda Wheeler continued to confirm her support to the Stamford Anti-Racism Group and agreed with the statement ‘Black Lives Matter’. She stated that she was also opposed to fascism, however, she had no link to any American groups who share these views such as ‘Antifa’ or the BLM Global Foundation Network. She highlighted that she was solely focussed on the work around racism within this District.


Supplementary question


From: Gene Plews


To:      Councillor Amanda Wheeler


“In light of your firm support on the BLM movement, and it’s violent ‘Antifa’ link, do you think that you are a fit and proper person as a South Kesteven Councillor and Stamford Town Councillor to represent the Armed Forces Community in South Kesteven and Stamford.”


Councillor Amanda Wheeler noted that the ‘Code of Conduct’ would be debated later in the meeting and that she took that Code of Conduct very seriously. She highlighted that her uncle was a retired Lieutenant Colonel who served in the Falkland’s war and that she had been in attendance at the remembrance day services in Stamford alongside other Councillors. Councillor Amanda Wheeler emphasised that her anti-racist views bore no relation to the support of the armed services. 


Question 3


From: Tracey Forman


To:      Councillor Kelham Cooke, The Leader of the Council


“I note with interest that SKDC passed a motion in October 2020, recognising that there is no place for racism in the UK today. Given that in a recent meeting of the Governance and Audit Committee the Chair used a racist term and was not challenged by the other councillors in the meeting, how safe do you think staff employed by the council from BAME backgrounds feel at present?”


The Leader of the Council stated that there was no place for racist language in any organisation. He highlighted that he was not personally present at the meeting, however, those who were present deemed the statement to be not as clear or audible in person as it was on the live broadcast. It was highlighted that the Monitoring Officer began an investigation immediately after the meeting, which had now been completed. Members had several sanctions to decide upon later in the Council meeting. Councillor Ian Stokes had apologised immediately after the meeting and the Conservative Party also suspended him and commenced an investigation of its own.


The Chief Executive and Leader wrote jointly to all staff to make it clear that this behaviour did not represent South Kesteven District Council and the continuation to work with members and officers to develop a training programme. The Leader expressed his sympathy for the way this made staff, wider residents, and the public feel. He noted that the leadership’s team would be happy to discuss this matter with anyone affected.


The Leader highlighted that the Equality and Diversity training referred to had been organised for one day, which a number of Councillors were unable to attend due to other long-standing engagements. He made the point that several Councillors had attended Equality and Diversity training in other aspects of careers and workplaces. Further training would be offered to staff and Members to ensure that something similar did not occur again.


Question 4


From: Elvis Stooke


To:      Councillor Kelham Cooke, The Leader of the Council


“In 1994 Harrowby United Football Club negotiated with SKDC for sole use of a large part of the Harrowby Lane playing field, Grantham. Part of this deal was a proposal from SKDC to purchase the Blessed Hugh Moore site as a replacement recreational area. This was published in an article in the Grantham Journal on 4th November 1994. It was proposed by SKDC to acquire the BHM playing field and improve facilities for residents on the eastern side of Grantham. At that time SKDC Head of Administration, Jon Bishop stated it would cost around £3700 to put the playing field into good order, with ongoing maintenance costs of £4000.

Also, in 1994 when LCC had proposed selling off the Grantham College Sports ground for development it was also stated that the BHM playing field could be offered as a replacement site for recreation. Published Grantham Journal 11th March 1994.

SKDC eventually acquired the site in March 1997 from LCC.

I along with other members of the community have worked hard to convince SKDC that the BHM site should remain as a recreational area and it has now been accepted on the ACV register.

However, the BHM site has been neglected for many years and does suffer from poor drainage and water ponding at the access locations. At a recent Parish Council meeting it was suggested that following meetings with SKDC officers that the local community & parish would have to fund around £10000 to complete the drainage repairs & provide suitable walking access to the BHM site.

In view of the history of the site and offers made when SKDC were trying to acquire the site could you please consider those statements and provide some funds towards these urgent repairs. This would allow access to the site by many more residents and assist with our aim to improve this recreational & green space for all the community to enjoy.”

Councillor Robert Reid (Cabinet Member for Housing and Property) reported that he had been made aware of this site in his role as Cabinet Member. The Assets and Estate Manager had been working with the Parish Council to grant a license, to improve access to the site and investigate tree planting. In regard to access, Council Officers had been working with the Parish Council on improvements to provide better access to the site. The Cabinet Member stressed the importance of knowing that the land was owned by the Council, with the cost of maintenance being funded out of the rent that Council tenants paid to which they should receive any benefit. It was noted that all landowners had raised concerns over responsibilities in relation to flooding. Following consultation with Ward Councillors, assurance was given that the Council undertook responsibility and would work with all communities and partners to provide the best benefit for the site. He highlighted various covenant restrictions that were in place from Lincolnshire County Council, but it was noted that the Cabinet Member would work with the community for the best outcome possible.

Speaker 2


From:  Mrs Yvette Diaz-Munoz


In support of Cllr Wheeler's motion, “Motion to make training mandatory”.


Yvette Diaz-Munoz volunteered as an Events Coordinator for Stamford’s Anti-Racism Group and explained that she was part of a British Chilien family having grown up in Kenya. She also taught Spanish and English as a foreign language, so was naturally curious about meeting people from different cultures, countries and languages.

Yvette Diaz-Munoz supported Councillor Wheeler’s motion to make equality and diversity training mandatory, not only because of the recent comments made by Councillor Ian Stokes but due to recent events on a national level which highlighted the wider issue of not knowing what was and what was not appropriate. She was also disappointed that the take up from Councillors in respect of equality and diversity training was so low. 

She highlighted two positive things that had happened thanks to South Kesteven District Council, noted as follows:

-       The passing of the Anti-Racism motion in October 2020, which was passed unanimously.

-       The South Kesteven District Council Community finding which part funded the Stamford Diversity Festival in the summer and was a celebration of world music, arts and crafts, food and drink which was opened by the Mayor and attended by The Leader of the Council, The Chairman of the Council and other SKDC Councilllors.

In respect of events and projects, it was always the group’s ambition to make the local community as inclusive and welcoming as possible for everyone. The festival helped people celebrate their differences in inclusion ways and attracted people from the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities. The event was very successful, with extremely positive feedback having been received from people who had attended.

She explained that she was at Stamford College last week, helping them prepare for their own diversity festival which was also being held to celebrate different heritages through food, music and art, as well as embracing and celebrating LGBTQ+ and the SEN community in the College. This was exciting and, going forward, she also planned to widen the meaning on the term of ‘diversity events’ held in the future. Yvette Diaz-Munoz offered to liaise with the Council’s Member Support Officer to assist in the facilitation of equality and diversity training through local creatives who could the sessions to life. The aim, as always, would be to bring communities together and learn more about our differences in ways which were a celebratory and as inclusive as possible.



Speaker 1


From: Shalini Austin


In support of Cllr Wheeler's motion, “Motion to make training mandatory”.


Shalini Austin was a South Kesteven District Council resident and she felt it important to address this meeting in support of Councillor Wheeler’s motion. She had lived and worked in Stamford for 21 years having set up her first business here in November 2000 shortly after arriving from India. The people of Stamford had been very welcoming and she considered Stamford her home. Shalini Austin was an Air Force child and grew up in a very multi-cultural environment in a country where religion seemed to be normal in her sector of Indian society. Every festival was a celebration, whether it be Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian.


She made the point that integration worked both ways and that as part of settling into a new country she had experienced some strange, stereotypical questions including whether she had married her husband to obtain a British passport. She had personally experienced negative comments about Indian people, with there being very few people of Asian origin in Stamford when she first moved to the area.


Shalini Austin said that no one was born with pre-loaded knowledge and that such knowledge had to be learnt as people experienced life. As an artist she was constantly learning through new skills in her craft and as a human being was constantly learning to deal with new situations and people. She was therefore of the view that equality and diversity training should be mandatory so that there was more understanding leading to people refraining from doing and saying things that were discriminatory. Language and law evolved so it was only right that people knew what was acceptable and what was not. She added that people all lived in the same society and should be able to live and work equally, living in cultural harmony without losing identity and values, advocating equality and diversity training for everyone.