Former Sandwell Council leader tried to have Black Country flag scrapped

By Richard Guttridge | Sandwell | News | Published:

The former leader of Sandwell Council suggested having the Black Country flag scrapped over concerns it was racist, it has emerged.

Former Sandwell Council leader Yvonne Davies

Yvonne Davies, who stepped down as leader of the authority earlier this month, raised the idea of ditching the current flag and having a new one designed at a meeting of Black Country council bosses.

But she was swiftly rounded on by the leaders of the three other Black Country authorities who said they would not entertain any prospect of the flag being scrapped.

It's understood Councillor Davies admitted she had not been fully aware of historical context behind the flag - despite at that point leading a Black Country council - and once this was explained to her she backed down.

The discussion took place at a recent meeting of the Association of Black Country Authorities (ABCA) in the run up to Black Country Day on July 14.

The Black Country flag on Cinder Bank Island in Dudley

It comes after West Midlands Fire Service was forced into a climbdown over the flag after refusing to fly it over stations in the region. The decision was taken over fears the chains that feature on the flag, which was designed by a schoolgirl, and promote the region's industrial heritage could be linked to slavery but the fire service later said it would support use of the flag following a backlash.

Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, confirmed the exchange took place and said Councillor Davies was quickly informed by himself and the leaders of Wolverhampton and Walsall councils, Ian Brookfield and Mike Bird, that the flag was here to stay.

Councillor Davies said it was a "light-hearted conversation among the leaders".


Dudley Council's Patrick Harley

The popular flag was designed by 12-year-old Gracie Sheppard in a competition but its chains have been a source of controversy.

Councillor Davies stepped down as Sandwell Council leader after being suspended by the Labour Party amid its investigation into tweets she posted in 2017 and 2018 alleged to be anti-Semitic.

Councillor Harley said: "Yvonne Davies made the request to change the flag. Ian Brookfield and Mike Bird backed me up.


"Sandwell wanted to change it but quickly backed down once they realised the three of us did not agree.

"We would never consider the idea. It's bonkers. We said we were not having another competition or redesign.

"I think people really get behind the Black Country flag and have taken it to their hearts.

"To be fair to her she's not local, she's not from round here, she said she didn't know the full history. If you're not au fait with what the flag means then why stick your head above the parapet?"

Councillor Davies said: "It's the past, it's gone. It was a light-hearted conversation among the leaders.

"The fact it was created by a little girl in a Dudley school probably says it all."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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