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Fire service Black Country flag row 'could have been handled better'

By Richard Guttridge | Dudley | Politics | Published:

Fire service bosses could have handled the row over the Black Country flag better, a council boss and fire authority member has said.

The Black Country flag

West Midlands Fire Service stations were banned from flying the popular flag over the region's stations on Black Country Day over concerns the chains that feature on it could be linked to slavery.

The service then performed a U-turn and changed its stance following a backlash from firefighters, politicians and the public and said it would support use of the flag, which was designed by a schoolgirl, in future.

Councillor Nicholas Barlow, who is head of health at Dudley Council and sits on the fire authority, admitted the row had been damaging for the fire service.

He said: "When I've talked to other members they agree it could have been handled differently if members had been consulted from the outset.

"We leave operational matters and day-to-day matters to the Chief Fire Officer. It could have been handled a little bit better but the flag will be raised next year on the day."

He added: "This wasn't 'PC gone mad' or anything like that. It was a sensible debate."

Councillor Nicholas Barlow

Councillor Barlow said the row over the flag was discussed at the latest fire authority meeting.

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He said: "There was a very lengthy discussion about it. A lot of people were consulted about whether it should or shouldn't be flown (in future).

"As far as I'm concerned the Black Country flag is going to remain for considerable time. I think it's important to acknowledge our industrial heritage."

It comes after the Express & Star revealed this week the former leader of Sandwell Council, Yvonne Davies, suggested the flag should be scrapped and replaced with an alternative version over concerns it was racist. The request was rejected by the three other Black Country council leaders.

The popular flag was designed by 12-year-old Gracie Sheppard in a competition, with many across the region taking it to their hearts, but its chains promoting the area's industrial heritage have been a source of controversy.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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