To consider the report of the Director (J-PH).
RESOLVED that the Scrutiny Programme Board be requested to agree the investigation by the relevant scrutiny committee of the continued appropriateness of the statue of General Buller and his horse Biffen, and to act accordingly on its findings.
Reason for Decision:
As set out in the report.
The Executive received the report requesting the Council’s Scrutiny Programme Board to investigate the continued appropriateness of the statue of General Buller and his horse Biffen on the junction of Hele and New North Road in Exeter. The request was presented in context of the Black Lives Matters movement against systemic racism and discrimination.
Particular reference was made to the recent increase in activism and outrage over all aspects of inequality following the death of George Floyd in America on 25 May 2020, with significant focus around the relevance of prominent statues on public land that personify racism and the glorification of a colonial past. Although Exeter had six statues of prominent white men who played a part in the city’s history, the Buller statue was the most conspicuous by way of location and controversy. The recommendation would ascertain if the statue was still appropriate to the people of Exeter today.
Members were advised that a temporary board was being prepared to be affixed close to the statue by the end of the week and which would explain its history, the Black Lives Matter movement and how the Council proposed to respond to representations being received.
The proposal to investigate the significance of the statue would include assistance from the University of Exeter and Professor Todd Gray in fact checking and researching original archives. The Tackling Racial Harassment in the Community Group would also be involved.
During the discussion, the following points were raised:-
· a large number of representations had already been received by email and letter expressing diverging views on the statue;
· it should not be the intention to re-write history, the statue having been erected some 115 years ago;
· as part of the scrutiny process, it would be important to recognise and celebrate the diversity of the city and, as such, involve as wide a cross section of the community in the scrutiny process as possible;
· the remit of the scrutiny process could be widened to consider other inequality issues; and
· consideration by the Scrutiny Programme Board was the appropriate way forward in the first instance with a recommendation to the appropriate Scrutiny Committee which should also set out a timeline.
RESOLVED that the Scrutiny Programme Board be requested to agree the investigation by the relevant Scrutiny Committee of the continued appropriateness of the statue of General Buller and his horse Biffen, and to act accordingly on its findings.