THE UK government has warned the City of London it risks damaging its “rich history” by removing statues of prominent historical figures associated with the slave trade, reported The Daily Telegraph.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has written to the Lord Mayor William Russell and senior officials urging them to reconsider.
In his letter, Jenrick said the announcement had “attracted national scrutiny and controversy” adding that it was in the “City’s own interests that heritage and tradition are given robust protection.”
However, a spokesman for City of London Corporation said it believed the decision was the “correct response”, with a working group now due to consider where the statues should be re-sited.
Jenrick’s intervention comes after the Corporation last month announced it intended to remove statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass from the medieval Guildhall in Moorgate.
The recommendation for removal was made by a taskforce set up by the corporation following the Black Lives Matter protests, with a spokesman describing the move as “an important milestone” in moving towards an “inclusive and diverse city”.
Earlier this week, London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced the members of his commission for Diversity in the Public Realm which aims to inspire all parts of society and better reflect the capital’s diverse population.
The members include 27-year-old art historian Aindrea Emelife; actor Riz Ahmed, social activist and founder of the Ligali campaigning group, Toyin Agbetu, chair of City Sikhs, Jasvir Singh OBE and Brixton business owner and partner in the Brixton project Binki Taylor.
Khan announced he would be forming the commission days after a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, was pulled down in Bristol by Black Lives Matter protesters last summer.
According to The Daily Telegraph report, Jenrick pointed out that the government had already announced it would be changing national planning policy to protect historic statues, plaques, memorials and monuments.