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Welsh government spent £17k of taxpayers money on slavery links audit

Labour-run Welsh government spends £17,000 of taxpayers money on audit which found hundreds of statues, buildings and street names were ‘directly linked’ to slave trade

  • Audit was published in November and cost taxpayers £17,401 according to FOI
  • Report by the Labour-led administration took four months to compile last year 
  • Critics have now slammed the study, which identified 209 statues, buildings and street names, as ‘virtue-signalling’ and criticised the expense during pandemic 

Audit which examined Welsh statues, buildings and street names and slavery links cost taxpayers £17,401 according to freedom of information request. Pictured: a statue of slave trader Sir Thomas Picton in Cardiff

The Welsh government spent more than £17,000 on an audit of almost 600 statues, buildings and street names to examine their links to slavery.

The report by the Labour-led administration identified 209 monuments, buildings or street names commemorating people ‘who were directly involved with slavery and the slave trade, or opposed its abolition’.

A Freedom of Information request found the ‘audit of commemoration’, which took four months to compile and was published in November, cost £17,401.

Critics have slammed the audit as ‘virtue-signalling’ and have condemned the expense during the middle of a pandemic.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: ‘Like all countries, our history is not perfect – but we should seek to learn from our mistakes rather than rewrite the past.

‘Tearing down statues is not the answer, and neither is judging historical figures by today’s standards.

‘We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the Welsh Government should focus its attention on beating COVID rather than fighting culture wars.’

Meanwhile, UKIP leader Neil Hamilton told MailOnline: ‘Wales’ Labour Government starves the NHS while wasting taxpayers’ money on a virtue-signalling audit of statues as today’s politically-correct non-entities try to erase the memory of Welsh heroes like General Sir Thomas Picton, the highest-ranking officer killed at Waterloo.’

Critics have also said the audit contained a number of errors which incorrectly linked some sites to the slave trade.

For example, the audit highlighted Drake Close, a row of bungalows in Penrhyn Bay, Llandudno, but there is little evidence the homes were named after Sir Francis Drake.

Some of the 209 statues, roads and buildings in Wales identified as bearing the names of famous Britons ‘linked to the slave trade’ during an audit which was published last year

The Elizabethan voyager who led England to victory against the Spanish Armada is also estimated to have enslaved more than 1,000 Africans between 1562 and 1567.

However, a local historian claimed the cul-de-sac may in fact have been named in recognition of the ducks which populated a pond that previously stood on the land.

A Conwy County Borough councillor, who asked not to be named, said: ‘There is no evidence at all to suggest that the name commemorates the explorer. It’s nonsense.’

The report also found The Duke of Wellington was commemorated or had links to 48 monuments across Wales – including The Wellington pub in Maesteg, South Wales.

The report said: ‘Name alone implies Duke is commemorated.’

But locals claim the pub was in fact named after the Wellington bomber, in recognition of the pub’s former life as a Royal Air Force Association club. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the document, titled The Slave Trade and the British Empire, ‘provides important evidence which helps us to establish an honest picture of our history’.

A statue of Indian independence leader Mahatma Ghandi in Cardiff Bay – which was unveiled by Mr Drakeford and Ghandi’s great-grandson four years ago – came under examination because of a campaign in Leicester to remove a similar monument, alleging Ghandi was a ‘fascist, racist and sexual predator’. 

Lord Nelson Hotel in Pontlottyn, Wales. The audit, which was published in November and cost £17,401, listed seven monuments, six buildings and 18 streets with links to Lord Nelson

The count altogether listed 56 monuments, 99 public buildings and 440 street names. 

When the audit was published in November last year, Mr Drakeford described it as ‘the first stage of a much bigger piece pf work which will consider how we move forward.’

The review condemned the monuments for depicting Britons with links to the slave trade as ‘heroes’.

The people identified include Sir Francis Drake, Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and William Gladstone.

It also described former Prime Minister Winston Churchill as a ‘person of interest’ who requires further examination after being ‘identified’ by campaigners. 

The audit found several monuments to Britain’s WWII Prime Minister, including two buildings and 13 streets named after him. 

Francis Drake, who has three streets bearing his name, was listed as a participant in the slave trade. 

The Picton Arms in Newport, named after Sir Thomas Picton, a Waterloo hero who was also known as the Tyrant of Trinidad due to time he spent as Governor of the then-British territory

Thomas Picton, with four monuments, five buildings and 30 streets was labelled as someone ‘who owned or directly benefitted from plantations or mines worked by the enslaved’.

Lord Nelson was found to have seven monuments, six buildings and 18 streets named after him and was described as someone who ‘opposed abolition of the slave trade or slavery’.

Cecil Rhodes, with a street named after him, was listed as someone ‘accused of crimes against Black people, notably in colonial Africa’. 

The audit, led by Gaynor Legall, claimed that commemorations of people connected with the slave trade are often shown without any accompanying interpretation to address matters of contention.

Without this, the report read, the figures are presented solely as role models.

The research also found there were few Welsh people of black or Asian heritage commemorated across Wales.

The audit did, however, unearth commemorations to anti-slavery activists across Wales, such as Henry Richard in Tregaron, street names for Samuel Romilly and the Pantycelyn halls of residence at Aberystwyth University.

Statue in Denbigh of Sir Henry Morton Stanley, an explorer accused in his own time of cruelty to populations in Africa. The site was a focus for Black Lives Matter protest in June last year

‘While the tragic killing of George Floyd happened almost 4,000 miles away, it sparked global action that shone a light on racial inequality in society today,’ Mr Drakeford said.

‘That inequality exists in Welsh society too and we must work towards a Wales which is more equal.

Some of the historic Britons identified in the Wales probe of monuments linked to slavery 

Francis Drake: Three streets named after him. 

Thomas Picton: Four monuments, five buildings and 30 streets.

Lord Nelson: Seven monuments, six buildings and 18 streets. 

King William IV: Five buildings and seven streets. 

Winston Churchill: Two buildings and 13 streets. 

Duke of Wellington: Two monuments, 14 buildings and 32 streets.

William Gladstone: Three monuments, five places, 26 streets. 

Robert Peel: One street. 

George Canning: One street. 

Cecil Rhodes: One street.  

‘To help us do this, we need a clear understanding of the legacies of the slave trade and the British Empire.

‘This audit provides important evidence which helps us establish an honest picture of our history.

‘This is not about rewriting our past or naming and shaming. 

‘It is about learning from the events of the past. 

‘It is an opportunity for us to establish a mature relationship with our history and find a heritage which can be shared by us all.

‘This is the first stage of a much bigger piece of work which will consider how we move forward with this information as we seek to honour and celebrate our diverse communities.’

It is the latest update in a controversial row which broke out following the death of George Floyd last year. 

His killing at the hands of police officers in Minnesota sparked a wave of Black Lives Matter-inspired protests across the world, including in cities like London and Bristol. 

Previously, officials in Cardiff removed a statue of Sir Thomas Picton from Cardiff City Hall after campaigners pointed out his controversial time as governor of Trinidad. 

Construction workers took down the marble statue after councillors agreed it should be removed at a Cardiff Council vote.

During a meeting, councillors said Picton’s ‘abhorrent’ behaviour as Governor of Trinidad meant he was ‘not deserving of a place in the Heroes of Wales collection’, with 57 ruling in favour of the statue’s removal, five voting against the move and nine abstaining. 

The Welsh Government has been contacted by MailOnline and Welsh Labour declined to comment. 

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