Statues of two prominent figures in the City of London with links to the Transatlantic slave trade might be removed and re-sited, the City of London Corporation’s Policy and Resources Committee has decided. The move had been recommended by the City Corporation’s Tackling Racism Taskforce, and will be considered by the full Council later this year. This recommendation was accompanied by measures aimed at boosting diversity in staffing, governance, education, business and policing.
I have great admiration for my fellow Common Councillors Caroline Addy and Andrien Meyer for chairing the Tackling Racism Taskforce over the last few months. They led important and thoughtful discussions leading to a comprehensive report with recommendations across the work of the City of London Corporation. I was proud to be able to support all the recommendations at the Policy and Resources Committee.
This report is the culmination of months of valuable work by the Tackling Racism Taskforce, which has taken a comprehensive approach to addressing injustice and inequality. The view of members was that considering removing and re-siting statues linked to slavery is an important milestone in our journey towards a more inclusive and diverse City.
The statue of William Beckford, a two-time Lord Mayor of London in the late 1700s who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves, has been recommended to be removed, re-sited and replaced with a new artwork.
Meanwhile, the likeness of Sir John Cass, a 17th and 18th century merchant, MP and philanthropist who also profited from the slave trade, has been requested to be returned to its owner the Sir John Cass Foundation.
More importantly the Policy and Resources Committee also approved measures aimed at improving diversity in the Court of Common Council – our primary decision-making body – including appointing a dedicated officer responsible for member diversity, as recommended by the Members Diversity Working Group which I served on.
Recommendations by the Tackling Racism Taskforce to boost diversity among staff by introducing anonymised recruitment for all pay grades, extra training and a ‘reverse mentoring’ scheme have already been approved.
Details of recommendations made by the Taskforce and approved by Policy and Resources Committee can be found online at https://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/s146118/TRT%20Outcomes.pdf