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Hythe Town Council in row over Pride Flag

A town councillor has hit out at an ‘extraordinary’ situation arising from the decision to fly a rainbow flag for Pride month.

Hythe town councillor Angela Dickinson says that a fellow councillor has prevented the flag from being flown by blocking access to the flagpole.

Cllr Angela Dickinson, right, and Mayor Naomi Slade, left, attended an improvised ceremony outside Hythe Town Hall
Cllr Angela Dickinson, right, and Mayor Naomi Slade, left, attended an improvised ceremony outside Hythe Town Hall

In an extraordinary general meeting of the council last Thursday, the motion to fly the flag was passed by nine votes to seven.

It is the first time in the council’s history that the pride flag has been displayed from the building.

Margaret Stewart, town clerk for Hythe Town Council, said: “It was resolved to fly the rainbow flag from the town hall for one month - aside from days already allocated for the Union flag and from June 22 to June 27 when the armed forces flag will fly - to symbolise the town council’s support for the inclusivity of LGBTQ+ communities and for the duration of June and in subsequent years.”

However, Cllr Dickinson said that the meeting involved “quite some acrimony” among the councillors and that the situation worsened the following day.

She explained: “That evening, the Town Sergeant who hoists the flags on the pole collected the rainbow flag from me.

"It's surprising enough that this is the first time in the council's history that the pride flag has been flown"

“The following day, we found that the gate to the alleyway had been double-bolted shut, meaning we couldn’t reach the passage to raise the flag.

“Cllr Paul O’Connor owns the rights of access to that alleyway and has stopped us accessing it.”

The rainbow flag is now displayed on the Town Council building - but in a very different way than it would otherwise have been.

Cllr Dickinson explained: “We - as in the collective who voted for the flag - all got together on Friday and watched as the Mayor nailed it to the window instead.

“It is quite astonishing, really. It’s surprising enough that this is the first time in the council’s history that the pride flag has been flown, but this is another level.

Cllr Slade and her daughter with the rainbow flag being flown from the window of the town hall
Cllr Slade and her daughter with the rainbow flag being flown from the window of the town hall

“Still, we’re extremely proud to be flying the flag and hope this won’t detract from it.”

When asked if she felt that the gate had been locked deliberately to prevent the flag being flown, she said: “I’m absolutely certain it was, yes.”

Cllr O’Connor confirmed that he had bolted the gate shut but denied that it was to prevent the pride flag being hoisted specifically.

He said: “I have several tenants in the flats that can be accessed by that alleyway who are vulnerable [to Covid-19], and I was only doing my job as a landlord in protecting them from crowds of people.

“At the end of the day, it’s not the council’s right of access to that alleyway and the flag with it and I had to protect my tenants.

“People can try and make it about different flags all they want but that’s all there is to it.”

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