'Restore our War Memorials' Campaign forces Council to commit to restoration

Following a high profile campaign to restore Greenwich’s war memorials led by Parliamentary Candidate Cllr Spencer Drury, Greenwich Council has committed to the restoration of the borough's war memorials according to statements made on Wednesday by the Council Leader and Cabinet Member.  The Councillors’ statements are a tacit admission that the war memorials remain in a poor state, but as the restoration plan has not been published, it is hard to judge whether this is a serious attempt to address the problem or a press release rushed out prior to Remembrance Sunday.

The Cabinet Member for Culture and Creative Industries, Cllr Miranda Williams stated in a Council Press Release:  “…we are committed to ensuring all our War Memorials are renovated and conserved…” and suggested a four year timetable for the restoration process. It comes after the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, joined the ‘Restore our War Memorials” campaign; signing the petition currently with over 500 names on it.

However, Spencer has raised questions about exactly what the Council meant when it said ‘renovation and conservation’.  Last week Council Officers boasted that key memorials had been “repaired and conserved” while the Press Release boasts of a ‘deep clean’ for those involved in the memorial services this year, including the Eltham Church War Memorial, however, a visit to this memorial after the Council’s statement showed that names remained faded, staining untouched and there was no obvious improvement in the general condition.

Spencer said "The announcement that the Council will restore our war memorials is excellent news and I hope represents a clear improvement on the previous, confused position.   However, they promised action before in both 2012 and 2013, so publishing a clear plan of what work will be done and when is vital to ensure that the public believe them on this occasion."


"I have to say that the Council has made a poor start to restoring my trust in their commitments by claiming to have repaired, conserved and cleaned the war memorials already, when it is quite apparent from a visit to the Eltham Church War Memorial that this is not the case.  The Council’s statement means that the ‘Restore our War Memorials’ campaign has won the argument, we now need to ensure that the Council sticks to its promises and actually does the work need to make us proud of how we commemorate those service personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”

Note on this article - further information for interested readers

  1. The campaign to pressure Labour-run Greenwich Council to take action over the memorials had been building prior to the centenary of World War One.  Key public moments  included: 

Ø      In the Remembrance Day sermon at Eltham in November 2008, the Reverend John Neal raised the condition of the Eltham War Memorial and adding the names of servicemen/women who had died in action since World War One.      

Ø      In December 2012 and December 2013, Greenwich Conservative Councillors led by Spencer asked the Full Council to ensure that all war memorials be properly restored before the centenary of World War One.  On both occasions the Labour-run Council accepted that some war memorials were suffering from ageing but refused to commit to a formal timetable for completing repair. (see below)

  1. The details of the December 2013 debate on war memorials can be found at http://committees.greenwich.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=13420
  2. The details of the December 2012 debate on war memorials can be found at http://committees.greenwich.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=11063
  3. It is worth noting that the Council has previously committed to restore the war memorials prior to the centenary of World War One with the Cabinet Member responsible stating in December 2013 “that a number of the Memorials were not within the Council’s ownership but they should, wherever possible, be brought in good order by time of the centenary of WW1 in 2014.”  According to the minutes of the Council meeting.
  4. Spencer will be presenting a petition to Greenwich Council of over 500 names on November 5th and proposing a motion which reads as follows:

“Council notes that in December 2012 and December 2013 it agreed unanimously to motions intending to ensure that the Royal Borough’s war memorials were properly restored for the centenary of World War One and containing paragraphs stating that Council was concerned “that some of the Borough’s war memorials may not be being maintained to the standard which residents expect and are suffering the effects of ageing and weathering.”

 

Council further notes that the Minutes of the December 2013 meeting state that the previous Leader of the Council stated “there was a desire to address the issue of the condition of the Memorials effectively and quickly.”  Furthermore in December 2012 the Minutes state that

 

“Councillor Kotz moved an amendment to the Motion stating that as the centenary of the commencement of World War 1 approached the Royal Borough should make sure that the Memorials were in the best condition they could be…”

 

Hence Council is disappointed that despite widespread agreement that the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s war memorials should be restored prior to the centenary of World War One, this has did not happen.

 

To rectify this oversight, Council calls upon the Leader of the Council to take personal responsibility for ensuring that all of the War Memorials in the care of the Royal Borough and those in the control of the Greenwich Heritage Trust are restored prior to the centenary of the Battle of the Somme (July 2016).”

  1. Mayor of London Boris Johnson has joined the campaign to restore Greenwich’s war memorials and update them.
  2. It is worth noting that no plan to restore the war memorials was mentioned at all during the Cabinet Member’s report to Overview and Scrutiny last week (23rd October) or by the relevant Director when asked directly about the war memorials at the same meeting.