Rebuttal to Staffordshire CC Press Release

In Staffordshire County Council’s own words: “The Flag Institute maintains and manages the national registry of United Kingdom flags. This is to ensure that there is a definitive record of those which exist both nationally and regionally. “

The purpose of the Flag Institute’s Flag Registry is to record and define which flags most closely represent the people of the historic county areas of the United Kingdom. There are many routes to making a valid application to register such a flag, including: public competitions, widespread public support, and proven historical usage. These routes are discussed in our official guide ‘Creating Local & Community Flags’.

As the United Kingdom’s national flag charity, the Flag Institute is an independent source of vexillological advice and repository of flag information run by trustees elected by (and from) a membership which includes the nation’s foremost flag experts. The Flag Institute exists to serve the people of the United Kingdom in the matter of their flags. Our role is to ensure that flags entered into our UK Flag Registry properly represent the people within a given area.

Uniquely, in the case of the historic county of Staffordshire, the Flag Institute has received two valid applications for similar, but different, designs; one from Staffordshire County Council, and one from the Staffordshire Heritage Group (the latter endorsed by some 16 Staffordshire based organisations of varying sizes).

Informal suggestions that the two applicants work together to agree a single design endorsed by everyone were unsuccessful and it was therefore decided that the democratic way to proceed would be to ask the people of the historic county of Staffordshire to choose. Both applicants were notified of this decision and the proposed start-date for the vote, on 19 February 2016. Details of the voting process itself, with a definition of the area that formed the historic county of Staffordshire were communicated to both applicants on 25 February 2016.

The Flag Institute’s official press release was sent to both applicants and sixteen media outlets in the Staffordshire area at Midday on Sunday, 29 February 2016. A public version of the statement simultaneously appeared on the Flag Institute website at http://www.flaginstitute.org/.

Staffordshire County Council issued their own press release criticizing the Flag Institute and the registration process later the same afternoon, but neither sent it to the Flag Institute nor published it on the SCC website at the time of release. Staffordshire County Council did not mention their apparent decision to withdraw their application during a telephone conversation with Flag Institute’s CEO Charles Ashburner on Friday afternoon (26 February), and no formal notification of this decision has yet been received.

The Staffordshire County Council press release is littered with inaccuracies. Though perhaps unintentional, this nevertheless paints a false picture of the situation:

SCC: Staffordshire County Council is to continue to proudly fly its county flag

The design promoted by Staffordshire County Council is in fact a flag, or banner, of the coat-of-arms of Staffordshire County Council.

SCC: – despite attempts by a group from outside the county to register an alternative design.

No application attempt to register an alternative design has been made by any group ‘outside the county’.

SCC: The council had hoped to have the flag flown by the council, local parish councils and schools for years to be endorsed by the Flag Institute, but is now withdrawing its bid after losing faith in the organisation.

The Flag Institute does not rubber-stamp applications to register flags in its UK Flag Registry. The Flag Institute has not received any notice withdrawing the application of either applicant.

SCC: This follows submissions by the county council and the Association of British Counties, whose membership address is in Wales, to register a design.

The Flag Institute has not received an application from the Association of British Counties in this matter.

SCC: On launching a public vote today the institute now names the second applicant as the Staffordshire Heritage Group, rather than the association and has also opened up the poll to people who live outside the modern day Staffordshire – even though the Black Country, for example, already has its own registered flag.

The application to register an alternative design for a flag of the historic county of Staffordshire has been made by the Staffordshire Heritage Group, supported by 16 other Staffordshire based organisations.

The Flag Institute does not register flags specific to modern County Council administrative areas. The “county” most people identify with is the historic one, not the modern administrative areas. We are sure the people of Stoke would be surprised to hear that they didn’t, in the opinion of SCC, come from Staffordshire! The Black Country is not a county, neither modern nor historical, and the flag registered is a regional flag, not a county flag. The government have made it clear that changes to administrative areas do not effect the historical counties.

The Flag Institute exists to aid the people of the United Kingdom develop and register flags which they feel represent them, and so it is identity that is important, not administration.

SCC: As the Staffordshire Heritage Group says it has not designed or submitted any flag to the institute, although it had been contacted to support the out-of-area bid, the county council no longer wishes to proceed with the registration by the institute. 

The Staffordshire Heritage Group has applied to register the alternative design. After the Flag Institute made the Staffordshire Heritage Group aware of Staffordshire County Council’s claim to the contrary, the Chair of Staffordshire Heritage Group issued a written statement from which the following are excerpts:

“Thank you for drawing the press release from the Staffordshire County Council to my attention.
As the Staffordshire Heritage Group we must clear up this misunderstanding.  The Association of British Counties (ABC) brought the issue of the proposed County Council flag to our attention.  We supported the alternative proposal of a simple Chevron & Knot, which was designed by one of our Staffordshire Groups.
Therefore, we confirm our registration and endorsement of our proposed Chevron & Knot design as an alternative choice to the Staffordshire County Council flag.
We feel that if the County Council had consulted with the people of the county this misunderstanding and hasty decision making could have been avoided.    I hope that this clarifies the situation and that we can still proceed with the vote.”

The Staffordshire County Council’s design is based on their coat-of-arms, and is gold with a red chevron that bears the Stafford Knot at the top, and along the top edge of the flag a blue band with a gold lion on it.
The Staffordshire Heritage Group’s design is similar, but omits the blue bar and lion in order to make the chevron and Stafford Knot larger and more prominent.
In Staffordshire County Council’s original application to the Flag Institute John Tradewell, Director of Strategy, Governance and Change, advised the Flag Institute that a resolution of the council had formally and publically waived the copyright to their flag design to allow the public to fly it freely, and concluded:

“I should therefore be grateful if you would consider the Council’s request for registration of the flag design detailed in the attached report as the County Flag for Staffordshire and let me know your decision in due course.”

Notwithstanding the confused and inaccurate comments in Staffordshire County Council’s press release the Flag Institute is currently in receipt of two valid applications to register flags for the historic county of Staffordshire. At the time of writing, no formal notification of withdrawal has been received by either applicant.

The vote to decide which design will be registered in the Flag Institute’s UK Flag Registry for the historic county of Staffordshire is now underway at http://www.flaginstitute.org/wp/2016/02/staffordshire-county-flag-vote/

Whilst understandably disappointed that their application has not proceeded unopposed, we are confident that the elected councillors of Staffordshire County Council will, like us, wish to support the democratic choice of people within the historic county of Staffordshire to decide which flag represents them.

We encourage the people to have their say by voting for the design they prefer.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Flag Institute is the world’s leading research and documentation centre for flags and flag information. The Institute is also the largest vexillological membership organisation in the world. The Institute was founded on St. George’s Day, 23 April, 1971.

The Institute maintains and manages the national United Kingdom Flag Registry. This is to ensure there is a definitive record of those United Kingdom flags which exist, both nationally and regionally.

The Institute provides vexillological services to HM Government in the UK and to many other organizations around the world, including the United Nations. These services include advising on the use of flags, designing new flags and collating information on flags of the world.

The URL of the Flag Institute website is http://www.flaginstitute.org and the URL of the voting page is http://www.flaginstitute.org/wp/staffordshire.

PDFs of both designs can be obtained from this link: Flag Institute website. Both designs are in the public domain.

Contacts:

Chief Vexillologist, The Flag Institute: Graham Bartram chiefvexillologist@flaginstitute.org tel. 07941 295248

Chief Executive, The Flag Institute: Charles Ashburner chiefexecutive@flaginstitute.org tel. 07747 613344