Friday, 14 December 2018
1 December 2011

The Neglect of Slough's War Memorials

A Letter to Fiona MacTaggart, MP (Slough, Labour)

Dear Ms Mactaggart,

It was good to know that you share my concerns about our local war memorials.

The truth is that the problem is much bigger than just the St Mary's Memorial because there must be thousands of neglected and vandalised memorials spread about the country - all in desperate need of restoration. Because it is such a widespread problem it will need government intervention of some sort. Money will have to be found from somewhere, and the obvious solution to any cry for help is the Lottery funds.

How about you heading up a campaign in Westminster to get more Lottery money allocated to war memorials for their refurbishment?

I have to admit that the news in last week's local newspapers about the new town war memorial has meant that I have had to think again about what I was going to say to you. I will come back to the subject of a new memorial later in this note but the truth is I know very little about what is being proposed.

I wonder has anyone from the council gone along and made a real assessment of what each of the four memorials, that we are immediately talking about, require in the way of remedial work. I have looked at each of those memorials and would make the following comments.

  1. Cippenham War Memorial: The stone work is obviously showing signs of weathering but all the names are clearly readable. The monument has the names of World War 2 victims but not of any local servicemen lost in action since 1946. It looks to my mind well cared for and I would think needs no immediate remedial work. At sometime the names will need re-blacking but probably not for a year or two.
  2. Langley War Memorial: Again the stonework is showing its age but for me that is not a problem. All the names are legible and the surrounds are well cared for. The memorial includes those who lost their lives in the 1939/1946 war. No action required
  3. Chalvey War Memorial: Clean but many of the names are in a bad way. It certainly needs speedy action to avoid further deterioration. I have looked again this week and it really is in a very bad condition.
  4. St Mary's War Memorial: You have seen this monument so you know as well as I what is required. The memorial is clean but many name panels have been eroded by the weather over the years and need reworking. The memorial shows only those names of local men lost in the First World War. There is a concrete-like block attached to the memorial with the words "And in grateful memory of those from this town who have since given their lives in the cause of peace". Hardly a fitting epitaph for those who made the supreme sacrifice!

Back in April 2010 a motion was put before Slough Council; part of which concerned the town centre War Memorial (at St Mary's Church). It was proposed (in part E of the motion)

That a survey of the town centre war memorial be commissioned to evaluate what work needs to be to be carried out to restore it to its former glory.

Part F of the motion then went on to say

Commission any work that needs doing to the town centre war memorial as soon as possible and without delay.

The motion was put to the full council and was carried unanimously. So why are the council now refusing to do the job? Why are they reneging on that commitment?

I read again this weekend in our local newspapers a council spokesman saying

But we do not own the monument.

a familiar cry from the Town Hall. Ownership is a problem for sure, but our council agreeded right at the outset, back in 1920, that they would be responsible for the upkeep of the St Mary's Memorial.

Because of years of neglect, the work is not going to be cheap. I am sure very little money has been spent there on maintenance in the intervening 90+ years.

On Tuesday, 27th July 2010, another motion at the Town Hall proposing a 46% increase in councillors' allowances was agreed at a council meeting. I would guess there is little chance of that proposal being ignored. That increase in allowances will probably cost local taxpayers something like an extra £125,000 this year -- more than enough money probably to do all the work required on the local memorials. So when I read that these are financially difficult times for our council, I always come back to that extra 46%.

Why have our council chosen to ignore the war memorial commitment they gave in that April 2010 meeting ?

I know very little about the council's new war memorial proposal, only really what I read in the local newspaper. It is something of a puzzle to me. I find it hard to believe that going down the "new" road we will be saving money and money has become an important issue in the recent memorial interchange.

Even if there is a new memorial, that will not mean that the council can ignore the existing memorials. Our council have already done work on the 4 memorials mentioned earlier in this note and by doing so have admitted a responsibility for their care. It is important, or at least I believe it is, that our local memorials are in good shape for the 1914 centenary. For that to happen things need to start moving quickly.

Finally, like you I am unhappy about the fact that the Heritage Lottery Fund seems to be reluctant to fund the work involved in restoring war memorials. It is difficult for me to think of a more deserving cause. It would be interesting to hear from the Fund how many war memorial applications have they approved and how many have been rejected and the reasons for refusal. Maybe we in Slough could learn something from any answer we receive.

Yours sincerely,

Malcolm Hellings

PS: It is extremely difficult to be proud of Slough when it treats local men who gave their lives, so we could live in peace, in such a callous and unthinking manner. Would you agree?

Meeting of Slough Council, Tuesday, 27th April, 2010 at 7.00 pm

Item 85.

Motion (B) – The Royal British Legion

This Council: .............

* Notes that the city centre war memorial located at the rear of St Mary's Church has been allowed to deteriorate into a state of disrepair and that many veterans would find the Council's failure to adequately honour their fallen comrades an insult.

This Council therefore resolves to: ........

(e) Urgently commission a survey of the town centre war memorial to evaluate what work needs to be carried out to restore it to its former glory.

(f) Commission any work that needs doing to the town centre war memorial as soon as possible and without delay.

The Motion was put and carried unanimously.

Resolved – That the Council: .....

(e) Urgently commission a survey of the town centre war memorial to evaluate what work needs to be carried out to restore it to its former glory.

(f) Commission any work that needs doing to the town centre war memorial as soon as possible and without delay.

Councillors present at the meeting:

Rob Anderson (Labour Leader & Leader of the Council)
Balvinder Bains
Mohammed Basharat
Duncan Buchanan
Shafiq Chaudhry
Nimrit Chohan
Pervez Choudhry
Derek Cryer
Roger Davis
Arvind Dhaliwal
Sukhi Dhaliwal
May Dodds
John Finn
Brian Hewitt
Sonia Jenkins (RIP)
David MacIsaac
Mewa Mann
Fiza Matloob
David Munkley
Patricia O'Connor
Rakesh Pabbi
Natasa Pantelic
Satpal Parmar
Robert Plimmer
Azhar Qureshi
Mohammed Rasib
Patrict Shine
Richard Stokes
James Swindlehurst (Deputy Labour Leader & Deputy Leader of the council)
James Walsh
Sean Wright
Raja Zarait.

Councillors absent from the meeting:

Diana Coad (Dale-Gough)
Peter Dale-Gough
Balwinder Dhillon
Jagjit Grewal
Tony Haines
Julia Long.