Penarth Town Council has decided against presenting special commemorative medals to local primary schoolchildren to mark the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen – now Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
The decision came in last night’s meeting of Penarth Council’s policy and finance committee when members considered a report by the Town Clerk on the medals – which many other local councils are giving to thousands of other school children as a memento of the historic birthday.
The Town Clerk Shan Bowden reminded the council that in 2012 it had purchased 2,700 commemorative medals to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which were distributed to local primary schoolchildren. The “similar medal” being produced for the sovereign’s 90th birthday this year would cost £1.99p each and the estimated total cost would be £5,400. There was no financial budget for this and , if approved, the funding would have to be drawn from general reserves.
The chairman Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) Leader of the Council invited comments from members
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he understood the council had no money in the budget but thought this was “an opportunity for this council to show its commitment to the children in local primary schools“.
He said “It would mean a lot to these children” and said that if the council had been able afford it in 2012 he would like to think the council could do it now.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) supported Cllr Williams . He said ” I think it’s absolutely right – a lot of children will value it . Maybe it’s the sort of item which will be looked at the time and then put carefully away in a cupboard and pulled out many years later with pride”
A sample of the commemorative coin was produced and passed around the council members for inspection. Cllr Williams said it was very similar to the crown coin and at £1.99 was “good value”.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he had shown it to his three grandsons aged 6, 4 and 3 and they had been “singularly unimpressed” .He said “I’m not certain it’s what the kids would appreciate”
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) said “I don’t see the point of doing this either”. He said that he still had a Coronation Mug from “1952” . It was “somewhere in the attic“. It was not brought out and looked at with pride – it was just put back for another few years. Cllr Roberts said ” I think the relevance to children is not particularly significant. I also think the 90th birthday of the Queen is not a constitutionally significant event “.
“If it was a Diamond Jubilee” Cllr Roberts said ” that is something. We did it [ award medals to schoolchildren] in 2012 because it was the Diamond Jubilee and for the Golden Jubilee and Silver Jubilee “. These had been “constitutionally significant matters” but the 90th birthday was, he said, “Just somebody’s birthday – of no significance whatsoever”. He thought that if the council wanted to “spend some money in a useful way, maybe to reflect the royal connection” the council could donate £1000 to the Prince’s Trust and he tabled a motion to that effect.
Cllr Williams agreed that the Queen’s 90th Birthday wasn’t as “prestigious” as the jubilees had been but said “If the children are our future in Penarth , it’s a nice gesture – and it’s something for them rather than their parents or anything else“.
Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines) said that having had a “clear-out ” of her attic she had come across a coin that had been given to her son at some point in the past . She had asked him if he wanted it and he had replied “Why?“. She said she did not remember there being “huge excitement” when the coin had been originally received. Cllr Burnett said that at the moment “when we are trying to save every penny that we need to be fairly sure that it would be meaningful to the young people”. She said she would abstain on any vote.
Cllr Philip Rapier ( Labour St Augustines) said he would have to check his history books but he was fairly sure the Queen would be the first 90-year-old monarch that we had ever had – so the occasion was “worthy of some respect for the service she has given“. The Prince’s Trust did good work in the Principality, he said, but if the council wanted to form a sub committee to discuss alternatives he would support that. He certainly thought expenditure should be limited to no more than £1,000.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) seconded that proposal.
Cllr Anthony Ernest said Cllr Williams’s motion had been to recognise the young people of this town and said “many of us around this table are very supportive of the youth of Penarth”. The amount involved [ for purchasing the medals] was “relatively small” compared with the council’s budget of well over £500,000. Next year it would be more with the increases being applied. £5,000 he said was the sort of money the Vale of Glamorgan council spent “in a few days on something or other and don’t bat an eyelid”. Penarth Council, on the other hand, had to think very carefully if it spent £1,000 . He was not prepared to change his view.
Cllr Williams said he would be “quite happy” to lose what he had proposed at a vote but said “I am very much against putting £1,000 into the Prince’s Trust . The reason I say that is that we have always looked after people locally here. The Prince’s Trust is a national thing. ”
Cllr Williams pointed out that the proposal to give £1,000 to the Prince’s Trust did not appear anywhere on the agenda of the policy and finance committee – “It’s just something that’s come out of the blue”. He was certainly against it.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts ( who is a “twin-hatted” Vale of Glamorgan Councillor) wanted to rebut Cllr Ernest’s allegation that the Vale of Glamorgan Council spent £5000 without turning a hair. “Perhaps they did when you were a cabinet member Anthony – we don’t any more” .
Cllr Roberts proposed two motions. The first motion was not to award the medals to schoolchildren and the second – separate – a motion would be to give money to the Prince’s Trust .
Cllr Turner reminded the meeting of Cllr Rapier’s proposal of establishing a committee to examine the options. Cllr Rapier said the money should be “spent locally for the benefit of the young people of the town”.
In a vote on the first motion – not to give medals to Penarth primary schoolchildren to commemorate the Queen’s 90th birthday – the committee voted 6 for, 2 against with 1 abstention.
The second motion was to put £1,000 aside to recognise the Queen’s birthday but to form a sub committee to decide how to allocate the money locally.
Cllr Clive Williams was not happy with this motion. He said councillors could not say to little children “Well we haven’t given you a medal – but we’ve put the money into some other trust.” Cllr Williams said “It’s a vote as to whether we wanted the medals or not. I can’t see why we should be clouding the issue by putting £1,000 into something else” .
Cllr Neil Thomas expanded on his proposal to set up a sub committee to decide on “the best way to spent £1,000 locally” . Cllr Williams said he would go along with that proposition. The motion was passed unanimously save for one abstention (Cllr Burnett).