Row over 'flag ban' on council vehicles

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The Independent Online

A row over whether council workers can fly the English flag from their vehicles during the World Cup flared today after a leading union complained there had been a ban.

The GMB said thousands of its members at Lancashire County Council had been told in a memo that they were not allowed to display the cross of St George on any council vehicles or buildings.

The union also claimed staff had been banned from wearing football shirts to work.

The council insisted there was no ban on staff celebrations, pointing out that the cross of St George flag was flying from its county hall in support of the England team, but the authority added it had asked staff not to display flags on county council-branded vehicles.

GMB official Tom Fallows said: "Lancashire County Council is out of step with other councils in the region and should withdraw the memo. The memo is even more upsetting given the fragile morale of staff at the council after an equal pay review earlier this year. Some GMB members have lost quite considerably in terms of wages, so morale is quite low.

"One thing many GMB members are looking forward to is a successful World Cup for England and if they want to display their good wishes and get involved in the celebrations they should be able to. The Tory in Downing Street has shown the way and with Lancashire being a Tory-led council I thought this would have been given the green light. The same should also go for supporters of other 31 nations in the finals."

Phil Halsall, the council's executive director for resources at the county council, said: "It's nonsense that we've banned staff from celebrating the World Cup. Many of the management team are keen supporters themselves.

"Of course our first responsibility is to provide the best services to our residents. Where it's appropriate, we're very happy for staff to show their support for the England team.

"There are some areas of our services though where flying a flag or wearing a shirt is less appropriate, so we've asked managers to exercise their discretion.

"The only exception to this is that we've requested that staff not display flags on county council-branded vehicles. We've asked staff to make this compromise in the interest of making sure our residents know we put services to them first."