A rainbow pedestrian crossing has been in Friar Street since August 2019 as a reflection of the town’s acceptance and support of LGBTQ+ people.
The council replaced the original ‘look both ways’ markings at the crossing with the rainbow flag which has been in place for three years and 10 months.
The crossing was updated this year as the ‘Progress Pride flag’ which adds the blue, white and pink transgender colours and black and brown colours to represent BAME LGBTQ+ to the original rainbow.
The addition of the colours caused controversy, with members of the public questioning how much was spent on the crossing.
That prompted the Local Democracy Reporting Service to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the council asking how much had been spent on the new paintwork and the original rainbow paint.
In total, the council has spent £11,728 on the painted crossing.
It spent £9,210 to remove the old LGBTQ+ crossing markings and replace them with the new more inclusive markings.
Back in August 2019, the council spent £2,518 to establish the LGBTQ+ crossing markings.
The establishment of the Pride markings has been defended by Karen Rowland, lead councillor for environmental services and community safety.
Cllr Rowland (Labour, Abbey) said: “Our Rainbow Crossing is a real point of Pride for Reading, and I’m delighted that we’re able to reinforce our support for the entire LGBTQ+ community by displaying and promoting the colours of the Progress Pride flag.
“Situated near the train station, most people that come into or out of Reading’s town centre are likely to walk at least once over the iconic crosswalk, and thus be reminded that Reading is a town that embraces diversity and is inclusive of the wide range of lifestyles and choices in every aspect of our society.
“We have every right to be proud of this crossing as a town, and each time it is repainted, it should further embed those open values that we stand on in each resident that calls Reading home.”
The establishment of the ‘Progress Pride flag’ colours to the crossing attracted controversy when the council tweeted about it during ‘Pride month’ on Wednesday, June 21.
We’ve repainted Reading’s iconic rainbow crossing in Friar Street to help mark Pride month celebrations in the town. The newly repainted crossing, featuring the Progress Pride flag colours for the first time, can be seen from today onwards. https://t.co/QMYySMwkcI pic.twitter.com/nkeu2kB1E4
— Reading Council (@ReadingCouncil) June 21, 2023
While Marc Brunel-Walker, a former Conservative Bracknell councillor said he had “absolutely no problem” with the crossing painting, he did argue that residents should be told how much it cost to install.
Meanwhile, Casey Byrne, a Conservative activist, tweeted “that’s not the pride flag. This one was more than fine” along with a GIF of a rainbow flag.
The council’s tweet even drew the attention of national figures.
Jo Marney, a model who gained the spotlight for being in a relationship with former UKIP leader Henry Bolton tweeted: “What an eyesore.
“Disgraceful that you’ve forced this piece of political propaganda on the people of Reading.”
However, others were supportive, praising the council for a display of acceptance and support for a marginalised community.