Home News Pensioner in bitter row with council over being called ‘British’

Pensioner in bitter row with council over being called ‘British’


William Alcock, 82, says he identifies as “English” and not “British,” the only other relevant option he could tick on his form. The retired police officer went to raise his concerns at his local authority’s headquarters but claimed he was treated “terribly”.

Speaking to Stoke-on-Trent Live, Mr Alcock said: “I am a proud Englishman. I am not British, I’m English.

“The Welsh can be Welsh, the Scots can be Scottish and the Irish can be Irish, but the English can’t be English, they have got to be British and I totally disagree with that.

“My nationality is of great importance to me. I respect everybody else’s nationality. I am not racist in any way. I’d like the actual electoral register to mention English and not just put us all together in one.

“When I’ve been sent letters in the past, I’ve scratched the British out and written English. I was not respected as a citizen.”

Mr Alcock, from Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, is now calling for permanent changes to be made to such literature. 

But when he visited Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s civic centre, the OAP claimed staff talked to him “like a child”. 

“I was polite, calm and asked if I could speak to the originator of this letter. They said, ‘Oh no, you can’t’. It was like I’d asked to see the Queen. They’ve had the privilege of writing to me so why can’t I speak to them,” Mr Alcock said.

“I sat down at the entrance and waited. This lady came and I felt like she was talking to me like I’m a child. She said, ‘we are all British’. I said, ‘No we are not. I don’t want to speak with you’.

“Suddenly, these two men in black shirts came and said I’ve got to leave. I said I’m not leaving. I want to speak to the person who has sent me this letter who I feel they have insulted my nationality.

“These two black-shirted men stood there with arms folded as if I was under guard. I was treated terribly. Eventually, two bobbies came.

“They asked me to leave and I refused. I wanted to see this chap. I even asked them to arrest me because I wanted the publicity with it.

“I got fed up. I went there at 2.30pm and it was nearly 4.45pm, so I decided to leave. I was contacted on the phone by someone the next day who was reasonable and intelligent.”

Mr Alcock added: “I think they’ve treated me most disrespectfully. They didn’t acknowledge my concern as an 82-year-old who feels that they have ignored my nationality. For us to be English, it’s got to be a Government decision.

“British is not my nationality. My father was an Englishman and he served 27 years in the Armed Forces. He fought during the war so I could have freedom of speech and that is what I’m doing.

“I told them down there that the man who sent the letter is hiding behind office walls. He can insult me but can’t speak to me.”

Labour lost power of Stoke-on-Trent City Council to no overall control in 2015. It says it understands Mr Alcock’s argument but the language in the letter is set by the national government.

A spokesman for the authority said: “Like every other elections authority in the country, we have written to households in the city, asking for residents to confirm their elector details so that they remain able to vote. The forms are a legal requirement and the text used in them is set nationally, in line with legislation.

“We’ve spoken in detail with Mr Alcock and do understand his position. He may wish to raise this matter with the Government directly as any proposals to change the wording of the documentation is a matter for national determination.

“It is really important that residents respond to the letter and update their details if there are changes in their households, as we don’t want anyone to lose their right to vote.

“It also costs taxpayers’ money and considerable time to contact people who don’t reply to the letter – resources that we could be using to support other important services.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “When individuals register to vote, they must provide their nationality as defined in law.

“Under the British Nationality Act 1981, all British citizens have the nationality as British.”

“Being on the electoral register is important for so many reasons. For example, if you need a credit check, banks will check your details on the register as part of the process.”

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