Newmarket to 'recognise' Sheikh Mohammed's generosity
The ‘unparallelled generosity’ of Sheikh Mohammed to Newmarket is to be recognised by the town council.
At a special meeting of the authority on Monday, councillors unanimously agreed to write to Dubai’s ruler thanking him for his support for significant town projects, in particular the current refurbishment and provision of a new library at Newmarket Academy.
A controversial proposal to make Sheikh Mohammed a freeman of the town was not voted on but was objected to by four residents, including Labour Party member Ollie Bowen, who unsuccessfully stood for election to the council last year. He was critical of the United Arab Emirates’ human rights record and said while it was ‘fantastic’ that the academy had received an injection of cash, it was only filling the ‘cavernous void’ in funding left by ‘a neglectful Conservative government’.
He added: “The town council has not elected to pay the same homage to local philanthropists, such as Bill Gredley, who wants to build a £5 million non-profit care home and regularly takes the elderly of Newmarket on an annual free trip.”
Resident Wayne Berry said: “Sheikh Mohammed has done absolutely fantastic things for Newmarket College and nothing can be taken away from him. Other people of the town, such as Bill Gredley, have been doing things for years and this council does not want to give any recognition to him.”
Supporting the proposal, Newmarket Academy student Ellie Milnes said Sheikh Mohammed’s gift had ‘revolutionised the school and therefore my education’, while head teacher Nick Froy, speaking with the support of school governors, added: “These gifts from Sheikh Mohammed have been transformational. It is most important because our students believe that somebody believes they are worth it. I think that is so powerful.”
Nick Wingfield-Digby, former High Sheriff of Suffolk, who headed up the committee responsible for the Queen’s commemorative statue, which Sheikh Mohammed paid for, talked about his ‘extraordinary investment’ in the town.
“From that has come employment, prosperity and business for local businesses. Quite an extraordinary influence,” he said.
After the meeting, town mayor Cllr Rachel Hood said: “The really important thread that I saw at the meeting was the gratitude of our speakers and particularly in the light of the statistic from the headmaster of the academy that 28.3 per cent of our students are disadvantaged.
“These students, with the help of the academy staff, have been able to perform at significantly higher levels thanks to the transformation of the academy.
“This is of phenomenal importance to our community.
“It is a fact that we have benefited as a community and recognise that our children have benefited immensely from Sheikh Mohammed’s generosity.”