ROYAL British Legion officers across Warrington have been left confused and uncertain about Remembrance Day parades this year after being told they will have to find thousands of £s to enable the processions to go ahead.
Warrington Borough Council and Cheshire Police appear to be blaming each other for the situation – and it is understood the Royal British Legion (RBL) itself is unable to provide financial support.
At least one RBL branch has indicated that it will have to cancel this year’s parade – which has been taking place for 70 years.
Opposition members of the borough council have joined in the dispute.
Cllr Wendy Maisey said: “The council really has reached rock bottom with the decision to enforce a charge of £2,400 on the Royal British Legion at Culcheth for traffic management of Remembrance Sunday.
“The three borough councillors in Culcheth, Glazebury and Croft are absolutely appalled and have written to council officers conveying our anger and disappointment and insisting on a resolution.
“Funds raised by the RBL are there to help our veterans and their families, not to subsidise essential public service.”
“The procession is a 70-year tradition in Culcheth and there is outrage amongst residents that this is thrown into jeopardy by a mean-spirited Borough Council, who are in essence making it all but impossible for it to go ahead.
“All residents have seen a rise of over 7 per cent in this year’s Police precept and 5 per cent on council tax and yet provision hasn’t been made to ensure this important ceremony continues. We will continue to lobby the appropriate departments until this is resolved satisfactorily.”
Culcheth RBL secretary Wayne Bibby said: “I was called to a meeting with the borough council’s safety advisory group, along with other RBL branches, and informed there would be no support from the borough council or Cheshire Police to provide temporary street closures for our annual Remembrance parade. This has taken place every year since the founding of the RBL in Culcheth, some 70 years ago.
“We have been told we would need to pay the council £2,400 for private companies to be put in place.
“The RBL is a charity which raises much-needed funds for all our veterans, their families and dependants in times of need.
“We are not allowed by Charity Commission rules to use monies other than to provide this much-needed support.
“I find this a very disgraceful and disrespectful act from both the borough council and Cheshire Police. We will have to cancel our parade, which is causing much anger in the area. We simply cannot believe the borough council and the police could be so heartless to our community – which they are supposed to serve.”
Lymm based Cllr Graham Gowland commented: “As both the Chairman of the Lymm Branch of the RBL, and a Parish and Borough Councillor, we have been aware of issues around road closures for several years. The RBL has discouraged branches from organising remembrance parades for 5 years, and instead ask local councils to take responsibility for the delivery of Remembrance parades. “The RBL has no insurance for such events, and does not allow branch funds to be used to organise parades. Since 2015 the police have been reluctant to provide cover to close the roads. We have met with the Local Police and requested our parade is policed. They advised us they would do their best to cover the parade, but we were only advised on the 24th of September that they would not. Since then, the Borough Council has worked hard to arrange formal road closures, but the Council’s power to close roads is very different to the police when supporting a parade, and requires a contractor to attend and put up barriers and signage – at a cost to Lymm of £1,200.
“The Parish is stepping in and meeting this cost, but it is a shame we’ve not had the support of John Dwyer, the Police and Crime Commissioner to continue the traditional support of Remembrance. We could simply tell the police in writing 6 days before the parade, and they would have responsibilities for it, but as a responsible organiser that would not be appropriate, especially as in Lymm part of the parade is along a Trunk Road. I have heard it commented that a small rise in council tax or parish precepts would cover it but given the millions already taken from council budgets, this is yet another cut from local services.”
Borough council leader Cllr Russ Bowden said: “Remembrance Sunday provides the opportunity for reflection and to honour those who have served our country with honour and dignity.
“There will be a number of Remembrance Sunday services throughout the borough this year, including at Bridgefoot. Given the significance of these events, the council is disappointed by the decision of Cheshire Constabulary not to provide support for traffic management duties – particularly given the significant rise in the Police Precept this year. In addition, unfortunately, the Royal British Legion has also indicated that it is unwilling to provide financial support.
“The council is holding regular discussions on these matters with the Police and Crime Commissioner, Parish Councils and the Royal British Legion and is helping to organise the events to ensure they are safe and secure. At this stage however, the council cannot commit financial support for traffic management arrangements and is asking other local partners to contribute, as we are unable to do so due to financial pressures.”
In a joint statement, assistant Chief Constable Jenny Sims and Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer, said: “We recognise and understand that Remembrance Day parades are important community events that bring everyone together to commemorate those who have served our country and sacrificed their lives on our behalf.
“We would like to provide our personal assurance that Cheshire Constabulary will work with partners and communities in order to ensure that planned Remembrance Day ceremonies and parades are able to go ahead.
“In 2017, it was identified and agreed with local authorities that Remembrance Day parades should go through the Safety Advisory Groups in line with other pre-planned events as the responsibility and legal powers for pre-planned traffic management lies with Local Authorities and event organisers.
“Each local authority has been contacted again this year in ample time so that the requisite plans can be agreed through the Safety Advisory Groups.
“Every year Cheshire has approximately 70 Remembrance Sunday Parades and we will ensure that there is a policing presence, however, we do not have the legal powers to implement pre-planned road closures so can’t provide traffic management duties at these parades, unless it is required spontaneously, for which we have specific policing powers.
“We would like to reassure residents that local officers and senior leaders will continue to be present at this year’s parades. These are big community events and local policing teams are very much a part of that community. They will play an active role engaging with local people and provide a visible police presence in order to support the organisers, whilst paying their respects and remembering those who lost their lives.”