Police move puts Black Country Remembrance Day parades at risk
Remembrance Day parades across the Black Country were today at risk after West Midlands Police admitted they will no longer be providing officers for traffic management duties.
A change in policy from the force means that closing roads for the parades to honour fallen soldiers is now the responsibility of organisers – who could face costly bills to pay for professional traffic management contractors.
The Short Heath branch in Willenhall has been told it faces a £1,500 charge. And organisers of the Bilston parade say the parade will not go ahead if they have to foot the bill.
A letter to Walsall North MP David Winnick, from Walsall Chief Superintendent Joanne Clews states that at a meeting earlier this month, between police and Walsall branches, members were told that police 'would not as in previous years be able to resource the physical staffing of the road closures'.
It stated that a decision has been made by the force to introduce a change of policy under which they will no longer provide officers to carry out traffic management duties and enforce road closures for the parades.
Chief Superintendent Clews added: "As you would expect this policy change has clear implications for the viability of the parades."
Mr Winnick said he will be taking the issue up in the House of Commons.
The force has said it is 'absolutely committed' to supporting parades and will be sending volunteers to attend, but closing roads is the responsibility of event organisers.
Cradley chairman Norman Catton said the town's parade will carry on regardless, but he was outraged at the police's decision.
He said: "We were threatened with this some years ago at our branch but will hold the parade no matter what.
"The Remembrance Parade is what we owe to the heroes of this country. I'm extremely angry – as far as I'm concerned this is a disgusting attack on the men and women who have served our country. We are collecting money for charity, so why should we spend that money on road closures?"
Peter Murphy, treasurer of the Bilston branch of the Royal British Legion, said: "If this doesn't change then we won't do it, we just won't be able to. We will be looking into what we can do over the coming months but this is potentially going to mean we won't be able to host our parade this year."
Wolverhampton council bosses have confirmed that the city's main parade will still go ahead.
Spokesman Paul Brown said: "This will not have any impact on Wolverhampton's Remembrance Sunday commemorations which will take place as usual on Sunday, November 13, 2016."
But Frank Greenwood, chairman of the Short Heath branch in Willenhall, said: "There is absolutely no way we will be able to go ahead with a parade this year, we cannot get the money together to hire a professional company.
"These parades are the lifeblood of our country, our branches have been putting them together for 80 years because people see it as hugely important that we honour those who lost their lives in the correct way.
"It is tradition and it would be a travesty if people in the West Midlands couldn't mark this event in the same way as others across the country."
Malcolm Davis, chairman of the Dudley branch of the Royal British Legion, said it was 'an absolute disgrace' that branches may have to fund their own traffic management schemes.
He said: "We have to host these parades, this is our way of commemorating those who gave their today for our tomorrow.
"I highly doubt we would be able to go ahead with our parade if we had to pay for our own traffic enforcement. If we can't go ahead with it, it would be an absolute disgrace, I hope somebody can step in to help."
Halesowen British Legion's welfare officer Ray Clift said he was disappointed by the police's decision, but said the town's parade will go ahead as usual thanks to the support from volunteers.
Mr Clift said: "I'm angry about this and I think the police have got their priorities wrong. I'm not very happy about it at all, but I'm not surprised." West Midlands Police spokesman Joanne Hunt said the force was 'absolutely committed' to supporting parades and will be sending volunteers to attend, but closing roads was the responsibility of event organisers.
While Mark Spillsbury, branch secretary with the Blackheath Royal British Legion, said organisers were in talks with the council for support.
West Midlands Police spokesman Joanne Hunt, said: "West Midlands Police is absolutely committed to actively supporting and attending Armistice and Remembrance Day parades across the force area.
"This commitment will see neighbourhood policing units deciding locally what police presence is appropriate at each event, to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Each year our police officers, special constables, PCSOs and police staff volunteer their time to help manage the parades and pay their respects as well.
"Closing roads is the responsibility of the event organisers who should make arrangements via an appropriate company, not through the police.This is not a cost-saving measure.
"It was established last year that approaches to the policing of Armistice and Remembrance Day parades varied across the force area.
"The policies were therefore reviewed to ensure they were being applied consistently."