The anger and irritation in the community over the curtailed Walsall Wood Remembrance Sunday parade rumbles on – and since I last posted, a few things have been said, and clarified, so it’s important interested parties read this post to understand what’s gone on.
I remain optimistic, and convinced that if community representatives with authority can talk to the police, that this matter can be resolved. This would involve compromise on all sides, and the community has to be flexible, calm and polite too.
Over the weekend I learned from good friend of the blog Brian Stringer that in Brownhills, there has been an ongoing attempt to reverse changes to their parade which have cut it short; I have been informed that Councillors Steve Craddock and Ken Ferguson have been trying hard to similar lack of avail.
Members of the Royal British Legion in Pelsall too told me a similar story.
As far as I understand it, Walsall Wood is the only place to have the parade cancelled completely, with only a service taking place by the War Memorial in the Churchyard.
Police are prepared to supply four officers to ‘traffic calm’ during the silence.
West Midlands Police insisting on referring to removal of the parade completely as a ‘tweak’ is particularly grating.
For clarity, and because I’ve been sent copies of this email from a umber of people, I will explain that I’ve seen an email from Rev Nigel Carter about the revised plans, but it would be unfair and wrong to publish that here. Anyone with an inkling of the pressure he must be under would feel deeply for his unfortunate position.
In the mail, the Rev Carter points out that he went to meetings where discussions were held about the parades, in which the police pointed out they couldn’t provide the manpower for a parade as in previous years due to a lack of resources. Two options were presented by police. The options were ‘either the whole parade would need to be supported or, for the safety of everyone concerned, all the participants would need to be asked to assemble at the war memorial outside the church and that, during the wreath laying ceremony, a small number of officers would seek to maintain a traffic calming operation on the High Street.’
The Council made clear they wouldn’t be able to issue an order for closure if the police couldn’t guarantee safety, and the police weren’t prepared to accept non-police marshals, as they said only Police had the authority to carry out the function.
Rev Carter was therefore left with no choice but to accept a drastically reduced event, and remains sadly stuck between a rock and a hard place. He has my total sympathy.
Since Thursday, when I was thrown totally off the scent by the statement from the police, I’ve found out how these things work. West Midlands Police said on Thursday 8th October:
‘Road closures for any event on the highway are provided through application to the court by the organiser or local authority and is not the responsibility of police.
This made me wonder if the event had ever been official – an avenue of thought in which I was totally wrong. From contact with the Council, they don’t have a problem with the parade, and were very helpful on the matter. I’m reliably informed that the procedure for road closures works like this – parade organisers approach the police, discuss their plan, reach an agreement and then the police will contact the council draft and sort the legal orders for temporary road closures. It’s thought the authority don’t charge for closures for Remembrance events, but do for others.
I therefore understand that it is the police who apply for the order – so one hasn’t been applied for this year, as per Rev Carter’s email, there has been no agreement.
We received a further statement at 9am Friday 9th October from Sgt Mari Amos, further stating the Police position:
The discussions around this parade and a number of others took place a few months ago and most organisers were present including Walsall Wood, following that a meeting then took place individually with each organiser. The Walsall Wood ceremony is still being supported by your local police team, however has been modified this year according to the number of resources we have available and in order to comply with legislation (highways). A corporate message has been sent out in relation to this particular parade which you may already be aware of. We will continue to work in partnership with Rev Carter at St Johns church and are supporting the act of remembrance with traffic calming measures outside the church.
Sgt Mari Amos
After further approaches from various parties that morning, Insp David Payne also wrote at 2pm Friday 9th:
The planning for the Remembrance Day events in Walsall have been on-going for a number of months and this has included regular local officer contact with the 11 event organisers across the borough. The Walsall Wood parade is organised by St John’s Church so discussions have been held with Rev Carter which has led to agreements for the arrangements for this year.
Logistically it is not possible for local police officers to consult with every interested party and there has to be a presumption the organiser has the authority to represent the collective view. I am aware there have been other conversations between senior officers, PCC and local councillors and your concerns have been aired in the public domain for some time.
I fully appreciate the disappointment moving away from the traditional parade may have however it is not possible to reverse this decision at this late stage.
Insp.9502 David Payne
East Walsall Sector
The police seem totally set in their position, but I still remain hopeful that some compromise could be reached. There are plenty in the community with experience who could be marshals. The route could be discussed and maybe changed. I refuse to believe something could not be done.
Finally, at 5:15pm on Friday 9th I received from the Press Office at West Midlands Police the following statement, which left me utterly speechless.
West Midlands Police
Superintendent Lee Kendrick from Walsall Police said: “I am aware of recent speculation regarding the Walsall Wood Remembrance Sunday parade. For clarification the event has not been cancelled. As I have said previously, we are supporting all Walsall Remembrance parades and have secured resources to facilitate all 11 of them. We have student officers from Tally Ho! supporting us as well as Walsall-based officers who are working on their rest days.
‘As you are aware, we have finite resources and can only provide a certain number of officers to support the proceedings this year. This has meant tweaking some routes, including the Walsall Wood event, but would stress that we have continued to work closely with the organisers and continue to do so to ensure the parades can take place safely to allow people to pay their respects.’
I suggest the Superintendent talk to his staff about this. The parade, as can be seen in the previous emails, has indeed been cancelled and replaced with ‘traffic calming’ on the Lichfield Road while the service by the memorial in the churchyard takes place.
The Remembrance service has, of course, not been cancelled; the parade clearly has.
This is not ‘speculation’.
I wish the community groups, Reverend Carter and community well in this matter, and hope some compromise can be achieved. This decision seems unnecessarily harsh on Walsall Wood and coming so near such a poignant anniversary, it seems doubly sad.
I’d also like to thank the West Midlands Police Press Office, who continue to represent their organisation diligently, and have shown me great patience, understanding and courtesy. I know their resources are limited too, and I alway appreciate their help.