Bloxwich is to lose its popular Remembrance Sunday parade this weekend, amid a storm of media reports highlighting government police cuts as the cause of reduced road closure support for such events this year. Officially, the cancellation of the cherished Bloxwich parade has been blamed on the closure of the village’s local branch of the Royal British Legion in 2013.
However, even though there will be no Bloxwich High Street parade, a Service of Remembrance organised to partially rescue the much-loved event at the last minute will still take place, at a new venue – All Saints Church, Bloxwich – this Sunday 8th November, beginning at 10.30am, and all are welcome. Following the service, wreaths will be laid at the nearby Bloxwich War Memorial.
A perfect storm
Austerity-driven cuts in public services nationwide and the confusion surrounding the loss of one of Bloxwich’s most important annual events, as well as reported policing issues with other such events boroughwide, have combined to create a perfect storm of angry public opinion, both on social media and amongst local people in person, blaming the police, the council and the government, but official messages have been vague till now.
Reliable sources have told the Bloxwich Telegraph that the reason for there being no parade in Bloxwich this year – and possibly in future years – is due to the closure of the Bloxwich Branch of the Royal British Legion in 2013, which has resulted in there being no official organiser for the event in 2015.
Had there been a Legion branch in charge of the event, we are informed, Walsall Police would have been happy to work with event organisers and deploy what police numbers they had available on the day. However, according to Bloxwich East Councillor Julie Fitzpatrick, it would not have been possible to have a parade down Bloxwich High Street with the small numbers of police expected to be available anyway.
The Walsall Advertiser newspaper recently published a news item about the parade cancellation, quoting Councillors Julie and Shaun Fitzpatrick on the matter. They were approached by Walsall Police to see if they could help because of their well-known community work, and they did their level best to try and rescue the parade, sadly without success.
We subsequently published an outline of why the parade was unlikely to go ahead, based on information received from Mrs Fitzpatrick and a local representative of the Royal British Legion, Mr Bill Griffiths:
Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick said at the time:
“Due to cuts to the police budgets, last year in Bloxwich we had 12 police to maintain public safety during the parade, this year we have 5. Due to this the High Street cannot be used and we are looking at alternative options at this time which have yet to be confirmed.”
Inspector Keeley Bevington of Walsall Police has since issued a statement to the Bloxwich Telegraph via Kevin Pitt of the force’s Walsall Partnerships Team:
“Please contact Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick who is fully aware of the issues in Bloxwich and who has worked hard on this. In short there is no Royal British Legion Branch in Bloxwich and no organiser for the parade. The Council and Police legally need the details of an organiser with liability cover to allow the event to go ahead but due to the RBL not supporting activity in this area then there is no-one that can take on this responsibility which leaves issues around health and safety and organiser liability.
“All other areas where the events are taking place have an RBL organiser supporting the event with the appropriate liability cover. The church and individuals do not feel that the public liability would be covered by their own insurances so cannot volunteer as organisers. The only event taking place is at the church service and then after in the church grounds.
“I know this is disappointing but without RBL support this cannot be progressed. Please be assured a lot of work has been undertaken by police, council and councillors to try and find an RBL member with liability to support this but they do not have a branch in this area. There are around 9 other events taking place where RBL branches exist with an organiser across Walsall. I can confirm it is not the police or council stopping the parade but that the RBL have not asked for an event and are not supporting one in this area as there is no branch.”
New arrangements for Sunday
All Saints Church have thankfully stepped in to provide the venue for the now curtailed event, as it was necessary for there to be public liability cover, and this already applies to events within the church and grounds.
Groups traditionally involved in the Bloxwich event attended a meeting to discuss the new arrangements at the church on Monday evening, to discuss how the service should go and how they could take part.
The marching band and groups will now march within the church grounds then go into the church at 10.30am. The service of Remembrance will take place in the church and Rev Roger Williams, Rector of Bloxwich, is organising loudspeakers so that anyone outside the church can hear it. The aim is to get as many people in the church as possible.
After the national anthem the usual representatives will leave and place their wreaths around the War Memorial.
Across the borough
This problem is not unique to Bloxwich, by the way. Police numbers are apparently down across Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and a similar situation seems to have unfolded in Walsall Wood, as was well described in Brownhills Bob’s popular Brownhills Blog earlier this month.
What’s more, we understand from Brownhills Bob that the Walsall Wood parade has never had an organiser, which calls into question at least some of the official reasoning behind the cancellation of the Bloxwich event.
There will likely be no Bloxwich Remembrance parade next year also, if as seems probable there continues to be no official organiser for the Bloxwich Remembrance Sunday. Sources have also implied that there will probably be even fewer police available by then, and this is supported by national news stories about police cuts this past week.
Because of the confusion, the Bloxwich Telegraph has done its best to help clarify the matter for local people, and we would be grateful if our readers would share this post with their friends and others to help spread the word.
Needless to say, our editor Stuart Williams will be attending the service as always.