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“It was always a council organised event”

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2 DEC

“It was always a council organised event”

By timesecholife on in All News, Leek news

Concerns have been raised about the cost of a council organising Remembrance commemorations – even though the council has been organising the events for years. Leek Town Council had a long debate about the costs of them organising the Remembrance Sunday event at their November meeting. This after the council has been organising such events for years with the support of the Leek branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL).

Concerns have been raised about the cost of a council organising Remembrance commemorations – even though the council has been organising the events for years.

Leek Town Council had a long debate about the costs of them organising the Remembrance Sunday event at their November meeting. This after the council has been organising such events for years with the support of the Leek branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL).

The costs, which are ultimately being paid by council tax payers, which have been part of the recent debate, include for security on the day, and also the cost of council officer’s time in organising the events, including applying for road closures, organising an invite-only lunch buffet, etc.

Some of the cost for security was decreased at this year’s event in Leek thanks to a number of volunteers helping to steward the event – an event that the Police used to marshal until pulling out of offering such a service some years ago.

Chairman of the Leek branch of the RBL, Mick Brough, told the Leek & Moorlands Echo: “The police did all the road closures and stewarding before they pulled out, so there was no cost to RBL.

It was always a council organised event, the Legion just did the ceremonial part at Nicholson War Memorial.

This year’s event went well and was well organised, if they could have found more volunteers to assist with road closures and route marking there would have been no need to hire people, therefore no cost.”

We contacted Staffordshire Police about the force no longer marshalling the event. A spokesman said: “As a force we recognise the importance to the local community of such special annual services and provided help and guidance to organisers about planning their event.

Many officers, cadets and special constables supported ceremonies across the county on Remembrance Sunday and joined local communities to pay their respects.

However, responsibility for road closures is managed by event organisers alongside the local authority. As always, police officers were available to assist at any emergency or traffic incidents that may have occurred during the parades.

Councillor Brian Johnson was one of those who questioned the Remembrance Sunday cost at the Leek Town Council meeting. He further told the Leek & Moorlands Echo: “As a Leek Town councillor I have for many years asked the question why does a small council like Leek Town foot the bill for what is in effectively the ‘District Remembrance Day.’

When there were few costs involved it was fine, all councillors, including myself fully support the RBL Remembrance Service and Parade both at St Edward’s Church and the Nicholson War Memorial.

However in more recent years with the ever increasing burden of Health and Safety measures imposed on us, the need for elaborate and time consuming risk assessments putting more and more work load on our Town Clerk.

Road closures manned by civilian volunteers in the absence of uniformed police personnel, more of a burden as fallen on the town council.”

Cllr Johnson added: “I have always questioned if civilians – effectively with no legal mandate, stopping traffic on a public highway – is a right and proper expectation of civilian volunteers.

The risk assessment now calls for us to employ several professional ‘stewards’ incase we do not have enough volunteers. For the first time ever, this year the district council have made a financial contribution but again remember this is the ratepayers money whatever coffers it is taken from, money which every council tax payer across the Moorlands and Leek is paying for.

I thank Leek United Building Society and AH Brooks Solicitors for their kind financial help towards some of the costs involved.”

Fellow Leek Town councillor, Matt Swindlehurst, who is chair of the council’s Events Committee told us: “In my opinion Remembrance Sunday is one of the most important civic events in Leek’s calendar.
“I pay tribute to previous town councils in building a strong, friendly working relationship with the Leek branch of The Royal British Legion. I know that the present council is committed to maintaining that tradition.
“A recent decision by the RBL at national level means that responsibility of organising RS events is now passed entirely to local councils. Clearly this has resource implications in terms of costs.
“Town councillors have, quite rightly, brought up these costs in council.”

Cllr Swindlehurst went on to explain how he managed to gain some funding for the event from SMDC for the outdoor event, as well as funding from Leek United Building Society to part pay for the lunch time buffet which is put on for invited guests on the day.

He added about volunteers on the day: “Whilst on paper, we had enough volunteers to man road closures we felt that we needed a ‘fall back’ position in case people had to pull out at short notice. “We review this on a year by year basis. The only other cost is around officer time. Clearly this has increased as the council sends out invitations etc.

Unlike previous councils we also have to submit detailed risk assessments to the SMDC Safety
Advisory Committee. I have asked the Town Clerk to assess the time spent so we can cost this out.

I am confident that the impact on the precept payer will be negligible, given the importance of the day. I would encourage anyone who is interested to volunteer their time at this, and other, events within the town.”

Cllr Swindlehurst added: “Councillors of all parties work together to ensure this important event is enabled in a safe and organised manner.”

The PA system set up for the Remembrance Day service at the foot of the Nicholson War Memorial is supplied and managed on the day free of charge by Anthony Beetham and his son Shaun Beetham of PC Bits and Bytes in Leek.

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