Posted: 24.08.20 at 12:59 by The Editor
THURROCK Council has been sent a damning message by a disappointed and disgruntled volunteer who feels the authority has turned its back on the borough’s fallen heroes.
David Meacham is the secretary of Stanford-le-Hope’s Remembrance Group and for the past 16 years has worked with local veterans and youth organisations, community groups, the council and the town’s community to help turn the town’s annual Remembrance Sunday service the biggest in the borough.
Up to 3,000 people have attended recent events.
This year, because of Covid-19 he says everyone recognises things will have to be scaled down and the formal advice from the Royal British Legion to communities across the country is that they should let their respective local authorities take the lead on organising events.
A statement from the Legion says: “We know that branches and members are proud to play an active part in Remembrance services and parades every year and are only too happy to support local authorities in their planning for such important community events.
“Whilst the Legion often plays an active support role, Remembrance events are a civic matter and most local authorities show a great deal of support for Remembrance. However, every year a number of Legion branches report they are being asked to organise and/or bear the costs of road closures and policing.
“Organisation of parades brings with it a range of responsibilities and liabilities which could result in significant charitable funds being diverted away from our vital welfare work.
“As a result, whilst Legion branches, or counties or districts, may support councils in their planning of local Remembrance services and parade routes, they may not assume responsibility for the design and delivery of parade routes, especially the organisation and deployment of Temporary Traffic Management Orders (TTMOs) or the contracting of traffic management services, where the liabilities can run into millions of pounds.
“Where a branch, or county or district, has to be the event organiser (because the civic authorities refuse) they may take this role but there can be no street parade, no road closure and, therefore, no need for a Temporary Traffic Management Operation (TTMO) unless this aspect of the event is owned by a civic authority.
"Whilst the branch can be involved in determining a parade route, it should not itself contract with a third party and may not take responsibility for the design, planning and deployment of a TTMO. On the day of the Parade, the RBL and its volunteers must not engage in the deployment, managment or removal of any TTMO. This includes, for example, placing barriers, directing traffic or driving vehicles that are involved in the TTMO.”
That message has been communicated to Thurrock Council by the Legion and Thurrock Nub News, but it seems the message has not got through and the council will not be taking the initiative.
We asked the council about its plans across the borough and received a short response, dealing only with Grays, last month. The council said: “The Royal British Legion (RBL) have lead on the arrangements for Remembrance Day events since the Grays RBL branch opened in 1922. Thurrock Council will continue to support them in bringing our community together this year to pay their respects.”
That message shocked Mr Meacham who has been trying to get more information from the authority but says they have blanked him and not responded.
He told Thurrock Nub News: “I have had no response from the council since I first contacted them in May. I am aware that officers Kelly Massey and Gary Shilling from the Network Management have opened their messages but they have not responded.
"I understand that Covid has taken its toll and things are ‘up in the air’ and slowed things down but this is super slow. They know the ‘orders’ from the Royal British Legion, stating what we are allowed to do and what we are not allowed to do! This after 16 years of arranging the Parade at Stanford-le-Hope by myself and my team, is very demoralising. Now council departments are ignoring my emails, is very hurtful.
“We are here to assist the council, and as I have done the arranging over the past 16 years with my team, the council has had no cost passed to it. We will help this year but to do that there has to be dialogue – and it is disappointing the council will not engage.
“Time is ticking.
“I have now requested the council leader and the mayor to intervene and I ask that action be taken to assist with arranging of the Remembrance Parade in Stanford-le-Hope 2020. This must be organised as I can foresee people will just turn up and block the road! And will be hazardous, to life and limb.
“We hold no money as an organisation so us applying for a temporary traffic management order (TTMO), with the council charging us £5,402 is out of the question.”
Rod Oakley, chairman of the Thurrock Royal British Legion says he has had some dialogue from the council and is awaiting the possibility of speaking to them in September – though he too cedes that the clock is ticking and plans need to be made.
“We are hopeful of getting a marching band and we want to have a parade but that cannot be done with a traffic management order.
“We would be grateful, as I am sure other branches and groups across Thurrock would be, for some guidance and help, though we understand the council in turn may have to get its guidance from government.
”But I must remind the council, it is the custodian of our local remembrance events. It is the council’s responsibility,” he said.
The last words go to Mr Meacham who condemns the council’s lack of response and apparent interest, saying: “In my strongest and abusive language, I can muster, I feel that this is ‘BAD SHOW’!”