Leaders retreat over plan to charge Remembrance Day events in Shropshire

Shropshire Council leaders have retreated over plans to charge for Remembrance Day events after the proposals started a storm of protest.

Remembrance parade in Shrewsbury
Remembrance parade in Shrewsbury

But the prospect of the authority charging for commercial events in the county remains on the agenda following a political retreat.

Councillor Richard Marshall, the authority's cabinet member for highways, told a meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday: "In discussions with my colleagues on cabinet, we are in total agreement that we would never think of charging for road closures associated with Remembrance Day Parades nor indeed for charity or any not-for-profit community events."

The proposal could have meant charging up to £40 for road closures on Remembrance Day.

Councillor Marshall said the council spends thousands of pounds in officers’ time and associated administration costs, dependant on the complexities of the closures, the amount of people attending and the span of the closures.

A report last year recommended that council’s costs should be recovered from commercial organisations but not from not-for-profit events such as charity events and some community-led events.

But Councillor Marshall said an officer report to the cabinet had gone "a lot further than the original recommendations".

He said Remembrance Day is "extremely important" especially to members of the cabinet, including himself, who have served in the armed forces.

Councillor Marshall withdrew his report to Wednesday's cabinet meeting to give him "time to liaise with officers to ask for a fresh report" which "more accurately reflects the requirements of the place overview committee recommendations."

Cabinet members agreed, and council leader Lezley Picton added: "To take this out to consultation would be very difficult."

Councillor Edward Towers said: "Thank you, reason seems to have taken hold."

But any proposals to raise funds from the commercial events sector are also likely to meet opposition.

David Morris, the director of the annual Italian Auto Moto Club event in Bridgnorth, said any costs they face would reduce the amount of money they can give to Bridgnorth foodbank and if the costs are 'excessive' they will walk away.

The auto event brings thousands of people in to Bridgnorth

Mr Morris said: "If we face these proposed costs this coming year, we will simply have to reduce the amount of money we give to the Bridgnorth Foodbank.

"Is that what the elected members of Shropshire Council really want I wonder ?

"If the proposed costs are too excessive, we will simply walk away from Bridgnorth completely!

"This coming year, we are going to be running similar events in Devizes in Wiltshire and Chesham in Buckinghamshire.

"It's certainly great to be working with councils who are determined to do everything they can to help regenerate their high streets.

"They are meeting all the relevant costs, a stark contrast to Shropshire. Are Shropshire Council really interested in reviving their high streets? It doesn't look like it does it? Forget their words, just take a hard look at their actions!"

Mr Morris said they have been running the annual festival for quite a few years and it brings in tens of thousands of visitors every year, and is now the biggest Italian street Festival in the UK.

"In previous years, we have raised money for the air ambulance," he said.

"However, due to the recent cost of living crisis, all of our income this last year, has been passed to the Bridgnorth Foodbank. Each entering car - 150 of them - paid a cash sum and also brought a supply of food into the town."

He added: "I cannot supply accurate figures as to how much money this event brings into the owners of the various pubs, bars, café and restaurants. However, I do know that all of our entrants and visitors use their premises. Nobody brings a picnic."

Mr Morris added: "If we do have to give up on the Shropshire event, the council will then have to think of more inventive schemes to get people back onto their high streets.

"We are clearly very angry at the lack of foresight in Shropshire Council's proposals."

The proposals would have meant the organisers of big commercial events having to pay nearly £1,500 for any road closures needed, under new plans.

It could have brought in up to £30,000 for the hard-pressed council over the year.

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