THE region’s only march to honour our Armed Forces has been cancelled because policing costs have doubled.
The borough’s Armed Forces Day has seen hundreds of people march proudly through the streets for the last two years.
But just days before the event is set to take place organisers have been forced to cancel it after being told it would cost £6,000 to police, a figure which has soared from just £3,000 last year.
An event will still take place at Leigh Sports Village - but the march beforehand has been cancelled
Des White, Chairman of Wigan Borough Veterans’ Council, which runs the event, said: “We simply can’t afford to march through Leigh this year as we have every other year, which is a real shame.
“The frustrating thing is that if this was a protest or a riot it would be policed for free, but celebrating what our men and women are doing in Afghanistan and remembering those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice is not considered significant enough.”
The borough’s Armed Forces Day is the biggest one-day event in the whole of the North West and attracts people from right across the region, who have no celebrations of their own.
It is entering its third year and for the last two years up to 400 people have marched the 1.5 mile route from Leigh Town Hall to the Sports Village.
This includes members of the Royal British Legion, cadets, councillors and members of the public.
Mr White said: “People have really got behind the event; members of the public have lined the streets as we’ve passed and children have frantically waved flags, which just goes to show the strength of feeling behind it.
“We have been trying to negotiate with the police for about three months now and have even got the MPs involved to help us lower the cost but it’s just not happened.
“We are not asking for free policing and can justify £3,000 but not double that because we are a charity and every penny we spend on policing is a penny less that we spend on the veterans.”
Mr White is keen to let people know that tomorrow’s celebrations are still going ahead, and still promise to be bigger and better than ever.
He said: “We just want to tell people to come straight to Leigh Sports Village because many people will assume to meet us at the town hall like usual.
“And to those who would usually line the streets as we march past we would still love you to get involved in the celebrations and come down on the day.
“We would like to apologise to people for this last minute change, but hope they will still come and pay their respects on the day.”
Supt Robert Lomas of GMP’s Wigan Division said: “Unfortunately, as with some other requests for a police presence at community walks this year, we are not in a position to support this march due to a lack of resources. However, there will be a small police presence at Leigh Sports Village on the day where officers will be handing out crime prevention advice.”
For more call the Veterans’ Council on 01942 861019.