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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Anger over disruption to Remembrance Sunday service in Centenary Square


Birminghham councillors show disrespect to our war dead. Not surprising when they won't even create a separate military hospital in Selly Oak. Although there is work enough at the moment with a bi-election in Nuneaton, South Birmingham activists have been selling poppies on the high street for the past two weekends.

A EX-SERVICEMAN and former Lord Mayor of Birmingham has accused the city council of letting down war veterans by starting building work in Centenary Square just two weeks ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

Coun Mike Sharpe (Lab, Tyburn) claimed the council had backtracked on pledges to wait until after this weekend’s traditional Remembrance Sunday Parade before beginning work on the £193 million Library of Birmingham.

Every year hundreds of people including veterans, current members of the armed services, youth cadet groups and members of the public gather outside the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square to pay their respects to those who died in conflict.

But with the grassed area now being dug up for early work on the sunken auditorium and subterranean levels of the new Library, their usual parade ground is out of bounds.

Now a temporary cenotaph is being erected and place outside the Symphony Hall for the displaced procession.

Coun Sharpe, a former tank driver with the Queens Own Hussars, raised the issue during a heated City Council Question Time session.

He said: “I was at meetings between the veterans and the Cabinet members for leisure, sport and culture (Martin Mullaney) and transportation (Len Gregory) at which it was agreed to hold off on the work until after the Remembrance Sunday.

“I am told they were over ruled by the Leader of the Council, Mike Whitby. Now work has started, the hoardings are up and the square is an eyesore.

“It shows a lack of respect for those who have given their lives in conflict. Especially as the work was delayed until after the Half Marathon had taken place,” he added

At first Coun Whitby (Cons, Harborne) replied that he could not recall the situation but was sure that any decision was on the sound advice.

But after a swift briefing from his officials he added: “I have been told that discussions took place with the veterans organisations and the Lord Mayor to make sure Remembrance Sunday is marked in the correct way.”

Coun Whitby was supported by John Dolphin of the Federation of Birmingham Ex-Servicemens’ Associations who said they had been warned in advance that the parade would need to change.

He said: “It has come as no shock to us. We have made arrangements to march around the hoardings. They will be building there for the next three or four years and they are closing that part of Broad Street to make more space.”

Current Lord Mayor, Coun Michael Wilkes said: “This is one of the most important occasions in the Mayoral year and I’m confident that the people of Birmingham will turn out in their usual good numbers, just as they support the Poppy Appeal and everything we’ve done with the Armed Forces in the city this year.”

Article from the evening mail. http://www.birminghammail.net/news/birmingham-news/2009/11/04/anger-over-disruption-after-building-work-start-in-centenary-square-before-remembrance-sunday-97319-25088524/

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