Row brews up at Fleetwood Town Council over Armed Forces Champion role

A political argument has blown up over the role of Armed Forces Champion at Fleetwood Town Council.

By Richard Hunt
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 12:25 pm

The role, which sees the champion support local veterans and help to address any barriers and issues they may face in the community, is up for election each year.

Ex-serviceman Coun Brian Crawford, a member of minority group Wyre Alliance, had held the role since 2019 but Labour’s Coun Lorraine Beavers, whose husband is an-ex serviceman, was elected champion instead at the council’s AGM.

Coun Crawford says he was taken by surprise over the change in role and says he is unhappy about the way it was done, with fellow Wyre Alliance members slamming the move on social media.

Coun Lorraine Beavers and Coun Brian Crawford

But Coun Beavers says she only put her name forward because she was asked to do so by ex-servicemen in the town and was subsequently elected by fellow councillors.

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Coun Crawford, who served with the Royal Engineers in Aden and Bahrain from 1961, said: “I was very peeved as there had been no indication I would not be re-elected or that Lorraine was going to be proposed.

"This position was the only one on the council in which the post holder was not re-elected, most of them held by Labour councillors.

There is a a sizable community of veterans and serving personnel in Fleetwood

“I have worked very well to promote our Armed Forces, veterans and cadets over the last three years and attended many meetings to represent Fleetwood Town Council.

"There has been quite a bit of negative feedback from the local veteran's community. I was supported in my original nomination for the role by the members of the Duke of Lancaster's Association.”

However, Coun Beavers, who has served for many years on Wyre and Lancashire County councils, said: “My husband served with the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and I put myself forward because I was asked to do it by some ex-servicemen in the town who wanted my help over some issues.

"People who know me will know that I always give 100 per cent for Fleetwood and I will with the Armed Forces Champion.

Coun Mary Stirzaker says no roles are permanent and will always come up for election at AGMs

"I feel the criticism is purely political but I chose not to have a slanging match on social media about it.”

On a Fleetwood Facebook site, Coun Huey Williams, a Wyre Alliance member on Wyre Council, said: “It's a cheap tactic done for photo opportunities during Armed Forces Week.

"There is no way she'll be as passionate or committed as Brian to the role.”

But Coun Mary Stirzaker, town council vice chairman, replied: “No roles are permanent, Coun Crawford did a good job but all Coun Beaver’s history as an army wife also makes her a good champion.

Coun Tony O'Neill is unhappy about the way the Armed Forces Champion move was handled

"Every role is up for change at every AGM, just like all councils, there was no malice intended, which is what is being implied.”

Coun Tony O’Neill, an independent member with links to Wyre Alliance, said: “I’m ashamed to be part of this council for what they have done, it was a political move.

"They’ve ousted a man who was doing a good job and who was well liked and respected by the veterans he met up with on a regular basis.”

Fleetwood Town Council is considering the option of having two Armed Forces Champions, which could mean that both Coun Crawford and Coun Beavers would be involved.