CARNIVAL chiefs have slammed a police policy that has led to Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council facing a £7,000 bill for this year's event.

Cllr Howard Curran, portfolio holder for local activities, says he is 'baffled' at how Cheshire police can charge the extra cash for this year's carnival - to be held at the August bank holiday weekend - when they have no more work to do than in previous years.

He said: 'The carnival has traditionally been policed for free, and this year's event is no different. The same roads will be closed and the floats will take the same route through the town.'

Cheshire Constabulary has said there are no national guidelines on charging for police presence at community events, but that its own policy is to charge for attendance at commercial events.

Supt Neil Booth, operations policy spokesman for Cheshire police, said: 'Work is being undertaken nationally to clearly identify what events would be subject to a charge for policing services, and there is an ongoing debate as to what constitutes a public or a private event.

'In Cheshire, while national guidance is awaited, our general practice is to charge for policing services at commercial events.'

Though the carnival is not a commercial event, it does attract sponsorship from businesses in Crewe. This fact, coupled with the violence and problems seen at last year's event, has led to the charge from the police.

Supt Booth said: 'Police must engage with the organisers to determine the most appropriate means of maximising the safety of those attending events, and all other sections of the community.

'The circumstances and history of each particular event also requires that each case is considered on its individual merits.'

Police have also released figures that show how much will be charged for each officer at the event. A superintendent will cost the council more than £1,000 for two days' work - £63.44 an hour - while a constable will set it back £296 a day.

Despite these charges, Cllr Curran is adamant the show must go on. He said: 'The carnival has got to go ahead this year. The preparations are too far advanced and I have had reassuring talks with other members of the board who agree that we must find the money from somewhere.'

Cllr Curran has also reacted to suggestions that the carnival - the centrepiece of the borough's summer entertainment programme - is declining and is not worth the money any more.

He said: 'The claim that the carnival isn't worth the money may be a valid one, but that is something that will have to be discussed on budget day, not six weeks before it takes place. First of all we have to make sure that this year's carnival goes ahead.'

Cllr Curran will meet the chief executive of the council, Alan Wenham, and other board members to get the request for extra funds approved.

Last year's carnival attracted more than 50,000 people from across South Cheshire, and the big day is the largest free event in the borough. The usual bill for the event is about £40,000, half of which is recouped through sponsorship.

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