A campaigner says energy companies should foot the bill for managing anti-fracking demonstrations after it was revealed Cheshire Constabulary shelled out £280,000 to police protests in West Cheshire last year.
Matt Bryan, who supports the camp set up in Upton to prevent IGas carrying out test drilling off Duttons Lane, submitted a Freedom of Information to find out how much it cost Cheshire Police to police anti-fracking activists at Upton, Farndon, Ellesmere Port and outside Cheshire West and Chester Council headquarters.
The response estimates the final figure for 2014 as £280,000 but this does not include costs such as helicopter surveillance but simply officer salaries, including overtime. However, the response points out officers were already engaged in normal duty time, ‘therefore those costs would be met in any event regardless of their actual duties’.
Matt, who is standing as a Labour candidate for Upton ward in the May council elections, said: “It is very worrying that Cheshire Police are asking for a 2% increase (in the council tax precept) this year yet they have taken on the costs of policing corporate fracking interests. The bill should be paid by IGas and yet another reason why we should be rejecting fracking in Cheshire.
“It is likely that this cost is the tip of an iceberg as associated costs such as helicopter surveillance, transport and court costs have not been included. There is no question Cheshire Police have a very difficult job to do with limited resources and do have an important role to play in safe-guarding our communities but as an Upton resident said recently ‘I need protection from burglars not peaceful protesters’.”
Conservative Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer told The Chronicle policing should receive its fair share of any compensation given to communities because of the impact of fracking.
He said: “The costs of policing associated with the Freedom of Information request reflect the costs to maintain order. As I have stated previously, if there is to be any compensation for the costs associated to local authorities, I believe that policing should receive a proportionate share as it is public money being used to pay for policing.”
IGas spokesman Paul Smith said: “It is a matter for the local police authority to assess the policing requirements needed to ensure people’s safety and prevent illegal activity.”