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Government fracking promise – bribe or pathetic crumbs from the Treasury’s table?

David Cameron announced this morning that councils would be able to keep 100% of business rates they collect from shale gas sites, up from the current figure of 50%. Speaking in Lincolnshire, he said this could be worth up to £1.7 million a year for a typical fracking site.

All out for shale

Mr Cameron said “A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future is to back businesses with better infrastructure. That’s why we’re going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country.”

Bribery

Lawrence Carter, of Greenpeace, said: “the government is now resorting to straight up bribery to sell their deeply unpopular fracking policy.”

The leader of Conservative-led Hampshire County Council, Cllr Roy Perry, told today’s Portsmouth News: “While I welcome any source of revenue for local people to benefit local development, I firmly believe any (fracking) application would have to be judged on its merit. I don’t think we should be bought off.”

Conflict of interest

Barbara Keeley, the Labour MP Worsley and Eccles South, which includes the IGAS exploration site at Barton Moss, told the Guardian: “It muddies the water to give councils two contradictory roles. One is a protective role, to check companies have safeguards. On the other hand, you have a cash-strapped authority that’s lost £100m off its budget, like ours, that gets offered this cash incentive in business rates. The public involved in this, who live near the site, how can they trust the local council will make the right decision on this?”

Harry Huyton, Head of Climate Change at the RSPB, tweeted: “How can we be confident that fracking is environmentally safe when the regulator has been savagely cut and the councils are bought off.”

Pathetic and insulting

Ben Wallace, Conservative MP for Wyre and Preston North, supports fracking but is quoted by a blog for The Spectator magazine, “What they [the government] are offering us today – an extra £850,000 off business rates – is pathetic, insulting. The Treasury should take a little less and we could have a little bit more. These are crumbs from the Treasury table.”

Sir Merrick Cockell, chair of the Local Government Association, speaking on BBC’s Today, said the government’s announcement would help areas affected by fracking. But he said another government proposal, to give local communities 1% of revenues of gas production, was not enough. “If the government is to get 63% [in tax revenue] then local communities should be getting a fair share … We have said 1% is not fair …. and 10 per cent for the local community is a fair share.”

Highlights opposition

Jane Thomas, of Friends of the Earth, told journalists “This latest government move highlights the depth of local opposition to fracking and the desperate lengths ministers are prepared to go to overcome it. People are right to be concerned about the impact of shale gas extraction on their communities”

 

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