Lancashire Police has said its operations at Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool will cost an extra £450,000 a month.
The figures were provided to the Blackpool Gazette and published today. Link here
The information coincides with the release of data provided to DrillOrDrop on arrests at the Preston New Road site, at Little Plumpton.
According to the response to a Freedom of Information Act request, there were 35 arrests between 5 January 2017, when work started at the site, and 5 March 2017. All but seven arrests resulted in charges. 24 arrests were for alleged public order offences.
“Increasing activity, increasing cost”
Lancashire Police told the Blackpool Gazette it had spent £200,000 on fracking issues in the past financial year on top of its annual budget.
The future monthly bill of £450,000 would be spent on police overtime and keeping vans and officers at the fracking site.
Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operations have protested at Little Plumpton since January. This has ranged from daily vigils to direct action, such as lock-ons.
A police spokesperson told the paper:
“We estimate the additional cost will be around £450,000 a month from April (this will be kept under review and published). We also estimate we will have spent up to £200,000 additional costs in the current financial year.”
“The increase is because activity at the site is increasing. Additional cost is one that we have not budgeted for and is therefore a drain on our financial resources.
“It is costs we would not have incurred if we did not have to police the operation, covering things such as overtime.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, Clive Grunshaw, has said the government should pay for policing because the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, gave the go ahead for fracking in the county. (DrillOrDrop report)
After the visiting the site last month, he said:
“This is not a problem made in Lancashire, this is a decision that the Government made after Lancashire turned it down.
“The Government gave the go ahead for this experimental drilling, they should foot the bill for policing the protest.”
Today he was quoted as saying the Government expected Lancashire to pay for the first £2.6m. He said he would raise the issue with ministers and the local MP.
Nearly four years ago, Sussex Police faced a bill of £3.398m for two-month long operations at protests outside another Cuadrilla site at Balcombe. The Home Office contributed £905,000 towards the cost.
Claire Stephenson, of the anti-fracking Preston New Road Action Group, described the policing costs at Little Plumpton as “outrageously excessive”. She said:
“[They] must be footed by central government and actually, Cuadrilla themselves.
“Both have thrust themselves on an unwilling community, using sly tactics and top-down forced politics to get their own way.
“We said no, we will continue to say no and we will resist on every level. I can’t imagine what the government was thinking, expecting communities to step aside for a dirty industry to roll in, unhindered.”
Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, told the Blackpool Gazette:
“Neither our operations nor peaceful, law abiding protests require the attendance of Lancashire Police at the Preston New Road site.
“The police are unfortunately however required there on a daily basis in order to control the activities of a small group of mostly non-local activists.
“These activists are happy to break the law in an effort to disrupt Cuadrilla’s operations.”
Data on arrests
Data provided by Lancashire Police to DrillOrDrop reveals there were 35 arrests in the first 60 days of the protests at Preston New Road. But during this period people were arrested on only 10 dates.
The largest number of arrests was on 20 February 2017, when nine people were arrested. This was the day of an eight-person lock-on outside the site.
Most of the arrests were for alleged public order offices. The largest single reason given for arrest was under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. This gives power to police to impose conditions on public assemblies, such as location, duration or maximum number of people.
Seven people who were arrested outside the site during this period were not charged.