The Home Office has refused a request for extra funding to police protests outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool.
The Policing Minister, Brandon Lewis, (left) said there was no central government money for policing fracking protests. Special funding would be available only when extra costs reached more than 1% of the force’s budget.
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, asked for the extra money last month. He said at the time, the government should fund the protests because its minister overruled the refusal of planning permission by Lancashire County Council for the site at Preston New Road (DrillOrDrop report).
Since then, Lancashire Constabulary has estimated the extra cost of policing the protests will be £450,000 per month.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Grunshaw said Lancashire Constabulary would have to pay at least £2.6m to police the protests before there was any chance of applying for extra help.
Mr Lewis said in a letter to Mr Grunshaw:
“I understand your concern regarding the impact that protests are having on Lancashire Constabulary. However, there is no central government funding stream available to meet the policing costs incurred as a result of fracking.”
He said Police and Crime Commissioners could apply for Special Grants if their forces faced “a significant and unexpected event” which threatened the financial stability of the force. But he added:
“Special Grant funding is usually only available when the additional costs incurred are greater than one per cent of the PCC’s budget.
“Police forces should include within their policing and budget plans reasonable contingencies for unexpected events within their areas.”
Opponents of Cuadrilla’s activity at Preston New Road have been protested outside the site since work began on 5 January 2017. Mr Grunshaw visited the protests the day before he wrote to the Home Office. At the time 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.”
Yesterday, Mr Grunshaw said:
“Our officer resources are being stretched to the limits and the government has said that there will be no additional financial help until our costs reach £2.6m spend. Even then, we will only be able to claim anything over that initial cost.
“That’s £2.6m that could have been spent investigating child exploitation, serious crimes and domestic abuse, but instead is focussed on policing protests.
“Other crimes will continue to be investigated of course – but any additional resources that may have helped them be solved sooner, may not be there.”