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Peaceful protest hits fracking where it hurts most

Image: Geograph UK

According to figures released by  Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner the policing costs at just a single fracking well in Kirby Misperton added an additional £80,238 up to 31 August 2017.  However, once Third Energy’s operations began, the policing costs increased dramatically, adding a further £101,476 during September alone:

“These figures cover police officer overtime, equipment and subsistence, travel-related costs. These costs do not include the cost of those officers that are assigned to policing the site on a day-to-day basis, which are costs which would be borne whether there was a protest or not.”

Importantly, these costs are not the result of rioting or of drafting in armies of police from elsewhere in the country; they are merely the ordinary costs of having a police presence to balance the rights of peaceful protestors with those of the wider public.  It is unlikely, therefore, that the policing cost will be reduced any time soon.  As Georgina Morris at the Yorkshire Post observes:

“If spending on Operation Kingfisher has continued at a similar rate throughout October, then the additional cost to date is likely to stand at more than £250,000.”

Since there is little evidence of the police operation being scaled back or of the protestors’ resolve wavering, the policing bill for fracking just this one well is likely to exceed £500,000 by the New Year – funds that should properly be spent on ordinary police duties rather than facilitating the dubious business activities of the spivs and chancers in charge of the UK fracking industry.  According to Mulligan, these costs are already eating into police reserves, but will eventually fall on the UK Treasury:

“North Yorkshire Police has the necessary contingencies and budgets in place to ensure the force is able to deal with events such as policing protests. Above and beyond our usual budgeting there are also reserves earmarked for any major incidents that arise during the course of the year.

“However, should the cost of the operation increase to over one percent of the total policing budget in North Yorkshire, the government holds a fund to assist local forces. I am seeking reassurance from the Government that money from this fund will be available, should it be needed.”

With UK public spending already cut to the bone, this raises serious questions about the future for a UK fracking industry that has already failed to attract the private investment needed even to drill preliminary test wells.  With the UK government already backtracking on its commitment to fracking, additional policing costs that could easily run to more than £1 million per single well might prove to be the financial straw that breaks the fracking camel’s back.

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