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Weasel words on fracking protest costs

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The cost of policing the anti-fracking demonstrations at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire rose dramatically in October according to the latest information from Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.

In the period up to 31 August, prior to Third Energy starting work, policing had cost just £80,238.  This was exceeded in September alone, when policing cost £101,476.  But even these costs were overshadowed by the £233,704 spent in October.  It is highly likely that total policing costs have already topped £500,000.  According to Mulligan:

“The costs incurred during October were considerably higher than the previous month and this is due to a number of factors, including a rise in the number of officers needed when protest activity increased and, on a number of occasions, support from other police forces in the form of mutual aid.”

Importantly, these costs are additional to the ordinary cost of policing North Yorkshire:

“These figures include overtime, mutual aid, equipment, subsistence, travel-related costs etc. It does not include the cost of those officers that are assigned to policing the site on a day-to-day basis.”

What this means is that fracking is taking funds away from an already under-funded police service.  Indeed, Mulligan says that the additional policing costs are being covered from “contingency funds.”  This sounds innocuous.  However, contingency funds are what police forces depend upon for dealing with major emergencies such as, for example, widespread flooding, large transport disasters, riots, terrorist incidents and pandemics.  According to Mulligan:

“North Yorkshire Police has the necessary contingencies and budgets in place to deal with events such as this in the short term. However, if the costs go beyond one per cent (or £1.4m) of our total budget, I have this week received a positive response from the Policing Minister to my letter stating that I have the option to seek a partial recovery of costs. I’d like to thank the Minister for replying so promptly.”

Mulligan – and, indeed, the people of North Yorkshire – might want to stop and consider that in the current Tory government they are dealing with one of the most venomous nests of vipers ever to inhabit the corridors of Whitehall.  In particular, they might note that “having an option to seek” something is no guarantee that you will get it.  They might also consider that a £10 donation would be sufficient to constitute “a partial recovery of costs.”

Lest we forget, Fracking was foist upon the people of North Yorkshire (and many other counties of England) against the wishes of local people.  If there is a cost to policing this unwanted industry, the government that insisted upon it should find the funds to cover all of the additional policing costs.  Or perhaps, like football, the policing costs should be recovered from the industry itself.


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