Government to hear plea on cost of policing EDL march
MP Keith Vaz and Leicestershire Chief Constable Simon Cole are to meet Government minister Nick Herbert to discuss the cost of policing last weekend's English Defence League march.
As previously reported by the Mercury, the Leicestershire force faces a bill of at least £800,000 for protests by the EDL and Unite Against Fascism last weekend.
The final bill could be even higher when planning and preparations in the run-up to the day itself are taken into account.
Leicester East MP Mr Vaz said it was "unfair" that the entire cost for the policing operation lay at the door of the county force, which has had to save millions of pounds from its budget because of Government spending cuts.
He raised the issue, along with his concern at the impact on frontline policing from budget cuts, with policing minister Mr Herbert during the Police Grants debate in the House of Commons.
Speaking after the debate, he said: "Leicestershire Constabulary, like others in the country, is facing serious cuts to its budget in light of the Government's deficit reduction programme.
"It is highly unfair that the £800,000 bill for policing the march should have to be met by the Leicestershire police force.
"I am delighted that policing minister Nick Herbert has agreed to meet with me on this issue."
Chief Constable Simon Cole has also accepted an invitation from Mr Vaz to meet him and the minister.
A police spokesman said: "The chief constable has been invited to meet with Mr Vaz and Mr Herbert to discuss the issues surrounding the cost of policing these kinds of protest marches and the implications for police resources."
About 700 people took part in the EDL march on Saturday, February 4, while police said 200 joined the Leicester Unite Against Fascism's counter protest on a separate route.
The chief constable put 2,200 officers on the streets on the day, with most of the operation costs coming from the need to bring in police from 16 other forces.
The Leicestershire force was praised for its handling of the potentially volatile affair and there were no arrests.
Although the police are entitled to a financial contribution from football clubs such as Leicester City for policing home games, that is not currently the case with protests involving loosely-affiliated groups such as the EDL.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "Ministers regularly conduct private meetings with MPs to discuss any issues or concerns."
Writing in a First Person column in the Mercury, earlier this week, Mr Cole said: "It is not for the police to set the laws, but I do think that there needs to be some reflection about the costs and expectations placed on police forces as we are currently paying, on your behalf, the price of free speech.
"That price is significant, and it is paid with the money paid in through taxes by us all."