Please Police Me!




For some time now those supporting fracking have tried to turn the narrative away from the issues surrounding fracking and to present this battle as protesters versus police. Really nothing could be further from the truth.

As anyone who has been down to Preston New Road will know the vast majority of those they meet are decent, hard working or retired people, who continue to pay the council tax to enable the provision of policing services in the county. Some of us, however have become concerned about issues which have surfaced with the policing of the protest.

The most obvious one is the over-policing which has been evident throughout and this has some serious implications for the people of Lancashire as we continue to be asked to pay for an unsustainable policing operation which is, in effect, providing a free service for Cuadrilla.

Lancashire Police’s own public statements suggest that the cost of the policing operation, whilst being a considerable drain on the county’s finances, is still in manageable territory – just.

The cumulative total of £2.2 million is described as “Costs attributed to the policing operation for fracking“, but it is only on closer examination that we notice that it also states “The table below shows the additional costs related to policing the fracking operation. This includes overtime, unsocial hours payments, equipment, subsistence etc. These costs do not include the cost of those officers that are assigned to policing the site on a day-to-day basis.” [Our emphasis].

So what has the real cost of policing this operation been? To work this out we need to look at the cost to Lancashire Constabulary for the provision of Mutual Aid from other forces, which began on 10th July and will finish on 29th September, and also look at at the Full Economic Costs for Lancashire’s own policing operation . Fortunately information on these costs is readily available

Mutual Aid Data

Full Economic Costing

The information is for different years and from specific forces but it is recent enough and generally applicable enough to allow us to make a reasonable stab at the total costs incurred.

Cost of Mutual Aid Policing

Mutual aid policing is provided in PSUs – Police Support Units which comprise

  • 1 Inspector
  • 3 Sergeants
  • 18 Constables
  • 3 Constable Drivers

Throughout the Mutual Aid period it has been normal to see at least 6 vans from other forces at any one time so for this exercise we are going to assume that 2 PSU units (50 officers) have been deployed on average throughout the Mutual Aid period. This would be half of the daily presence of 100 officers reported in several reputable media outlets.

[The Times reported in April  “More than 100 officers a day are being sent to Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road near Blackpool to ensure that lorries delivering materials can pass protesters.” and in May the Blackpool Gazette reported  “The officer in charge of policing anti-fracking protests in Fylde has defended the number of police deployed. Lancashire Police has up to 100 officers deployed at the drilling site in Preston New Road every day, prompting criticism from some quarters of the resources being given over to the operation. Supt Richard Robertshaw admits the numbers required are a drain on resources.“]

When  paying for mutual aid the amount paid by Lancashire Constabulary is not the Full Economic Cost of each officer – instead they pay only for the basic pay, unsociable hours, other allowances and national insurance. The force providing Mutual Aid has to swallow up the rest (or rather their council tax payers and the national tax payers do, which is another reason why it is legitimate to regard this as not just a local but a national issue).

Taking the employable cost hourly rates for each grade and applying these to the number of days worked we can calculate that the daily cost of a single PSU unit would be £7,031, so 2 PSU units (50 officers) would cost just over £14,000 a day.

Over the 81 days of the Mutual Aid period this might have cost Lancashire Police £1,139,077 assuming our assumptions about the number of officers deployed and the police’s own data are correct.

Cost of Lancashire Constabulary’s Policing

When looking at the cost of Lancashire’s own officers we need to use a Full Economic Costing which takes into account not only the salaries and overheads uses in the calculation of Mutual Aid rates but also elements, which are not included in the Mutual Aid cost calculations like:

  • Competence
  • Bonus Payment
  • Subsistence
  • Rent / Housing Allowances
  • Healthcare Scheme

along with direct overheads in the form of

  • Overtime Premium
  • Uniforms
  • Insurance
  • Transport
  • Training
  • Call Handling
  • Communications
  • Infrastructure

and also indirect overheads allocated from the provision of other central services.

The impact of including these is to bring the cost of a Police Constable from a nominal £32.78 an hour under Mutual Aid to a more realistic £59.64 an hour under a Full Economic Cost model.

This means that by the end of this week (Friday 29th September 2017), on the reasonable assumption that 100 officers have been deployed each day, apart from during Mutual Aid when it would have been 50,  the cost to Lancashire Constabulary for their own officers since January 6th will have been be somewhere in the region of £10 million.

This would suggest that the total cumulative costs so far of facilitating Cuadrilla’s operation to Lancashire Constabulary are in the order of £11.2 million.

This compares with a total 2017/18 budget requirement for Lancashire Constabulary of £261,647,000 or about 4% of the annual total after just 9 months. This would suggest over 5% after a year.

If you would like to look at the data behind our calculations it can be found in this spreadsheet

And now we need to take a step back and remember – this is just one pad. If this industry ever takes root here we can expect at least 100 pads to be developed. At any one time we can probably expect 10 pads to be being developed, and as we have seen when this industry invades places where there is a strong community, like in a village, resistance increases, so it would be unreasonable for the police to expect not to have to deal with a similar level of protest at each and every site that is developed here in Lancashire.

So, my questions to Chief Inspector Keith Ogle and Police Commissioner Clive Grunshaw are as follows:

  • Are the Police ready to spend something in the region of 50% of their current budget over the next 20 years on facilitating Cuadrilla’s operations?
  • Do the Police feel that they can adequately perform the rest of their necessary functions in our society whilst so many resources are being directed towards policing Cuadrilla’s fracking operations?
  • What plans have the Police put in place to get finance from central Government for this massive drain on their resources which might allow them continue to perform the job that we all need them to do?

These are questions that our senior police officers really have to be asking themselves. Given the costs that would seem to have been incurred already we need the answers to them sooner rather than later.

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