Time the “Task Force” was taken to task?
Tonight we were astounded to read this Press Release from Frack Free Lancashire in which it is alleged that the North West Energy Task Force has added a significant percentage of its “supporters” to a letter to Lancashire County Council without them even being aware of it, and in a number of cases when they actually oppose fracking.
It would appear that in spite of the claim that the letter was “signed by 119 businesses” (see Note 2 here ), of the 119 signatories 4 signed on behalf of the NWETF itself and 3 businesses signed twice. Of the remainder a sample of 40 were contacted of whom 16, according to Frack Free Lancashire, said they “wished to be removed from the letter”.
If these allegations are true then those panelists on the NWETF who also hold senior positions in other groups, like Babs Murphy, Chief Executive at North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and John Kersey, Lancashire branch Chairman of the Institute of Directors, ought perhaps to be considering whether this sort of behaviour is in the best interests of their membership.
Here is the Press Release in full:
Frack Free Lancashire Press Release: for immediate release, Monday 16th November 2015
Business leaders opposed to fracking wrongly included as signatories in pro-fracking letter
Community groups and businesses in Lancashire have been left shocked following the discovery that at least 15 of the “Lancashire business leaders” listed as signatories to a pro-fracking letter organized by the North West Energy Task Force (NWETF) did not agree to add their support. (1). The ‘pro-fracking’ business letter of over 100 business leaders to Lancashire County Council earlier this year includes businesses who were never asked if their details could be added, and others who are anti-fracking.
Frack Free Lancashire uncovered the inconsistencies by conducting a telephone survey of a third of a businesses on the list, the full results of which can be seen below. (2) In addition, three business have two signatories each on the list and people representing the North West Energy Task Force are listed four separate times.
It follows revelations earlier this year that less than half of the North West Energy Task Force list of businesses who support fracking are based in Lancashire (3) including businesses outside of Lancashire – and some as far as Scotland – who are also signatories to this letter.
Gail Hodson of Frack Free Lancashire, who discovered the errors, said:
“Given the widespread anti-fracking sentiment in the community alarm bells rang when we saw this list. We easily found out that many had not agreed to be on this list – or had never heard of it. Perhaps most interestingly, others, still, were actually against fracking.”
Frack free Lancashire contacted the following people, who responded:
- Kaz Bhai from Shipping and Trading Co Manchester, said: “I do not support fracking, I don’t know why I am on the NWETF list of business’s supporting fracking and I would like to be removed from the list.”
- Benjamin Riley the Director at Thermal Hire Ltd in Wigan said: “North West Energy Task Force have rung me and I told them I do not want to be on their list”
- Irene Campbell a consultant at Capita Group which was one of the signatories on the NWETF list on behalf of a gentleman called Steve Thompsett responded with an official statement from Capita which stated: “Capita Group have confirmed that even while employed by Capita, Steve Thompsett was not an authorised ‘spokesperson or representative’ for Capita and any views they have expressed are personal and in no way representative of Capita.”
Responding to the highly dubious NWETF business list Furqan Naeem, North West Campaigner for Friends of the Earth said:
“It is shocking that the North West Energy Task Force, funded by Cuadrilla, has claimed to have the support of businesses for fracking without their consent, and has tried to use this to influence the council.
“At best this is incompetence. North West Energy Task force should immediately correct their claims about local businesses who support fracking and ensure the accuracy of future statements.
“It is no surprise that many Lancashire businesses oppose fracking, which even the Government’s own draft report found could impact negatively on industries that are important to Lancashire, like farming and tourism. “
Lancashire County Council rejected Cuadrilla’s application to fracking Little Plumpton and Roseacre in June this year (5).
Cuadrilla have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate in a bid to get the decision to refuse permission overturned. A public inquiry began and there will be hearings in February next year.
- Members of Frack Free Lancashire called 40 of the businesses out of the list of 119, and found:
- 16 businesses that wish to be removed from the letter, including:
o 9 businesses that do not support fracking
o 3 businesses that were not aware they were on the letter
o 1 business that has signed a letter of over 300 businesses opposing fracking
o 2 that were neutral on the issue
o 1 business owner who supports fracking personally but does not want his business to be included on the letter
- 11 businesses that are supportive of fracking
- 13 businesses that were un-contactable after 3 attempts, including 2 with out of use numbers
- Research by Greenpeace earlier this year found that more than half of businesses that support the North West Energy task force are based outside of Lancashire http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lobbying-group-for-fracking-in-lancashire-supported-by-firms-mainly-outside-county-10140424.html
Gail Hodson, Frack Free Lancashire: 07533523236 firstname.lastname@example.org
Furqan Naeem, Friends of the Earth: 07742507266 email@example.com