Caps in hand over rally policing cost

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POLICE are appealing to the Home Office for help to cover the cost of a controversial protest in Blackpool.

The Lancashire Police Authority today revealed the force faced a bill in excess of £1m following English Defence League (EDL) demonstrations in Blackpool, Preston and Blackburn.

Authority bosses have now applied to the Home Office because it does “not feel the financial burden should be placed on Lancashire residents”.

Around 700 officers were drafted in to Blackpool from across Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Merseyside last weekend.

Up to 2,000 members of EDL gathered on Blackpool Promenade on Saturday to protest over the police handling of the disappearance of teenager Charlene Downes.

Unite Against Fascism held a smaller rally near Central Pier.

Police made 10 arrests mostly for being drunk and disorderly, two for public order offences and one for possession of an offensive weapon.

The cost of the massive policing operation has left the Fylde coast questioning whether the police and taxpayer should foot the bill.

Mark Yates, owner of Brooks Collectables on Waterloo Road in South Shore, said: “The police were amazing, I just hope the EDL are not going to do it again. It’s the tax payer footing the bill, it’s a disgrace. The organisers should foot the bill.”

Ken Bonell, owner of The Oakwood Hotel on Shaw Road, South Shore, said: “It was overkill. Our road was completely shut off so we lost out on a lot of trade.

“Why couldn’t they have held the protest on the day of the Blackpool FC and Bolton game when there were already police in town?”

Paul Maynard, Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP, said: “People will always want the right to protest and we have to defend the right to free speech.

“We are always going to have these demonstrations but I regret they cost the police that amount.”

Miranda Carruthers-Watt, chief executive of Lancashire Police Authority, said they were awaiting a response from the Home Office.

She said: “Lancashire has recently been host to three demonstrations by the EDL at a cost in excess of £1m.

“Thanks to highly professional policing they all passed relatively smoothly with very few arrests.

“While costs have been kept as low as possible, the authority does not feel the financial burden should be placed on Lancashire residents.

“We are therefore seeking financial assistance from the Home Office and we will have to wait and see the outcome of this application.”