Policing of EDL demonstrations cost West Yorkshire Police £3 million

Police  contol the EDL at The Barum Top Inn, Halifax.
Police contol the EDL at The Barum Top Inn, Halifax.

West Yorkshire Police has spent more than £3 million in the past four years on keeping the peace at English Defence League demonstrations.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show West Yorkshire Police have been left with a six-figure bill after protests by the far-right group on seven occasions since October 2009.

The county’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson has called for increased powers to ban protests by right-wing groups after an event in Bradford last month which cost in excess of £1 million.

West Yorkshire Police was the only force in the region to provide details of the cost and manpower needed to police EDL demonstrations after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

But South Yorkshire’s PCC has recently revealed that two rallies held by the group in Sheffield in June and September this year left his county’s force with a bill of £1.4 million.

West Yorkshire Police’s response revealed details of nine EDL events which have required a policing presence since October 2009, though they do not include last month’s rally in Bradford and a recent event in Wakefield.

A demonstration in Bradford in August 2010 which saw the EDL and Unite Against Fascism hold separate protests cost the force £995,000 and required 1,281 officers. West Yorkshire Police were supported by 13 other forces to help keep the groups apart. Thirteen protesters were arrested after several skirmishes broke out.

In October 2009, some 900 EDL supporters joined a rally in City Square, Leeds, and were penned in by a ring of officers. A total of 672 officers were required policing cost £310,000.

After last month’s protest in Bradford, which saw 700 EDL supporters visit the city and involved more than 1,000 officers from several forces, politicians called for greater powers to ban demonstrations by far-right groups. At present, static protests cannot be banned.

In a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May in October, Mr Burns-Williamson said: “The community impact of such a damaging and disruptive demonstration and the costs incurred to our communities at a time of severe cuts to public services makes the current legislative arrangements in my view hugely questionable.

“It is wholly wrong that the people of Bradford and taxpayers across West Yorkshire should carry the burden of the impact and costs for such events which are imposed upon them, and are designed to bring division and fear to our communities as well as attract groups with opposing views that only adds to community tensions.”

Mr Burns-Williamson has also applied for a Government grant to help meet the costs.

South Yorkshire’s crime commissioner Shaun Wright has also called on the Government to contribute to policing costs as he says his own cash-strapped force is powerless to stop such rallies.

In June, around 1,000 police officers were on duty to keep the peace when the EDL laid wreaths in memory of Drummer Lee Rigby in Sheffield city centre, at a cost of £600,000.

Humberside Police has sent officers to two EDL protests this year as well as one in 2011 and two in 2010. All the demonstrations were in Hull city centre.