Fright Night police bill surprises me

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I AM writing on behalf of a request that has been made by Scott Barton, the organiser of Fright Night, who has contacted the chief constable with regard to the proposed £8,000 bill for policing the event in the city centre.

I have to say I am very surprised that a charge has been levied as I understand the event is a public one, free to anyone who wants to come along and is in a public space.

I am not aware that a charge has been made in any previous year when the event has taken place.

I understand the pressures on the police budget after the cuts by the Government, but I am concerned if we now start charging for what I would regard as the normal responsibilities of any police force to maintain order in public places.

What would concern me as well is to understand the principles on which any charge is levied.

Similarly there are some events that are not charged for yet this event is being charged for and I would like to understand the difference.

If a demonstration takes place in the city centre, whether it be a march or demonstration at one location would the officers who go to police that demonstration now be charging the organisers of the demonstration for it?

I cannot really see any fundamental difference between such an event and the Fright Night except that is obviously not a demonstration with a point but simply a chance for people to enjoy themselves.

The same principle however applies, as both would be in a public space and both would be open for anyone to join in.

Secondly, while I understand that the police charge football clubs for policing in the ground, as I understand it, they do not charge them for policing outside the ground.

Is there an intention to charge now for policing the public highways around the ground. If not, what is the difference between their role in that respect and their role in policing Fright Night?

The only difference I can see is that football clubs charge for the event and Fright Night does not.

Finally, last year we had the Lib Dem Spring Conference in Sheffield. That cost a great deal of money to police and far more than anything Fright Night is likely to require.

As I understand it that cost was not passed on to the Lib Dems.

What, again, is the difference? The police were not in the conference, they were outside on the public highway but again, as far as Fright Night is concerned, the police are on the public highway.

The only difference I can see is Fright Night again is an open event whereas the Lib Dem Conference was a closed and restricted event which the police were preventing those without a right of access getting in.

I do look forward to your response to the issues that Scott Barton has raised and also to an explanation as to the principles based on the different events I have identified when charges may or may not be applied.

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East