The bill for policing an English Defence League rally in Sheffield this weekend could add up to a staggering £800,000.
Officers are being drafted in from across the country for the demonstration at Sheffield Lane Top.
The cost could pay instead for the salaries of around 26 officers for a year.
South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright called on the Government to foot the bill.
The rally was called following proposals for a disused pub to be converted into a mosque – even though plans have been dropped.
“It seems outrageous to me that hard-working, local people, who have nothing to do with these rallies and protests, should have to pick up the bill,” Shaun Wright said today.
“If the Government cannot or will not change the law enabling the police to ban events that could incite or cause violence and cause major disruption to local communities, the least it can do is ensure we don’t have to pick up the tab.”
The bill for policing a previous EDL rally in Sheffield last June was £600,000 – and Shaun Wright said the total bill for policing the two together is expected to reach £1.4m.
Police say that could pay for the salaries of 46 officers.
In June, around 1,000 police officers were on duty in Sheffield city centre when EDL members laid wreaths at the war memorial in Barker’s Pool in memory of murdered Drummer Lee Rigby.
Commissioner Wright said: “The cost of policing these two events alone is the equivalent of an extra 46 police officers for a whole year.
“Just imagine what inroads we could make in cutting crime even further, and protecting the vulnerable, with those sorts of additional officers on the streets.
“Local taxpayers’ money should be spent on policing local communities and local needs – not on these protest rallies. It is time the Government acted.
“South Yorkshire Police is powerless to ban these rallies and the Chief Constable has no choice but to ensure there are enough officers on duty to prevent disorder and to keep everyone safe.”
Superintendent Colin McFarlane said he believed a ‘conservative estimate’ of the cost would be £600,000 ‘if not more’.
“We would far sooner spend this money on local policing priorities but we have no choice,” he said.
He added: “There is a common perception that the police have powers to ban such assemblies. We don’t.
“Officers have the power to ban marches or processions only after approval from the Home Secretary, and even then only if we have information that suggests there may be serious violence or disorder. This event does not meet the ban criteria.
“What we can do, however, in liaison with partners and local businesses, is to take a very firm stance, with a positive policing style aimed at protecting the public, businesses and those participating in the assembly.”
Road closures are expected in and around Sheffield Lane Top for the duration of the rally.
Anyone with information which could help police chiefs plan for Saturday’s event should call 101.