A Yorkshire police force is preparing to delve into its emergency reserves to pay for a major security operation at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference next month.
Hundreds of protesters are expected to converge on the region when Sheffield MP Nick Clegg welcomes some 1,500 party delegates to the city from March 11 to 13.
The event presents a huge challenge for South Yorkshire Police, which has set aside £500,000 from its existing budget to cover the cost of planning for the operation.
More money will be needed to pay for policing of the event itself, and the force’s governing authority is considering a raid on its reserve account to free funds.
The authority may also ask the Home Office for help with the bill, but can only do so afterwards.
The party announced last February it would hold its conference in Sheffield – a move estimated to be worth more than £1m to the city’s economy – but the event became a far greater security risk after the party formed a coalition.
Activists are expected to target the conference in protest at cuts in public spending and the tuition fees row.
The Yorkshire Post understands that unions and pressure groups have already held meetings to plan demonstrations, and police are gathering intelligence on potential troublemakers.
It is the first time Sheffield has hosted a national political party conference, and a police source said it remained unclear how much the operation would cost.
However, the policing bill came to £1.5m in June 2005 when the city hosted a G8 summit.
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