The scale of the response by Yorkshire’s emergency services to staging the Tour de France has been revealed as the police chief at the helm of the planning hinted that costs could hit tax payers.
Leave has been cancelled or heavily restricted for police, ambulance and fire service staff across the county for the July 5 and 6 spectacle, as the emergency services prepare to deal with an expected 3m visitors.
Hundreds of police officers will join up to 4,000 accredited stewards and some of the 12,000 volunteer Tour Makers for each of the two Yorkshire stages, while ambulance staff could collectively work up to 7,000hours and West Yorkshire’s 54-strong fleet of fire engines will be utilised to make sure the event runs well.
Emergency services will be centrally controlled from police premises in Wakefield, working with multi-agency control rooms in key Tour locations such as Leeds and Harrogate, as staff man everyday operations as usual.
But Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom, who is coordinating the police operation, has hinted extra costs for policing could come out of Yorkshire residents’ council tax contributions.
He said: “Would the public of West Yorkshire and further afield not expect the rates of council tax they pay towards their policing to be part of the contribution of making the biggest event in their area a success?”
“There is some additional cost in it but it can be overplayed.”
Funding questions were first raised when North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan criticised organisers for failing to take into account policing costs, after just £435,000 of the £21m Yorkshire Tour budget was allocated for police planning.
North Yorkshire Police will use a £500,000 underspend from its 2012-13 budget to pay for its costs, but figures will not be released by South or West Yorkshire Police until after Le Tour. Mr Milsom said the £21m “was always going to be a contribution to the cost”.
“It never has been about money and resources. We sent hundreds of staff down to the Olympic Games in 2012 and this for us is like the Yorkshire Olympics, to sell the county and its iconic locations,” he added.
Members of the forum also moved to allay fears that the road closures could leave people at risk in isolated communities, with Ian Walton, from Yorkshire Ambulance Service, stating that around 60 on-route emergency access points have been agreed while staff will go to high risk areas.
The NHS is working to identify vulnerable patients along the route, while Yorkshire Air Ambulance is making extra Tour provision and regional fire service staff are being readied.