SOUTH YORKSHIRE’S newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner has called on politicians to do more to help fund policing demonstrations from far-right group the English Defence League after figures revealed the cost put a £2.5m dent in its budget in under 12 months.
Dr Alan Billings said the matter was cause for “great concern” after requests made under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that 4,068 police officers were deployed at a total of nine protests staged in Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham between last June and November this year.
In Rotherham alone, the cost of policing the organised marches was £1.4m.
Of those, four took place in the wake of the Jay report, which exposed years of widespread child sexual exploitation. The revelation that the perpetrators were mainly groups of Asian men is thought to have fuelled racial tensions within its communities.
Dr Billings said: “The cost of policing EDL demonstrations is of great concern. It is taking away scarce resources that could otherwise be used for important police work in the community.
“Those who take part come mainly from out of the area or have no real interest in helping us to resolve any of the issues we face locally.
“At best they are a noisy nuisance; at worst add to tensions within the community.”
One EDL march organised in response to news that at least 1,400 children were abused in Rotherham from 1997 to 2013, and disgraced former Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright’s resistance to calls for his resignation in September saw police subjected to “serious violence”.
It came at a cost £853,144 and required 488 officers, with seven people being charged for public order offences, racially-aggravated offences, criminal damage to a mosque and assaulting a police officer.
Mr Wright, who was in charge of children’s services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010, submitted a bid for a special grant from the Home Office at the time but it was subsequently withdrawn.
As the town continues to suffer in the aftermath of the CSE scandal, Mr Billings said he was looking into ways to mitigate the impact on South Yorkshire Police’s budget.
He said: “I have already asked local MPs to explore ways of mitigating the worst effects of continued demonstrations. This does nothing for community relations.”