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EDL Birmingham rally cost police £1million, says commissioner

Most expensive policing operation in the history of West Midlands Police, council told

EDL supporters confront police in Centenary Square

A staggering £1 million was spent policing the English Defence League rally in Birmingham last month.

It was West Midland Police’s most expensive operation ever - and leaves the force with a huge hole in its budget.

Around 2,000 supporters of the EDL came to Birmingham on July 20 for the demo, which sparked a counter demonstration by the Unite Against Facism (UAF).

More than 1,000 police officers were on duty and there were 20 arrests.

Members of Birmingham City Council’s social cohesion and community safety overview and scrutiny committee were given a debriefing.

On the day , there were 1,300 officers on duty, including those seconded from 12 other forces.

Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones said the cost of the policing on that day alone was currently £1 million - but was rising every week as it was still an on-going operation.

Mr Jones added that the investigation into the murder of Mohammed Saleem and the bombings of mosques in Tipton and Walsall could see the eventual cost rise to £2 million.

“That figure of £1 million could easily eventually double when you add those into it,” Mr Jones said.

“It was the most expensive policing operation in the history of West Midlands Police.”

Unlike other major events, such as the G8 Summit or political party conferences, the force cannot claim money back from the Government or football clubs.

“This will be a big problem for the budget, but we have contingency reserves for things such as this. But, nevertheless, it does provide a degree of strain,.

 

Committee chairman, Coun Waseem Zaffar, asked if the police were going to approach the EDL for a contribution towards costs.

They will not. “We have no legal powers to charge the EDL, or any other body for holding a static protest,” added Mr Jones.

But despite the cost, the police chief in charge on the day hailed it a success.

Chief Supt Rick Burgess said suggestions future protests should be held outside the city centre, in venues like Cannon Hill or Sutton Parks, were not viable.

“Our tactics plainly worked because we didn’t have serious racial disorder in the centre of Birmingham,” he said.

The EDL and its splinter groups have held four demonstrations in Birmingham. The first two, in 2009 and 2010, resulted in serious disorder. But the others, in 2011 and this January, passed peacefully.

Chief Supt Burgess said this was because the latter two were held in Centenary and Chamberlain Squares where the two factions could be held separately.

He stressed when the EDL return for another protest - expected in autumn - neither the police or council have powers to stop them.

When asked by councillors if he would like to see them banned, Chief Supt Burgess said: “I’m a police officer, not a politician.”

The cost of the EDL protest has been condemned by Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood who said £1 million would be better spent on neighbourhood policing.

“If the police have got that sort of money it should be spent on the community on crime-fighting initiatives,” he said.

 

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