Taxpayers have picked up a £280,000 bill for protecting the Pope during his one-day visit to Birmingham.
West Midlands Police mounted one of its largest-ever security operations when Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal Newman, at Cofton Park, near Longbridge.
The security operation saw 1,400 frontline officers – one in six of all officers in the force – drafted in as more than 50,000 worshippers gathered for the open air mass on September 19. Thousands more lined Hagley Road for a brief glimpse of the Popemobile.
Police forces usually receive grants to help them cope with major events and there had been negotiations between police forces, Whitehall and Catholic Church about how the burden of the costs would be borne.
According to figures, the operation cost West Midlands Police £280,000. Of that, £128,000 was in overtime and a further £38,000 was spent on food for officers working long hours.
The force was also left to carry the £32,000 cost of security barriers put up in the streets.
The bill has left the force’s contingency budget – which pays for major unplanned events – short of cash for the rest of the year.
Warwickshire Police spent £80,000 on security plans for an open-air Mass at Coventry Airport before it was later moved to Cofton Park but the force has been told it will receive no financial support.
A Home Office spokesman said no forces had applied to recoup the costs.
But one source claimed top officers had not bothered to apply after being privately told such applications would be unsuccessful.
National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson said: “This is a lot of money to come out of the budget of the West Midlands, which is already struggling financially and dispensing with frontline staff.
“And it does not take into account any of the security costs that will be borne by the Government, including helicopters and other surveillance. I hope Birmingham is happy to pick up the tab, given that it is about to get rid of 2,000 council jobs.”