Move to recoup £1m police bill for Lib Dem conference

Demonstrators and police outside the Liberal Democrats' Spring Conference, at the Sheffield City Hall 'See Story Jeni Harvey Picture Chris Lawton '  12 March 2011
Demonstrators and police outside the Liberal Democrats' Spring Conference, at the Sheffield City Hall 'See Story Jeni Harvey Picture Chris Lawton ' 12 March 2011
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THE cost of policing the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference in Sheffield was just over £1m – and the Government is being asked to foot the bill.

South Yorkshire Police, which drafted in officers from neighbouring forces and erected a 2.5-metre wire fence around the conference venue of the City Hall, initially estimated the cost would be between £1m and £2m.

Final figures have worked out at £1.04m.

They include staffing costs and equipment, such as the fence “that was erected around Sheffield City Hall for the safety of the public, protesters and delegates”.

At a time when cuts are being made to the police budget, the authority hopes it can reclaim the money.

South Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Max Sahota, who was the police gold commander for the conference, said: “We have applied to the Government to seek reimbursement of costs associated with this event.”

The force must save £15m over the next year and £40m overall by 2015, with job losses among staff and 100 officers.

One thousand officers were on duty or standby in the city centre over the weekend of March 11 to 13 as 1,000 demonstrators joined Sheffield’s biggest protest in 20 years.

Trade unions, students and other protesters expressed their anger over public spending cuts and the Lib Dems’ U-turn on student fees as the conference was staged in Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s home city.

In the event, police said the scale of the demonstration was at the lower end of what they had predicted, while pointing out they had to prepare for all eventualities. There was only one arrest.

Three thousand delegates attended the conference, and it was estimated that they spent £2.5m in hotels, restaurants, shops and other businesses, although some shops in the city centre reported that trade was down because customers wanted to steer clear of the demonstrations.

Civic leaders threw their weight behind the conference on the basis that it put Sheffield on the political map and raised the city’s profile.