The cost of policing a rally by the far-right English Defence League could top £300,000, we can reveal.
Protesters from the EDL – who claim to oppose ‘extreme’ Islam – clashed with rival demonstrators from the left-wing Unite Against Fascism (UAF) group in Rochdale town centre on Saturday. Thirty-four people were arrested - the majority from the EDL. The cost of the policing operation will be jointly paid for by Greater Manchester Police and the council – at a time when both are facing huge government spending cuts.
Senior sources told us the final bill was likely to run to £200,000-£300,000 or even higher. Town hall chiefs have had to slash £64m from their budget after the Treasury slashed around 20pc from their grants.
Council leader Colin Lambert said: "At a time of cutbacks and the budget being so tight we could have done without this outside group coming into Rochdale."
About 550 EDL protesters attended the protest, with the majority from outside the area. There were some minor disturbances, with bottles thrown and flares and firecrackers set off. Most arrests were for minor disturbances such as affray, public order offences, and being drunk and disorderly. No serious offences were reported.
Pat Colclough, a Rochdale councillor and member of Greater Manchester Police Authority, said: "There was a huge amount of money spent on this operation."
But Farooq Ahmed, the council's portfolio holder for finance, said town hall chiefs were ultimately powerless to stop it taking place. He added: "If someone had been seriously hurt then it would have cost a lot more for the police and the council."
Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, said: "These are some of the costs of having a democracy. You do not get democracy for free."
Chief Superintendent John O’Hare said: "The final cost of the operation is not yet known, but it is important to stress that the cost of getting this right would be dwarfed by the cost to the community of us getting it wrong."
Manchester Evening News