Suffolk: Fear for future of festivals
COMMUNITY events were last night under threat after it emerged organisers will have to foot the bill for policing next summer.
From next year, Suffolk Constabulary will be enforcing new guidelines that any official police presence at these events, popular with both visitors and residents, will have to be paid for by the organisers.
Some charitable groups and the army of volunteers behind Suffolk’s packed summer calendar of festivals and carnivals fear they will not be able to make their budgets stretch to cover the extra costs of staging events, many of which raise vital funds for community groups.
The news will come as a blow to hundreds of community groups in Suffolk and would appear to go against the spirit of Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Big Society’’ strategy, a key part of the coalition Government’s strategy to balance the country’s books.
Last night, Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said he would be taking the matter up with Suffolk’s Chief Constable Simon Ash.
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Dr Poulter said: “We should be encouraging people to hold these events. It is a good thing to see so many rural communities coming together.’’
Neil Cross, chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Round Table group that organises the annual fireworks spectacular, said: “If we have to pay for policing we will have to put ticket prices up, which is something we have tried not do because we are about serving the people of Bury St Edmunds.
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“If we don’t do that, there will be a knock-on effect on the money we have to offer charities and individuals.”
Suffolk police already charges for officers to be on duty at larger scale events such as Ipswich Town Football Club games and music festivals, but this is the first time smaller town and village fetes will be affected. They have suggested organisers look to play a bigger role in self-policing.
The need for a police presence would be decided on a case-by-case basis and the cost of policing would depend on the nature and duration of the event.
A police spokesman said: “In some cases this may mean the event managers employ their own stewards. In others it may mean organisers pay towards the cost of one or more police officers.
“This does not mean there will be no police presence at events. Clearly, if thousands of people are expected to attend then officers have a duty to be on hand to ensure public safety.”
Defending the policy, the spokesman added: “Policing of local events often involves additional cost to the constabulary in the form of officer funding over and above those that would have normally been on duty.
“During the summer months there are a large number of events and this is traditionally also one of the busiest times of year for day-to-day policing demands.”
This change in policy – which comes as a result of new National Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines – has disappointed Suffolk event organisers.
Judy Gowen, secretary of the Aldeburgh Carnival, said: “This year we were charged for rubbish collection, we have not heard from police and we are hoping we fall into the category that will not be charged.”
Paul Bayfield, managing director of the social enterprise company which runs Lowestoft Airshow, said:
“We will have to pay for it. We can’t run such a huge event, even a charitable one, without a police presence. It would be irresponsible.“
In Felixstowe, carnival organiser Nick Barber said: “It won’t stop us from doing it but it’s disappointing that things have come to this, where you have good people who are trying to do things for the good of the area and giving their time for nothing, then they get hit with all these problems and extra costs.
“I would think it will cost us a minimum of �2,000 – maybe even more – because of the traffic management team we will need to deal with the road closures.”
Stewards employed on behalf of such events have the power to close the roads and maintain security. But Stowmarket Carnival this year had around a dozen police officers accompanying the procession through the town, in addition to security staff.
Committee chairman Denise Hutton said: “We are a charitable organisation and we are all volunteers. It would be a shame if we have to pay but obviously the police are a necessity and we do need them.
“It would have a big impact on the carnival because we’ve had lots of extra things to pay for this year, and it would be another sum for us to have to find.
“We were hoping to put the gate prices down this year, but we would have to look at the finances nearer the time to see if that’s possible now.”