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Council to air concerns over ‘pay for policing’ with senior officer

A senior police officer is to be asked to explain in more detail a new policy which will see charges being levied for ‘special policing’ of events.

Local DUP Councillor Gareth Wilson, speaking at a meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s environmental services committee, said it would be “useful” to ask Superintendent Nigel Goddard, who drew up the policy, to come along and meet members.

There are concerns that the policy will lead to additional costs to council in staging events.

But the charges under the new policy, which came in at the start of April, is not confined to council-run events.

It will cover everything from sporting events to concerts, band parades to agricultural shows.

The Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd had previously written to council chief executives advising of the new policy which had been agreed between the Policing Board and the PSNI. The policy, entitled ‘Charging for Special Policing Services’, formalises existing PSNI practice and standardises when and at what level the PSNI will charge for the supply of police officers at events and enterprises.

The PSNI has the legal authority to charge for the provision of special police services which are defined as the provision of police services over and above core policing at the request of a person or organisation.

This will primarily apply to events on private property.

The policy may have implications for larger council run events that require a police presence and for events which are licensed through the council’s environmental health department, such as concerts, sporting events and for designated sports grounds issued with general safety certificates.

The policy identifies a number of event and enterprise categories and sets out how the PSNI will respond to a request from an event organiser or enterprise for policing at their event.

There are five categories of events as follows:

1) Commercial events and/or enterprises e.g. concerts, motoring events, agricultural shows.

2) Non-commercial events and/or enterprises e.g. charitable, community not for profit events.

3) Sporting events (both commercial and non-commercial) – includes professional and amateur sports.

4) Northern Ireland Executive sponsored events/enterprises.

5) Statutory events reflecting constitutional rights or processes e.g. parades, legal protests (traditional/cultural events are exempted).

Payment for the services is the subject of a contractual arrangement with implications for prior agreement on both sides.

The level of policing required in support of events is a matter for the Chief Constable to determine and will be undertaken through operational planning events in conjunction with the event organiser. Written agreements must be signed by both parties.

Where there is dispute and concerns cannot be resolved with the event organiser, the PSNI will seek to raise these concerns with the appropriate licensing body for the event, such as the council’s environmental health department in respect of musical entertainment, sporting events.

In the case of designated sports grounds, where there is a dispute regarding the need for a PSNI presence, a final determination will have to be made by the council environmental health department as the certifying authority to secure sufficient numbers of PSNI officers.

In his letter to Chief Executives, the Assistant Chief Constable advised that a briefing would be available from Superintendent Nigel Goddard who developed the policy with the Policing Board.

And Armagh Council has decided it wants to avail of the briefing having raised concerns over the implications of the new policy.

Sinn Fein Councillor Gemma McKenna asked if officers would be advised to budget for policing costs when planning events. She also asked if, under the Financial Assistance Policy, policing costs could be covered.

The Head of Environmental Health (Craigavon) said officers were aware of the policy and would need to be mindful of the cost implications when planning events.

The Chief Executive Roger Wilson said there could be the potential for additional costs to the council.

Councillor Gareth Wilson said it would be useful to have a presentation from the PSNI to get more information on the policy and it was agreed to invite Superintendent Nigel Goddard to an appropriate environmental services committee meeting.

In response to an enquiry from DUP Councillor Hazel Gamble on whether or not the council had previously paid for PSNI services at events, Chief Executive Mr Wilson advised that no payments had been made previously as the policy only came into effect on April 1, 2015.

Independent Councillor David Jones asked what the PSNI charge would be at events where organisers employed their own event security team.

The Head of Environmental Health (Craigavon) explained that within the policy there were various charging levels and a rate would be decided based on various factors and risk scoring. Commercial events would be charged in full for policing services while for other events there would be a partial charge or no charge at all.

If an event organiser contacted PSNI for support at an event they would have a pre-meeting to discuss the event and consider the costing methodology.

Councillor Jones expressed concerns that, at large events, organisers had their own security teams that carry out security checks those attending and other matters. He felt that it was not the role of the PSNI to perform these duties.

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