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Progress being made on festival police costs row

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Progress being made on festival police costs row

A ‘CONSTRUCTIVE’ meeting to tackle rising festival policing and costs was held last week in the wake of the Eden Festival’s popular petition.

Earlier this year, the Raehills based event saw the cost of policing their summer weekend increase by more than 300 per cent – from £11,000 in 2015, to £37,000.

And to meet the increased bill, unpaid festival co-director Adam Curtis said he had to re-mortgage his house.

In response, Eden launched a petition on the change.org website, entitled “Hold the police to account, to keep major events in Dumfries and Galloway” – and it has, so far, attracted 6000 signatures.

And last week festival bosses attended a meeting with Police Scotland.

South Scotland MSP and Dumfries and Galloway councillor Colin Smyth was also in attendance. He said: “Police Scotland made the point that their number one priority was public safety and the festival organisers fully supported this. “

At the same time the organisers rightly expressed concern that costs had risen so much, often at a late stage in the planning process, so couldn’t be taken into account when setting ticket prices.

“They were also concerned that there was inconsistency in how Police Scotland’s policy was enforced with indications that festivals in other parts of Scotland had not been hit by suchasignificant rise in charges.”

He added: “What has become clear is the fact that under Police Scotland the charging regime has changed since the days of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.

“Discounts that may have been given in the past, for not for profit events, sadly don’t seem to apply anymore, despite the huge economic benefits these events bring to the region and this appears to partly explain the rise in police charges.

“It’s disappointing that not for profit events and charities are treated the same way as big business when it comes to charges. This clearly puts real pressure on organisers who are running events such as this on very tight margins.”

However Mr Smyth did call the meeting encouraging and said: “There was a commitment by everyone to work together to find a way forward.

“The Police will meet event organisers at an early stage in the planning process as possible for next year’s events to thrash out a policing plan. That could allow organisers for example to tweak stewarding plans with advice from the police to possibly minimise police costs, so from that point of view the meeting was constructive.”

Meanwhile Eden’s Adam Curtis has thanked the council and Mr Smyth for their help.

He said: “We are looking forward to moving positively forward to lower the police presence at events in D&G in 2017 and bring it down to the national level.

“Although no promises were made, we hope CSI Gary Ritchie from Police Scotland has now understood the abnormality of the police deployment at events in the region.”

Divisional Commander Cief Superintendent Gary Ritchie added: “I’m pleased that the event organisers ackknowledge and accept that the policing was necessary to ensure public safety at events cannot be provided to the detriment of policing our local communities.

“I look forward to positive and constructive partnerships with event organisers for the forthcoming year which I’m sure will enhance the region’s reputation for hosting attractive, exciting and safe events.”

Moffat, News

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