Conservative Party officials have accused West Midlands Police of ‘failing to protect delegates’ attending their 2022 conference in Birmingham which has faced more protests - and more volatile demonstrations than previous years.
A letter written by Jake Berry, the Conservative party chair, and Darren Mott, party chief executive, about these concerns has been leaked to journlists.
It was addresssed to the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands and expressed “serious concerns” over security during the conference, it has been reported. The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster has replied, saying that the force has been short changed by more than £500,000 from the Government on security costs for the annual Tory meeting - and confirming that there has been more protests than previous years.
The Tories have been met with large protests and fierce criticism since arriving in Birmingham on Sunday (2 October) for the conference which runs until Wednesday, October 6.
Both Tory MPs Michael Fabricant and Jacob Rees-Mogg were heckled by protestors while they walked through Birmingham city centre to the International Conference Centre, and the letter comes as West Midlands Police announced on Monday October 3 that the the International Conference Centre was in ‘lockdown’ due to a ‘potential security risk’ - it reopened after an hour.
Protesters, including the anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray, have also played loud music including the Benny Hill and Muppets theme tunes in an effort to mock the Tories as the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, was forced into a humiliating volte-face over the abolition of the 45p tax rate.
What did the letter say?
The letter, which has been seen by The Guardian, said: “We are writing to raise our serious concerns at the measures taken to protect delegates attending the 2022 Conservative party conference.
“Over the course of the last 24 hours, we have received reports from some of our delegates that they have faced intimidation and threats of violence from some outside the venue.
“It of course goes without saying that we fully support the rights of all peaceful protesters, but with reports of delegates being spat at, chased and in some cases physically assaulted as they enter and exit the conference centre – this is clearly not acceptable.”
Has West Midlands Police responded?
Simon Foster, the force’s police and crime commissioner responded to the letter. He revealed that no offences have been recorded, and ‘the issues raised have not reached the criminal threshold’.
He wrote: “It is certainly the case that there have been more protesters this year than at previous conferences, and these protests have been more volatile than previously. This is doubtless a reflection of the heightened national political tensions.
“Chief constable Sir David Thompson and assistant chief constable Jane Meir have briefed policing minister Jeremy Quinn and West Midlands mayor Andy Street over the weekend, and provided assurances concerning the safety of delegates and policing of protests.
“I can report that, to date, no offences have been recorded, and the issues raised have not reached the criminal threshold. No arrests have had to be made to date.”
Foster complained about police being shortchanged over the costs of keeping the conference secure. Dozens of officers have been brought from other forces to help patrol the canals and roads of the city.
“The Home Office has withdrawn the previous flexibility to claim costs associated with paying officers for rest days worked during the conference,” he said. “I cannot see any benefits or efficiencies arising from this change.
“It means that where officers work rest days, instead of having the option to be paid for them, they will have to take the accrued rest days in the subsequent 12 months. The adverse impact on the operational capacity of West Midlands police and the consequential impact on the people and communities of the West Midlands will be significant.
“The change also means the operation is more reliant on mutual aid from officers outside of the force.
“In addition, it is my understanding that the change will increase the net overall cost to the taxpayer associated with the conference, and increase the net cost to West Midlands police.
“It was already the case that we could claim only a portion of the costs associated with planning for the conference – imposing a net cost on West Midlands police of over £500,000 – but the changed policy on rest days could add hundreds of thousands of pounds more to the costs that land on West Midlands police,” Foster wrote.
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