Whiff of politics in Stack cash refusal
At the height of the disruption caused by Operation Stack over 32 days last summer, the government intimated it would meet any additional financial burden on Kent Police. While the commitment did not spell out specific terms, it was taken by most as a signal that Kent taxpayers would not be asked to cough up for the huge bill for implementing and managing the scheme for an unprecedented period.
The government, in turning down a request by the Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes for reimbursement, seems to have forgotten its offer.
The policing minister Mike Penning has rejected a claim for £576,935 submitted by the commissioner.
The reason? It appears there is a technical rule that disqualifies any claim by police forces for additional money where the amount is less than 1% of the total budget.
Ann Barnes is understandably annoyed. Her annoyance will be shared by Kent taxpayers.
The government has finally recognised that Operation Stack is an issue that affects the whole country not just Kent.
It is why the chancellor has granted £250m to help find a solution that will end the misery and chaos – not to say the economic costs – that stem from turning stretches of the M20 into a large lorry park for days on end.
On that basis, it seems rather petty for the government to cite an obscure regulation that means it cannot help because its hands are tied.
There is a whiff of politics about all this. Elections for crime commissioners take place in May and it seems this may be an early skirmish.
The government should not hide behind technical rules. And we should not forget that it is now raising millions of pounds by way of a levy on foreign hauliers using our roads.
Perhaps some of that should be coming Kent’s way.