Whiff of pol­i­tics in Stack cash re­fusal

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Points Of View -

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.

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