Police costs a new hurdle for huntsmen and hounds

NEW police initiatives to save money could see one of Bungay’s biggest festive events, the Waveney Harriers’ hunt, face difficulties in going ahead.

This year, Suffolk Constabulary will be enforcing national guidelines announced towards the end of 2010 that any official police presence at public events will have to be paid for by the organisers.

That could make the hunt’s usual proceedings difficult to put into practice this year.

Annoyed joint-master of Waveney Harriers Dominic Parravani told the Journal: “Traditionally Boxing Day is our PR day and we always get phenomenal support at Bungay.

“We normally apply for road closure and normally it is fine. The police said they would honour last year’s but as far as this year’s goes, we are going to have to pay. But we would also have to engage a traffic management company and the cost of that would be huge.

“We would also have to go on a course for the volunteers who we would have helping with the stewarding as well, so the costs are running into the thousands and we can’t afford that. We will have to apply for what is called a sergeant and six PC’s package and that will cost �106 an hour for the sergeant and �68 an hour for the PC’s. So we are now talking thousands and thousands, which we can’t even consider.”

At present this means Waveney Harriers will have to hold the event without a valid road closure order or crowd barriers, as deployed in previous years.

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Suffolk Constabulary did warn people intending to attend the traditional hunt that they would not be there for traffic control purposes last year as it would: “Now be the responsibility of the hunt organisers”.

That also leaves legal responsibilities with regards to public safety, road closures and event management to be prov-ided for by the organisers and Mr Parravani feels that this is to the detriment of the people that the force serve.

“I think the police need to remember who it is that pays their wages,” he added. “I don’t mean the local police because they are great and have always done a lot to help us. They are just following their orders from up above.

“But we collect for charities and bring a lot of people into town and the pubs and help the local economy so that needs to be considered.”

Currently plans are in place to deploy volunteers to act as marshals for the crowd and to help with traffic flow and to have a leading vehicle with hazard warning beacons as the hunt moves through Bungay.

But it seems the issue is far from settled as assistant chief constable Paul Marshall wrote to Mr Parravani to say: “We fully recognise your right to enjoy your chosen sport but would have to recommend that the event does not go ahead without proper traffic management. If, however, you wish to proceed as per your current plans then we must remind you that organisers remain responsible for the safe conduct of their event and may be held liable in case of incident.”

He added: “The drive to review existing practices of policing events is a national agenda being driven by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). As a result of ACPO work on this area, a national document on recovering police costs has been written along with guidance that police will not become involved in traffic management for events.”