23 March 2018
Many people feel that over the last year, the streets St Helens have come to resemble a war zone or something out of a bad crime novel. People of all ages have been attacked, beaten, knifed, severely injured or even killed while innocently going about their business. An elderly citizen was murdered in his own home by an underage burglar armed with a hammer.
One common thread in all these crimes was that the police were nowhere to be seen when they occurred. The honourable men and women charged with protecting us from this sort of violence simply weren’t there.
With all the cutbacks in staff and resources that have come with years of Tory austerity, this is perhaps no surprise. A convincing argument can be made that our police force no longer has the manpower and resources needed to fulfil its primary mission of keeping us safe.
What is surprising, however, is that large numbers of Merseyside police often can be found on Preston New Road, protecting not the citizens, but the financial interests of energy giant Cuadrilla’s fracking test site. The terrible danger which justifies pulling our thinly stretched police forces away from their duty to protect our streets? Peaceful anti-fracking protesters concerned about the potentially disastrous environmental, health and seismic dangers of the controversial procedure.
On 21 August, local people and environmental campaigners from around the region took part in a 'Green Monday' protest against the installation of this unconventional fracking rig in this site so close to our city. Over 90 people spent the day listening to speeches by environmental experts from Friends of the Earth, local councillors from different political parties and local people from Blackpool and the surrounding area.
Fracking is the process of drilling far underground injecting high pressure mixtures of water and toxic chemicals to release shale gas and other fossil fuels. In the US and other countries where fracking is widely used, there are widespread reports of water supplies being poisoned, nearby residents’ health being damaged and vastly increased seismic activity.
The procedure was banned in 2011 in the UK after test wells caused earthquakes in Blackpool. Whilst the fracking bans remain in effect in Wales and Scotland, licences are now being granted in England under strong pressure from the national government.
Overwhelming public opposition lead the local Council in Lancashire to reject Cuadrilla’s planning application to frack. In an outrageous usurpation of local power, however, this decision was overruled by Tory Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, and widespread fracking has become an imminent danger to our region.
In such circumstances, it is outrageous that precious police resources are being used not to defend vulnerable members of our community from anti-social elements, but to helping a wealthy international corporation prevent concerned local citizens from exercising their right to protest and protect their homes and families.
The St Helens Green Party calls on the Merseyside Police to stop this practice at once, and deploy its officers where they are really needed.
Chair, St Helens Green Party