MLAs query law which threatens to sink marathon with police costs

MLAs are querying how and why legsilation was activated which could force the Belfast Marathan under by requiring it to pay for its own policing.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 7th May 2018, 11:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 5:39 pm
David Seaton MBE, chairman of the Belfast Marathon organising committee
David Seaton MBE, chairman of the Belfast Marathon organising committee

Chairman of the marathon committee, David Seaton, says that a new law requiring them to pay for their own policing could spell the end of the 36-year-old annual event.

The PSNI says that while it was working alongside organisers, the reality of financial pressures means police resources must be directed towards priorities including drug dealing, burglary, anti-social behaviour, road safety and cyber crime.

“The new road legislation means we’re going to have pay for policing costs among other things,” Mr Seaton told the BBC. “I’m told that an officer is charged out at £65 an hour and on bank holiday Monday it’s twice that. That’s £130.

A blur of runners shoot past Belfast City Hall at the start of the 2018 race

“They are usually on duty for seven to eight hours so that’s about a thousand pounds each.

“Last year we had about 120 officers, that’s £120,000. We couldn’t take that hit.”

Parading organisations such as the Orange Order, the Hibernians, the Blanketmen, Boys Brigade and LGBT groups aren’t subject to this legislation, he said.

UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt, who leads an all-party sports group at Stormont, said the implementation of the new Road Closures Order places three new costs on organisers of public events - an advertisement in local media, a professional traffic management company, and the cost of policing.

Runners reflected in sunglasses

The minimum policing cost of £1000 is “an existential threat” to the smallest event, he said.

“We want to know when and why the Order was activated and the attitude of the key stakeholders, including the PSNI, local councils and the Department for Infrastructure,” the MLA said.

He queried how the law relates to the draft Programme for Government pledge to help people enjoy “long, healthy and active lives”.

The PSNI said it encourages event organisers who require traffic restrictions to discuss their requirements with their local councils.

“Should it be determined that police are an essential part of the traffic management plan then discussions will take place around costings which will be dependent on the nature of the event,” it said.

As with all large public events, the marathon will be policed in a manner proportionate to the risk presented.

“We have been working alongside the Marathon organisers and various partner agencies and are content with the comprehensive Traffic Management Plan their supplier has developed and will be responsible for implementing,” the PSNI added.