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ESCC spent over £1,680 ‘protecting’ County Hall from this protest about the ‘absurd’ security at County Hall, on 12 Dec ‘23. Photo: Divest East Sussex

UPDATE: County Council wasted over £49k on ‘absurd’ security at County Hall

Two new Freedom of Information Act requests have revealed that East Sussex County Council (ESCC) spent £19.5k on four dates in 2022–23 ‘protecting’ County Hall from petition hand-ins, street theatre, giant newspaper headlines and mince pies. Gabriel Carlyle reports.

In total East Sussex County Council (ESCC) spent over £49.7k hiring scores of unnecessary “security personnel” at County Hall on nine dates during the fourteen-month period between 8 Oct ’22 and 6 Dec ’23, Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) requests have revealed.

An earlier request (reported here on HOT) had revealed that ESCC had spent over £30k on five of these dates: ‘protecting’ the Hall from email questions, a petition hand-in and a tiny vigil of peaceful fasters.

The new requests reveal that ESCC:

  • spent £5,304.80 + VAT on 11 Oct ’22, hiring 40 security personnel to ‘protect’ County Hall from members of the public handing-in 1,646 signatures on a petition calling on the ESCC to stop investing in fossil fuels and publicly support a proper windfall tax on Big Oil;
  • spent £4,397.40 + VAT on 6 Dec ’22, hiring 35 security personnel to ‘protect’ the Hall from a street theatre ‘climate tug of war’;
  • spent £5,187 + VAT on 19 Sept ’23, hiring 40 security personnel to ‘protect’ the Hall from a vigil featuring giant A1-sized reproductions of dramatic front-page newspaper coverage of the climate crisis;
  • spent £1,407.90 on 12 Dec ’23, hiring 10 security personnel to ‘protect’ the Hall from an eight-person protest calling on the County Council to ‘stop wasting our money on “absurd” security & divest from fossil fuels instead’, during which mince pies were offered to all of the security guards present.

ESCC spent over £5k ‘protecting’ County Hall from this street theatre performance on 6 Dec ’22. Photo: Steve Lewis

The East Sussex Pension Fund, which covers Brighton & Hove as well as East Sussex, is administered by ESCC. It currently has tens of millions of pounds of local people’s pension monies invested in oil and gas companies like Shell and BP. Its investments in fossil fuel companies have been the focus of a ten-year campaign by East Sussex and Brighton residents.

ESCC spent over £6k ‘protecting’ County Hall from these giant newspaper headlines on 19 Sept ‘23. Photo: Steve Lewis

A spokesperson for Divest East Sussex, which organised the protests, said: ‘Divest East Sussex (DES) has been organising events at County Hall for well over seven years now. People who attend these events are exercising their legitimate right to peaceful protest. Nobody attending a DES event – or, to our knowledge, any other climate protest at County Hall – has ever been arrested for, or charged with, any offence whatsoever. ESCC should stop wasting public money to “protect itself” from email questions, petition hand-ins, fasters and mince pies and instead do the prudent, the responsible and the right thing and make a public commitment to stop investing in the giant fossil fuel companies that are driving the climate crisis.’

Divest East Sussex is holding a TIME TO DIVEST ‘March of the Giant Letters’ to County Hall this Tuesday (6 February) – the date of the last ESCC meeting before the next set of votes on fossil fuel divestment on 22 February.

In response to an earlier press release from Divest East Sussex that revealed that £13k + VAT had been wasted on three of the above listed dates, ESCC Councillor James MacCleary (Liberal Democrat, Newhaven & Bishopstone) tweeted: ‘As a County Cllr I have attended these meetings. The security presence has been absurd. The Conservatives have wasted over £13k that could have been spent on overstretched services. The [Divest East Sussex] protests have been polite, positive and creative and should be welcomed.’

The figures in full

The FoIA requests reveal the following expenditures and numbers of security personnel:

11 Oct ’22: £5,304.80 + VAT (40 guards)
6 Dec ’22: £4,397.30 + VAT (35 guards)
7 Feb ’23: £2,652 + VAT (20 guards)
21 Mar ’23: £5,304.80 + VAT (40 guards)
9 May ’23: £5,928 + VAT (40 guards)
18 July ’23: £5,631 + VAT (40 guards)
20 July ’23: £5,631 + VAT (40 guards)
19 Sept ’23: £5,187 + VAT (40 guards)
12 Dec ’23: £1,407.90 + VAT (10 guards)

The £49.7k figure is the result of summing the figures listed in these disclosures and then adding 20% VAT.

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Posted 19:10 Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024 In: Campaigns

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