A couple of weeks ago Sion Simon tweeted about the cancellation of a march on public sector pay following Birmingham City Council’s decision to charge the organisers “up to ?10,000” for their costs.
He compared the decision with the council allowing an English Defence League demonstration to take place, although the decision to allow that was taken by West Midlands Police.It’s a good example of a question that can form the basis of an investigation. And if you’re looking for an investigation to do, here’s a quick recipe:
- Find out the costs of policing the EDL demonstration, and any charge made to the organisers. If the information is not accessible in any public way (including phonecalls), try a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to West Midlands Police. You might also FOI the council for any correspondence with the police about the demonstration. It’s important to establish what information exists, and which public body holds that information if you can first.
- Find out the costs of policing the public sector pay march. As the march did not go ahead in Birmingham, you could get an indicative cost from one of the police forces or local authorities covering the other marches – Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council would be obvious first choices. Again, FOI is a useful tool here, and What Do They Know can be useful in finding similar requests: for example, this request includes costings for road closure costs for Manchester Pride 2011.
- You could also FOI West Midlands Police and any other relevant public bodies for any costings they did in advance of the proposed Birmingham march.
- You would then have the key pieces of information to answer the question of whether the ?10,000 charge quoted to the organisers of the public sector march was unusual by comparing it to the charge quoted to the organisers of the EDL march, and the costs incurred by that march and the public sector marches in other cities.
If you have any other ideas about this or similar questions, let me know.