Horse fair complaints reach new record

Date: Friday 14th September 2018

THE number of complaints about this year’s Appleby horse fair rocketed to a new record.

Figures revealed by Cumbria police and crime commissioner Peter McCall show that 129 people complained to his office this year, compared to just five last year and one in 2016.

Some complaints were “police-related” while others concerned people travelling to and from the fair, Mr McCall said.

“This year’s Appleby horse fair elicited a significant increase in calls and emails to my office from members of the public,” he said. “I was left in no doubt as to the strength of feeling that was being experienced by those affected, and have done what I can in response to this within the remit of my role. I have written to all those who made contact with me or my office, and explained what steps I have taken to address their concerns.”

Chief Constable Michelle Skeer has been asked by the crime commissioner to review the police response and provide a report to him in the autumn. Mr McCall wants to know how policing will improve next year.

In the wake of this year’s fair, public meetings heard that police “turned a blind eye” to criminality. Superintendent Mark Pannone, the gold commander for the event, conceded the level of tolerance shown by officers was “unacceptable”.

Also likely to come under the spotlight is the role of the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG), which was chaired this year for the first time by Eden Council deputy chief executive Matthew Neal.

The group is responsible for ensuring that all the relevant public agencies worked together.

Several public bodies are represented, including Cumbria County Council, Highways England, Environment Agency and North West Ambulance Service.

The gypsy and traveller communities are also represented by two people, but there has been no space around the table for residents or councillors.

There have been calls that the MASCG opens its doors to members of the public or elected representatives but these have so far been resisted. Mr Neal has pledged to create a separate “advisory group” of councillors instead.

l Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron has raised questions about the horse fair in Parliament.

He had asked Home Secretary Sajid Javid whether his office had made an assessment of the cost of damage caused as a result of antisocial behaviour during the annual fair.

On Tuesday, Victoria Atkins, an under-secretary of state for the Home Office, replied: “Local agencies are responsible for deciding how and when antisocial powers are used and it is for the organisers of the event, the police and local authority to assess the damage caused and to take appropriate action against those responsible.

“The Government has therefore made no assessments of the cost of any damage in these particular circumstances.”