Cost of policing Pope’s visit could reach £1.5 million

THE cost of policing the Pope’s visit to Britain could reach £1.5 million (€1.8m), police chiefs said.

South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes, who is co-ordinating the unprecedented police operation that will see the Pontiff visit London, the West Midlands and Scotland, said the figure could rise further as changes were still being made to next week’s four-day visit.

More than three-quarters of Britons do not agree that the taxpayer should help foot the bill for the visit, which could reach £20m (€24m), including up to £12m from taxpayers, but the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said it would be a “sad day” when Britain “closes its doors and says we can’t afford state visits”.

Yesterday, Mr Hughes said: “Quite frankly we haven’t estimated a total cost yet because plans change at the last minute.

“There will be changes to plans just through the hurly burly of running operations in London and Birmingham, two of our biggest cities.”

No previous state visit has involved so many different sites around the country, dignitaries rarely “venture outside of London”, and the Pope’s visit will be both a civil and religious event, he said.

Nobody wants “a giant security operation with a religious service bolted on the back”, he said.

Speaking at a briefing held by the Association of Chief Police Officers in central London, he said while officers would look after the “safety and dignity” of the Pope, they would also protect those wishing to see him and any protesters.

“There is no intelligence to suggest any specific group will attack the Pope,” he said, adding the last few attacks on the Pontiff were by Catholics. Pope Benedict is to begin his visit next Thursday in Edinburgh where he will be received by the Queen before celebrating Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.

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