POLICE chiefs believe the near £200,000 annual policing bill for Chester Races represents good value – but admit officers face problems with drunkenness and disorder.
Figures obtained by the Leader reveal the total cost for extra policing in the city centre over 15 race meetings came to £197,225.96 with more than 650 additional officers on duty.
Chief Inspector Richard Rees accepts the figure sounds like a lot of money but believes the costs are proportionate.
He said: “The races bring a lot of investment into the city. It is a big draw for people to come into the city whether they are horse owners or people coming for entertainment. I would say that when we have a big race meeting of 20,000 to 30,000 people, Chester soaks up a lot of that afterwards.
“It clearly makes Chester busier and there are undoubtably problems with drunkenness and disorder. We are there, one for a bit of visibility and reassurance and also to respond to these incidents.
“I think it is - for the overall benefit the city gets - a proportionate policing response.
We allow people to have a good night and enjoy themselves but protect them as well.”
Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the figures cover all race meetings held between May and September 2012.
The figures do not include the costs for policing inside the Roodee or traffic management - both of which Chester Racecourse foots the bill for.
Richard Thomas, chief executive of Chester Race Company, said the racecourse also made voluntary contributions toward city centre policing on race days.
“Inside the racecourse all of the policing costs are covered by the racecourse,” he said.
“We also contribute to the city centre costs and, I believe, we are the only business that do so in the city centre and that contribution is voluntary.
“We are pretty comfortable that we do contribute our fair share. We obviously benefit from the policing but the rest of the city, the bars, restaurants and hotels also benefit from it.”
Chf Insp Rees said Cheshire Police review the policing of the races on a yearly basis to try and reduce the impact on the community.
He said the figures represented the cost of extra staffing and there was normally a large police presence in the city centre in the evenings on weekends.
He said: “Chester Racecourse do pay an element of the money towards the races - the policing inside the races itself, traffic management outside and they contribute towards the cost of the city centre policing.
“We review policing on a yearly basis as well - to see how many people we had at the races and what the impact was on Chester. This year we have reduced some of the staffing where we thought some of the events were lower risks.
“I can understand that from a residents point of view that the Races disrupts them. We try and minimise that disruption but when you are bringing thousands and thousands in it will bring some headaches.
“If you ask me it sounds like a lot of money but we have to look at what you get for that. I have no idea what it means for the city centre finances but I would imagine that for the city centre they get back a lot more than that.
“£200,000 is a lot money in most peoples books but in a six month period of managing the races it is a proportionate response.”