Bury councillor slams government over fracking 'bribes'
A Bury councillor has slammed the government for attempting to “bribe” councils into giving fracking projects the green light.
Councils which allow fracking projects will receive millions of pounds more in council tax revenues, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
A recent report revealed the controversial technique of drilling to produce shale gas could be used in Ramsbottom because there are large deposits of shale gas under much of Lancashire.
No fracking projects in the area have been announced, but it is thought energy companies could be interested in the area.
Mr Cameron said councils could keep 100 per cent of the business rates they collect from shale gas sites, which is double the current 50 per cent figure.
The government has also said there will be community benefits for areas that sign up, with possible options including direct-cash payments to people living near the site, and the establishment of local funds managed by local communities.
Ramsbottom Labour councillor Luise Fitzwalter, pictured, criticised the government’s announcement.
She said: “It is quite wrong for the government to attempt to bribe and manipulate local authorities in this way.
“Bury has already lost more than 50 per cent of its income from central government which threatens essential services. This is a blatant attempt to dictate priorities.
“The Tories say they want localism, but they have slashed local budgets and are now giving handouts for their pet projects. It should be left to locally elected bodies to decide whether or not to have fracking in their areas.”
Bury North Tory MP David Nuttall is one of several MPs in Lancashire to have signed a letter which states they will not support fracking, unless communities receive a larger slice of money from the shale gas sites.
He said: “I doubt any government would not want to proceed with fracking, which is why I take the view that if it is going to go ahead and it could affect communities here in Bury in the long term, it is essential that those most affected receive some of the financial benefit.
“What is essential is that these monies are spent as close as possible to the affected communities and not diverted to other projects elsewhere.”
Ramsbottom Conservative councillor Ian Bevan added: “If we here in Lancashire are expected to plug the energy gap for the rest of the UK, and the process of extraction will not harm our environment or local residents, then we, as residents, must receive adequate payback.”
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