Fracking debate intensifies

Prime minister David Cameron
Prime minister David Cameron

CALLS of “blackmail” and “bribery” greeted news that Wigan Council would be entitled to increased tax revenue if it backed fracking plans.

But on the other side of the debate, supporters said the Government is right to explore to what extent shale gas could ease energy fears.

On Monday, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that local authorities can claim 100 per cent of business rates from fracking operations instead of the usual 50 per cent.

Shevington with Lower Ground Labour representative Damian Edwardson said: “When local councils such as Wigan are facing unprecedented levels of cuts to budgets, this seems like an opportunistic attempt by the Government to push their own agenda.

“My concern is that some councils might feel pressured to agree to fracking submissions purely on financial grounds.

“Councils should be free to engage with their communities and make decisions based on what is right for them, their health and the environment.

“Instead of being starved of central funding in order to force them to take the financial incentives.”

Chair of Wigan Conservatives Federation, Michael Winstanley said: “We have got to explore all the possible options.

“We need to work out how we can use this valuable resource, fracking could provide us with cheap and sustainable energy.

“The ironic thing is that the people who are concerned about it are not coming up with a viable alternative.

“Our energy concerns need addressing.”

North West Green Party member Peter Cranie accused the Government of “bribing” local residents.

He said: “The strength of opposition to fracking at Barton Moss in Salford and at other sites across the North West shows that people will not be easily bought.

“However much money is offered, the facts are clear – fracking won’t bring down energy prices, produce many jobs or solve our energy crisis.”

Stephen Hall of Wigan’s Green Socialist Party said the Government would be better served promoting renewable energy.

He said: “This offer is a bribe.

“As we have said before, money should be invested in better insulating houses and buildings to reduce energy bills and consumption rates.

“And the figure of 74,000 jobs created by fracking, realistically it’s more like between 12 to 24,000.”