The Government’s drive to encourage councils to support fracking is a ‘cynical bribe’ aimed at dividing communities, a council leader said today.
Councillor David Sparks, leader of Dudley Council, spoke after Prime Minister David Cameron said local authorities would receive all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes, as opposed to the usual 50 per cent.
The move is part of an ‘all out’ drive to exploit the controversial technique, which uses high-pressure liquid to fracture rock and extract the gas from it.
“It is an absolute insult,” said Councillor Sparks.
“From a financial perspective the incentives on offer in other countries are 10 times the level offered by this government.
“It is a typical insult from a government that is contemptuous of local communities.
“They are aware many people are desperate for jobs, and this is a cynical bribe aimed at dividing people in our communities.”
Councillor Sparks echoed the views of environmental activists who are bitterly opposed to the technique, which they say can increase climate change, cause small earthquakes and pollute water supplies.
“This is very controversial technology involving a lot of environmental risks,” he said.
“I am not certain these risks outweigh the rewards. Large sections of the public haven’t got a clue about fracking and without proper discussion there is a real danger of people being blinded by pseudo-science.
“But I would expect the people of Dudley to be totally opposed to exposing their properties to the dangers associated with fracking.”
He added: “This is an issue that is not new for the Black Country, as we are still trying to solve the problems created by mining and minerals extraction that took place hundreds of years ago.
“Obviously money is very scarce at local authority level now, so if something does go wrong who will foot the bill to sort it out?”
In December last year a government commissioned report identified the Black Country and Staffordshire as possible drilling sites.
And yesterday French energy giant Total confirmed it has taken a 40 per cent share in two gas exploration licences for drilling in the Gainsborough Trough, an area between Doncaster and Lincoln.
Councillor Mike Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council, said members were planning to discuss the issue at tonight’s cabinet meeting.
In August scores of protesters blockaded the entrance to Lichfield-based energy firm Cuadrilla’s headquarters, claimed fracking would send fuel bills ‘through the roof’.