Government's fracking concession to councils splits opinion

Today's government announcement that councils will receive a greater share of revenues from fracking has been described variously as a "bribe" and "going down the right path".

Greenpeace: has mounted publicity stunts to express opposition to fracking
Greenpeace: has mounted publicity stunts to express opposition to fracking

Local authorities that back shale gas drilling will receive 100 per cent of business rates collected from companies, rather than the usual 50 per cent, the Government said.

Green groups opposed to fracking criticised the move, with Greenpeace saying it was an attempt to "bribe hard-pressed councils".

But John Higginson, head of comms at Westbourne Communications, which works for Centrica, a firm with interests in shale gas, said: "It’s outrageous to say that this is bribery. There has been a lot of scaremongering by opposition groups and not enough facts.

"The Government is absolutely going down the right path. Saying that revenue will go to the local councils will send a message to some of those communities, many of which don’t have nearly enough money or jobs, that this is an opportunity to become more self-sufficient."

However, another lobbyist without a fracking client claimed the announcement was not enough on its own to convince councils and communities to approve more planning applications.

Four Public Affairs director Ralph Scott said: "From a comms perspective the Government needed credible third party endorsements, yet the Local Government Association was lukewarm at best and case studies from real people in real communities are absent.

"This announcement is a helpful building block, but are all parts of the coalition committed to driving this policy with a long-term campaign? And will Conservative backbenchers be as enthusiastic as ministers when it comes to applications in their back yard? Current politics and recent history suggests not."

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