By Mike Wright
A senior Watford politician has attacked the security operation around the forthcoming Bilderberg Group meeting as “disgraceful”.
Mark Watkin, a Watford Borough Council cabinet member, said the secrecy surrounding the meeting at The Grove hotel had left residents in the dark and led to important decisions being “made on the fly”.
The Liberal Democrat added that he had received numerous complaints from people living near the five-star hotel, who are concerned about impact the conference and the large number of protesters it attracts will have on them.
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of this globally important meeting and the consequential protests, it is disgraceful that an event of global significance is landing on a community in Hertfordshire with no engagement with the council or community consultation being carried out.
“The result has been last minute decisions such as where they should park, where they should camp, are being taken on the fly.”
The Bilderberg Group is due to begin its annual three-day meeting at The Grove hotel on Thursday.
The event will see politicians and leaders of global corporations, as well as leading lights from academia and journalism, meeting to discuss the issues of the day.
Previous Bilderberg attendees have included cabinet minister Ken Clarke, Chancellor George Osborne, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Goldman Sachs International chairman Peter Sutherland.
However the group’s activities are shrouded in secrecy as reporting media are excluded from its meetings and it does not publish any minutes or record of what is discussed.
The Bilderberg Group also does not release any details of its guest list and location until after its conferences have started.
In recent years the group’s meetings attracted a growing number of protesters who see its activities as undermining open democratic government.
This week’s event could will see unknown number of demonstrators converging on the town.
Hertfordshire Constabulary will be responsible for the security operation outside the grounds and some roads around the hotel are due to be closed to pedestrians.
Some residents near living near the hotel have also been advised they will need to show police photo ID to get to their homes during the conference.
Last week protestors had an application to use Cassiobury Park for a fringe festival rejected as it was not submitted with the requisite three months notice.
Afterwards Hertfordshire Constabulary said it was making provisions for a small protest area inside the grounds of The Grove, which could accommodate around 200 people.
Councillor Watkin, who sits on Hertfordshire County Council as well as Watford Borough Council, added residents were unhappy that uncertainty still surrounds the security arrangements so close to the event starting.
He added: “Residents fear that these last minute decisions which will impact massively on their lives will set the precedent for any future events of this type or scale which The Grove is actively seeking to run.
“When, in just over a weeks’ time, the circus has left town we will have to pick up the pieces, sort out the mess and make good any damage caused while The Grove of Chandlers Cross will just sit back and enjoys its global acclamation.
“Shambolic, unforgivable, disgraceful are just some of the words I would use to describe the national security people’s and The Grove management’s failure to engage with the community who will suffer the consequences of this conference.”