TAXPAYERS face an eyewatering bill of more than half-a-million pounds after the latest English Defence League (EDL) protest in Dudley.

The return of the controversial EDL, on Saturday July 17, cost Dudley Council £150,000 to fund additional staff plus facilities including toilets and fencing as well as preparation work in the protest zone.

West Midlands Police are also counting the cost of the rally, 900 officers from around the UK were involved in Operation Belvedere to contain an estimated 500 EDL members on Stafford Street car park and prevent confrontation with anti-fascist activists at a counter demonstration in Tower Street.

The force believes the operation will set the public back by £400,000.

Councillor Anne Millward, leader of Dudley Council, said: “Dudley Council does not have the powers to ban this protest but we have made it clear from the outset that we are opposed to the EDL and have worked closely with the police to do all we could to protect, reassure and support local people.”

Town traders were left paying a hefty price in lost business after many premises, including the market, closed amid fears the demonstration would become violent.

Cllr Millward said: “Honest, hard working people who run local shops and businesses have again been hit as hard as anyone by the EDL’s pointless protest.

“While we were encouraged to see some open for business, many were again forced to close.”

Trouble flared during the protest when a group of EDL supporters attempted to break through police lines and, later in the day, officers in riot gear clashed with protestors throwing cans, bottles and bricks.

There were also incidents away from the official protest site during the day.

A West Midlands Police spokesperson said: “Around 20 offences have been recorded to date, of criminal damage caused to cars and premises.

“Amongst the premises attacked were residential homes around Alexandra Street, cars parked in roads surrounding Stafford Street, restaurants on Wolverhampton Street and the Hindu Temple.

“Many of these locations saw windows smashed, and damage caused to fencing. A couple of vehicles were damaged as they were targeted whilst being driven through the town.”

A total of 21 people were arrested during the protest for alleged offences including 17 for violent disorder, two for affray, one for a public order offence and one for possessing an offensive weapon.

Cllr Millward said: “Yet again this group of outside extremists have shown they are incapable of demonstrating peacefully and have brought public disorder and violence to our town.”