Some of Cuadrilla’s lies (like the one about the police asking them to move the barriers to the centre of the road at Preston New Road, or the one about fracking pads being the size of a single rugby pitch) seem to slide their way seamlessly into the local press with no questions being asked. Others are more insidious like the suggestion made by ex LSE editor Steve Singleton to a local councillor last week.
Mr Singleton (who now works for PPS group, one of Cuadrilla’s many PR agencies, but styles himself “Cuadrilla Local Community Advisor“) wrote to a local councillor stating of the protests : “Obviously there is a serious impact on traffic movement and inevitable delays for motorists. Most crucially ambulances will need to be diverted taking longer to reach destinations.”
We were particularly irritated by the claim that the protests might have affected emergency vehicles as, to our knowledge, the only delays to blue light vehicles have occurred as a result of Cuadrilla’s traffic management and their own blocking of the road.
We decided to find out the truth from a senior police officer. The “Bronze” commander at the site confirmed this morning what we already knew.
To his knowledge no emergency vehicles have so far been delayed by any action taken by protesters against the fracking development at Preston New Road.
We think Mr Singleton should refrain from making unsustainable claims like this in future and should write to those who he contacted earlier with this incorrect suggestion to put the record straight. We also hope that the local press will take his “alternative facts” with a few pinches of salt in future.
Axed LSE Editor Receives Invitation to Attend PNR Protest
Frack Free Lancashire have recently commented on emails sent out by Cuadrilla’s in house spin doctor, axed Johnstone press editor Steve Singleton. (well we say “In House” , but we’re not sure how somebody employed by PR company PPS Solutions’ office in Greater Manchester is simultaneously able to describe themselves as “Cuadrilla Local Community Advisor” – maybe it’s just a Public relations industry thing? You know, Cuadrilla pretending to put “Lancashire First”, and all that sort of Trumpery) They have brought to the press’s attention that Cuadrilla Resources, who have used at least seven different public relations agencies to push their corporate messages, are upset that the anti-fracking movement has finally received some positive coverage on the BBC.
FFL have learned that axed Johnston Press Editor on the Fylde Coast, now Cuadrilla’s “Local Community Advisor“, has pleaded with his local contacts to put forward pro-fracking programme suggestions to the BBC in an effort to negate the impact of what he suggests is favourable anti-fracking coverage on popular television programme, The One Show.
In two recently discovered emails, Steve Singleton, attempted to solicit pro-fracking supporters to contact The One Show to counter the impact of a feature on fracking protestors.
Mr Singleton stated:
“Cuadrilla now want to ensure the BBC provide some ‘balance’ and report that there is support in Lancs … This is not that supporters are the silent majority but simply a majority that doesn’t stand outside shouting and block roads needlessly.”
In a second email he also complained (contrary to information provided by the police themselves) that ambulances would have needed to be diverted, taking longer to reach destinations.
However, a local resident commented to FFL:
“Mr Singleton’s claims that ambulances might have needed to have been diverted has no more basis in fact than Cuadrilla’s recent claim that police asked them to move their barriers into the middle of the road. I spoke to a policeman at the scene as the slow walk was happening and he confirmed that emergency vehicles would have been allowed through. The only problems for emergency vehicles over the last 2 weeks have been caused by Cuadrilla’s insistence on erecting barriers which leave only a narrow strip of road available for travel in one direction at a time. “
Speaking on behalf of Frack Free Lancashire, Claire Stephenson explained further:
“It was actually the police who blocked the road and not the protestors. The stopping of the truck down the road was a response by people angry because police did not facilitate peaceful protest. We have video footage of an assault carried out by a security worker, which is now the subject of police investigation following a number of formal complaints. Cuadrilla’s unsuccessful traffic management efforts have blocked emergency vehicles three times in the last two weeks. On Friday campaigners spent two hours persuading workers to reduce their unnecessarily wide fencing space so as to allow emergency vehicles through safely. We have strong concerns for the health and safety of the public and residents.”
Reacting to the claims of unbalanced coverage she continued:
“Cuadrilla spend thousands of pounds on no less than seven PR companies and employing in-house spin doctors like Mr Singleton. They continually make false claims of being involved with the local community. Rather than making spurious claims of support and trying to stir up matters behind the scenes, shouldn’t Mr Singleton be focussing on setting up the Community Liaison Groups which we have been promised, but which Cuadrilla have so far failed to deliver?
“We would like to give him the chance to see the truth at first hand, so we’d like to invite him to come down and join us down at the rolling protest opposite the site entrance to witness both the lawful nature of the protest and also the incredible level of support being offered to the protestors by passing motorists.”
We will report here if Mr Singleton accepts the invitation, engages with the local community, and puts in an appearance at the roadside.
It was interesting to see the breakdown of costs provided by Cuadrilla in their claim against Tina Rothery, and how they tried their hardest to limit the amounts spent and used the opportunity to support business in Lancashire.
Along with the other costs making up the amazing £62,871 they tried to claim was a time cost from Eversheds’ office in Leeds (That’s in Yorkshire isn’t it? Don’t we have lawyers in Lancashire then?) for
So a trainee spent 2 hours and 12 minutes on drafting a legal notice to be inserted into newspapers.
Presumably (let us know if we are wrong Cuadrilla please and we’ll correct this ) this the same legal notice for which they then also engaged not one but two PR companies to deal with. Both of these are of course are based in Lancashire. Oh no! Hang on – sorry, the invoices were sent from their London offices.
We were gobsmacked! Does it really cost nearly £7,000 to insert a legal notice in each of 2 local newspapers and the on-line version of one of them? In fact the Lancashire Evening Post and the Blackpool Gazette are both Johnston Press publications and Blackpooltoday.co.uk is just the Blackpool Gazette online). This does sound an awful lot doesn’t it? We made a brief enquiry with Johnstone Press as to how much a half page print advert in their regional titles might be and were given a ball-park figure of £700 – £1200 per title to play with. We didn’t see it but we doubt this notice needed to be bigger than a half page. We can’t imagine that the on-line version would cost more, but if anyone knows differently please let us know. On that basis a figure of £3,000 would seem more reasonable. After all the work in preparing the notices for print had apparently been done by an Eversheds trainee.
And does it really cost nearly £7,000 to insert a legal notice in the Times? Goodness!
It does beg the question as to why a major legal firm couldn’t arrange for a legal notice to be inserted into a couple of newspapers and why two London based PR companies had to be involved doesn’t it? We are sure that they must have made every effort to ensure that only reasonable costs were presented as incurred. If Cuadrilla would like to shed any light on this we’ll gladly publish their response here.
And we wouldn’t want anyone to think that Cuadrilla’s commitment to “Putting Lancashire first” was just a slogan, whilst they actually support businesses just about everywhere else would we?
We thought the reaction from Cuadrilla was worthy of a post all on it’s own. Let’s take a look at how they reacted (and also how they didn’t)
Here is what their CEO Francis Egan had to say, as reported in the Blackpool Gazette.
We would love to be able to direct you to the on-line version, so that you could see it for yourself but, for reasons which we don’t fully understand, the Gazette seems to be the only newspaper which carried this story but which did not also include it in their on-line version.
First of all, let’s be absolutely clear that the ASA did NOT in any way confirm that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely, and to suggest that they did is totally misleading. You might think that having had his company caught out misleading the public Mr Egan might be have been a bit more careful with his comments, but it looks as though they can’t really help themselves from coming out with this sort of distortion of reality.
Bizarrely, having stated this, he then goes on to totally invalidate any worth that statement might have had, even if it were the truth, by saying “We do believe the ASA should have consulted scientific experts before reaching it’s conclusions”.
It’s interesting that Mr Egan seems to presuppose that they didn’t do so. I’m not sure what they did during the 9 months or so that this complaint has been under investigation, but it is reasonable to assume that they spent a fair amount of time investigating and comparing the scientific evidence in order to feel able to adjudicate here.
His final comment is also misleading as the ASA did not in fact “validate” any points. It merely didn’t accept our complaints. The two things are not the same by any stretch of the imagination, but it IS amusing to see that Mr Egan is prepared to claim “validation” from these people who he accused earlier of not knowing their science when it suits him.
In at least one case the ASA’s refusal to accept a complaint was rather perverse. Cuadrilla argued that the development wouldn’t be dense and unattractive on the basis that their licence area was 1200 Km2 and would only have 10 well pads on it. We provided evidence from Cuadrilla’s own website that a:) under their licence they had to return half of the licence area to the government and b:) Cuadrilla were in fact proposing up to 80 wells but the ASA told us
a) Yes, we are aware of the mandatory relinquishment of 50%. We are still minded to base our recommendation on CRL’s statement that the well pads would be spread across the entire 1200 km2 area.
b) Yes, we have based our recommendation on the information provided to us by CRL and not on the figures from their website which show the number of well pads to be 80 at the higher end.
We can’t pretend to understand their logic , but unlike Francis Egan we won’t be throwing a hissy fit about it.
Back to Cuadrilla’s responses…
In the Guardian we read that
Cuadrilla strongly disputes many of the ASA’s criticisms, which will be subject to appeal. For instance, the ASA said that the company could not claim its “fracturing fluid does not contain hazardous or toxic components”, because although the company has used only water, sand and a non-toxic friction-reducing chemical to date, it could use other substances in future. Cuadrilla called this “absurd and pedantic”.
Appeal? Cuadrilla have already spent the last 9 months desperately trying to provide evidence to the ASA to neutralise our claims. We wish them good luck with their appeal. We can’t wait to see the results.
And “absurd and pedantic” ??? Oh dear – perhaps Mr Egan isn’t aware of the fact that his own company’s website states that
“Cuadrilla’s fracturing fluid, … along with fresh water and sand includes:
Polyacrylamide friction reducer
Is it really “absurd and pedantic” to believe what they tell us? Really?
Mr Egan then says
we will be examining the adjudication carefully to see what communication lessons can be learned in future.
Perhaps the simplest lesson he could take from all this is that if you don’t deal honestly with people they will lose trust in you and then you won’t get the “social licence to operate” which you so desperately want.
And finally, rather unbelievably, he says
However, he said it was important that the ASA had ruled that fracking “can be done safely”.
Again – the ASA has done no such thing and to suggest that they have is pretty disrespectful of the role that this organisation plays in keeping communication between businesses and the public as honest as it can.
Having taken all this in we can’t help noticing that Cuadrilla really don’t seem to be taking this very seriously. The best illustration of this, perhaps is the fact that that 2 weeks after they were provided with a ruling that condemned their claim that “Cuadrilla’s fracturing fluid does not contain hazardous or toxic components”, and 2 days after that ruling was made public and reported worldwide, exactly that same claim is still made on their corporate website.
Do they really think this stuff doesn’t matter? Do they think the people of Lancashire are stupid? … or are they simply incompetent?
Strangely the News section of Cuadrilla’s site carried no mention of this latest accolade.
It has been interesting to see how far the news of the ASA ruling, which effectively bans Cuadrilla from making certain claims about the safety of fracking, has travelled.
The Guardian was the first paper to publish an article
Curiously this article suggested (incorrectly) that the ASA had suggested changes to Cuadrilla’s claims
Cuadrilla was also criticised by the ASA for asserting that “we know that hydraulic fracturing does not lead to contamination of the underground aquifer”. That must be changed to: “To ensure that there can be no route for fluid or gas to leak from the shale rock up to the aquifer, we use multiple layers of steel casing sealed by cement.”
That was factually incorrect but the article was sympathetic, pointing out that
The censure by the Advertising Standards Authority will force a significant watering down of some of the company’s claims and is a further blow to Cuadrilla, which has halted fracking at all of its UK sites following a series of setbacks.
Locally the Lancashire Evening Post picked up very quickly on the story
The BBC picked up the article shortly afterwards
sent it worldwide so we ended up with coverage as far away as Africa!
We were also pleased to see that the Gasland Facebook page picked up on the story.
Here is a sample of the coverage we got elsewhere.