Police resources across the UK may be diverted away from investigations into organised crime and other serious offences to deal with the increased risk of terror attacks across the country, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has warned.
Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has written to UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd warning that plans to increase spending on counter-terror operations by 30% over the next five years could put other areas of policing at risk.
In a letter seen by the BBC, Rowley suggests that prioritising counter-terrorism work would involve “difficult choices”, and may result in the diversion of funding away from probes into areas such as historical child abuse.
“It will inevitably push risk to other areas of policing, potentially with significant impact,” he said.
Police in London have faced immense pressure over recent months, after a string of major terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
Rowley’s letter was sent before the Finsbury Park attack on Sunday night, during which a man from Wales drove a hire truck into a group of Muslims who had just left a mosque after Ramadan prayers.
The Assistant Commissioner asked Rudd to clarify “uncertainty over funding” so chief constables did not “shy away” from important operational changes.
More than 700 British police officers are currently working on inquiries into the Manchester Arena suicide bomb attack in May and the London Bridge knife rampage at the beginning of this month, many of whom will have been taken off investigations into other matters.
Speaking yesterday in the wake of the Finsbury Park attack, Lord Blair of Boughton, a former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said further cuts to police budgets need reconsideration.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said: “We are facing an unprecedented terror threat and it is no surprise that our resources are currently tested against what is now four terrorist attacks and five thwarted plots in very short succession.
“Police chiefs, within the counter-terrorism network and beyond, have been clear that, while everything is being done to keep people safe, we are facing an extremely challenging period.
“As you would expect, we are having discussions with the government about police funding in the long term. We are also looking at our resilience over the coming months and have agreed plans across policing to confront the heightened threat and protect our communities.”
Home Office figures revealed in July last year that 20,000 police jobs had been cut in the UK since 2009, the year before the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition came to power.
At the beginning of May, just over a month before the UK’s recent general election, Ms Rudd refused to rule out further cuts to police numbers after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to put 10,000 more officers on the street.