PLANNED budget cuts to Britain’s police force may “reduce very significantly” the ability to respond to a Paris-style militant attack, according to a report for the government by one of its most senior police officers, the BBC said today (November 20).
In a leaked documented shown to the broadcaster, home secretary Theresa May was warned a squeeze on police funding would affect its ability to respond to multiple attacks as seen in the French capital last week.
Next Wednesday (November 25), chancellor George Osborne is due to detail multi-billion pound cuts spending cuts across government as part of his ambitious plan to turn Britain’s deficit into a surplus by 2020.
Commentators say he is expected to announce that as part of this, the Home Office will be expected to find cuts of about 20 per cent, meaning policing budgets could be slashed and officer numbers reduced.
The leaked document entitled “Implications of the Paris Attack for UK Police Preparedness”, written by an unnamed senior officer, was requested in the aftermath of the French bombings and shootings last week that left 129 dead, the BBC said.
It warned that if deep cuts beyond 10 per cent were imposed “the ability to mobilise large numbers of officers would “reduce very significantly across the country” and forces would struggle to deal with multiple militant attacks.
A spokesman for the Home Office said it would not comment on a leaked document.
The government has already said it would protect the counter-terrorism budget, and promised additional resources to the intelligence agencies and for cyber security.
Asked about police cuts earlier this week, Osborne said national security was dependent on having sound public finances.
The warning in the leaked document echoes similar messages from other senior police figures. Bernard Hogan-Howe, London’s Metropolitan Police chief, has said he worried about the safety of the capital if its budget were cut as severely as feared.
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales which represents ordinary and lower-ranking officers, said forces “could barely cope” at the moment.
“If there are going to be further cuts to the police service, quite frankly, God help us,” he told BBC radio. “We are not going to be able to respond to something on the scale of Paris.”