Counter-terror police 'face budget cuts'

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The Independent Online

Britain's counter-terrorism command faces a cut in its budget for the first time since the 7 July London terror attacks, the country's most senior terror police officer warned yesterday.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates, the Metropolitan Police's head of counter terror, said that it would be "naive" of him to think that his unit would escape the recession and warned that the cuts would come just one year before the Olympics.

Speaking to the media for the first time since he took on his new role in April – following the departure of Bob Quick – Mr Yates said: "For the first time in counter-terrorism we are going to have to really robustly look at where we can make savings."

Currently the budget for Britain's security services as a whole stands at £2.5bn and will rise to £3.5bn in 2010 before it is reviewed in 2011 – one year before London hosts the Olympics - an event which will surely present an increased terror threat.

Mr Yates, talking on the fourth anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, added: "Up to 2011 we are fine, but thereafter there will be challenges and of course the Olympics present a climate where we want to grow. More pressure will be on us against a backdrop of falling budgets."

Scotland Yard, which has a national responsibility for counter terrorism, has about 1,500 officers and police staff in its counter terror unit – also known as SO15. Mr Yates said that the cuts would most likely affect back room functions and not front line officers.

He added: The first place we will look is the back office before the front line. There is a £90 million hole in the exchequer. I cannot imagine that Counter Terror will not be affected. We have got to think of a way to use our current resources in a more efficient way."

Mr Yates also spoke about the country's threat level, which has been severe since March 2005. He said: "I think there is a possibility the threat level may come down. It is logical because we cannot keep having it high unless the threat is there."