Threat of cuts brings added pressure to overstretched police forces

Theresa May made clear she would not back down over her plans, but political pressure for a rethink will now grow

While David cameron and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, were at pains yesterday to praise the police for their valour and determination in standing up to gangs of looters, they are relying on the force to hold the line against the rioters just at the moment that many demoralised officers feel undervalued by the Government in the face of job losses, an assault on their terms and conditions and an increasing workload.

Police funding will be slashed by up to 20 per cent – equivalent to £2bn – over four years, under austerity measures announced by the Government. The Met alone faces a cut of £543m, which could lead to the numbers of officers in the capital falling from 32,500 to 30,600.

Ministers insist the cash can be saved through cutting red tape and improving efficiency without affecting numbers of officers on the streets – a claim ridiculed by the rank-and-file Police Federation, which forecasts that police numbers across the country could drop by up to 40,000. The thin blue line is being stretched even further as the police brace for an attack on their pay, perks and pensions by ministers.

The cuts in manning will raise fundamental questions of how the Met can be expected to cope with fewer officers when it has been so outnumbered by rioters this week. In parts of the capital police were forced to watch from a distance as mobs ran riot and in some areas could not even protect fire crews sent to blazing buildings.

Ms May yesterday made clear she would not back down over plans for deep cuts to police resources, but the political pressure for a rethink will grow over coming days. Simon Hughes, the deputy Lib Dem leader, said he had pressed Nick Clegg over whether the Government should "proceed with the levels of reductions in budgets of the police". He said: "If there is not the money to train police to use the riot equipment and to pay the overtime, then we need to reappraise that."

Labour will hammer home the same message in tomorrow's emergency Commons debate on the riots – and could find support from Tories who fear the cuts are undermining their reputation as the party of law and order.

Paul McKeever, the federation's chairman, told The Independent: "I'm sure the Government will be reflecting on what's happening and giving the police a much higher priority in their thinking."

At the time of its ultimate test, the Met is in turmoil. It is without a full-time leader after last month's resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson as Commissioner at the height of the furore over newspaper phone hacking.

When the flames have finally died out, there will also be questions over how it failed to foresee the explosion of criminality.

Lack of top black officers 'has got to change'

The chairman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association last night said that the Metropolitan Police does not reflect London's ethnic communities.

Bevan Powell said that there were not enough black police officers at a senior level in Britain's biggest force, a statistic that "has got to change". But he also urged the British public not to turn the London riots into a "race issue".

"At senior levels, the Metropolitan Police service absolutely does not reflect London," he said. "The young have to be able to see that they can fulfil their aspirations at the top levels of the force."

He said there are lessons for communities across London that can be learnt from the riots.

"We need a re-engagement plan to bring people back together. Communities need to work together to show young people that there is more to life than this. But I want to make it clear. This is not a race issue. We have seen people rioting that are black, white and Asian.

"It is really essential now that the police are proactive in meeting and listening to what the needs are within the communities."

He added that although rubber bullets "are not the answer", police needed to be given "whatever measures they need" to react to the growing unrest.

Matt Blake

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice