England could be hit by more riots next summer – possibly during the London Olympics – without urgent action to tackle their causes and to improve policing in potential flashpoints, a government-commissioned report warned yesterday.
It said some factors behind the looting, such as poverty, joblessness and grievances about the police, remained potent problems in parts of major cities.
The investigation by the independent Riots, Communities and Victims Panel also protested that victims of the riot violence were struggling to receive compensation.
Darra Singh, the panel's chairman, said: "While deprivation is not an excuse for criminal behaviour, we must seek to tackle the underlying causes of the riots or they will happen again."
Maeve Sherlock, a panel member, said interviews in areas hit by trouble uncovered widespread anger over inequalities and injustices, with people pointing to bankers' bonuses and the MPs' expenses scandal. They felt that "too many people and organisations were taking more out of the country than they were putting in and this was having a corrosive impact on our society", she said.
The panel was set up by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, after the August disturbances which spread from London to other major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.
It said there was no single motivation behind the trouble, with looters ranging from criminal gangs to late-night shoppers and opportunists. But it warned: "Few people ruled out the prospect of riots in the future."
The panel concluded that had the police been "more robust" in dealing with the riots in London, the violence might not have spread to other parts of the country.
The panel is due to present its final conclusions in March, but in an interim report yesterday it called on police to review emergency plans so they could respond more effectively to fresh outbreaks of looting. It said planning in London should reflect "the risk of a repeat of the August riots during the Olympic Games" and ensure the emergency services can cope.
The panel said some rioters were returning from jail to their communities and urged the probation service and youth workers to work with them to prevent reoffending. It also recommended a fund to support riot-hit areas.