The deployment of thousands of soldiers onto Britain’s streets is only needed because police now lack the resources to defend against a terrorist attack themselves, the chair of the Police Federation has warned.
Steve White, who leads the statutory staff association, said police “simply do not have the resources” to manage a heightened national level of alertness by themselves.
Around 20,000 police officers have been cut since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, with budgets being reduced by 4 per cent every year while Theresa May served as Home Secretary.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Federation’s Mr White said: “As always, the response of emergency workers in the face of adversity has been second to none.
“The welcome support of the military to free up armed officers and offer public reassurance will no doubt be managed in the same professional, resolute way.
“But, as welcome as this is, we cannot avoid the reasons it is needed at all. There is no ignoring the fact that we, the police, simply do not have the resources to manage an event like this on our own.”
Addressing the Home Secretary Amber Rudd at the Police Federation’s annual conference last week, Mr White had said an attack was a case of "not if, but when" following sharp cuts.
The Government says that crime figures have continued to fall despite the budget cuts. However, police groups have issued repeated warnings that reduce manpower was making it difficult to do jobs.
After the Spring Budget 2016-17 Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd warned that central government cuts were having a serious impact on Manchester’s police service.
“As my report makes clear, this is still very much a ‘cuts budget’. The Chancellor’s plan to protect policing budgets is full of holes, has not been borne out in real terms, and offers no foresight beyond this financial year,” he said at the time.
“To make his sums add up, I have had to increase the amount people pay through their council tax, but even this can’t assuage the impact that cuts have had and continue to have on Greater Manchester’s police service.”
Around 4,000 troops are on standby across the UK to help the policing effort during ‘Operation Temperer’, which is reinforcing police after the terror alert level was raised to critical.
Speaking earlier in the general election campaign Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd refused to rule out further police cuts.
“I think the important statistic is that crime has fallen by 2010 by a third. We believe that we can control the Budget and reduce crime,” she told BBC Radio 4 at the time.
After the attack, Ms Rudd said: “We have now gone to a critical level in terms of the threat. Operation Temperer has now been invoked and that means there will be additional military personnel coming to backfill the armed police officers so that they can support other areas.
“Today we have 984 members of military coming forward as requested by the police. They will be initially deployed in London but also elsewhere in the country as requested and they will form an important part of the defence going forward.”
Labour has pledged to put 10,000 more police officers on the beat and said the police force is “crying out for more manpower”.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies