The Metropolitan police wants to increase the strength of its specialist operations staff by at least 15 per cent, or 500, as forces across the country weigh up the cost implications of anti-terror policing.
Senior police officers and London politicians have begun started initial discussions with the government about the medium to long-term implications of the new demands on policing the capital.
The question of how to meet the immediate extra costs of the investigation, estimated at £500,000 a day by Sir Ian Blair, the Met’s Police commissioner, will be tackled over the summer alongside discussions about the force’s Policebudget for next year and beyond.
One of the main lessons learnt since the first London terror attacks on July 7 is that the Met’s specialist operations service, which includes firearms officers, is under strength. Sir Ian estimates that he needs another 500 specialist operations staff on top of the 3,000-plus at his disposal.
Armed officers will again be out in force on Thursday, along with uniformed police officers drafted in from around the country, as all the main forces responsible for policing in London feel the strain of the four-week long anti-terror operation.
The sheer scale of the visible security presence, designed to reassure Londoners, is believed to be costing about £2m each day it is ordered. This is the third time since the July 7 attacks.
Security on the capital’s transport system will again be on the highest state of alert, with as many as 6,000 officers, from the Met, the British Transport Police and the City of London force drafted in to guard Tube and rail stations, bus routes and main streets, some of them on 14-hour shifts.
The deployment, which Scotland Yard insists is purely “precautionary” and not based on intelligence of a specific threat, comes exactly four weeks after the July 7 attacks, which killed 56 people, including the four bombers, hich killed 56 people, and two weeks after the botched attempt at a second wave of bombings. Both took place on Thursdays.
Glen Smyth of the Met Police Federation warned on Wednesday that the force would become “worn down to the point where its ability to protect London not only from terrorists but also from everyday robberies, burglaries, drunken disorder and other crime will be fatally compromised”.
Scotland Yard said extra officers would be stationed across the capital, many pulled away from their normal duties or working on overtime or cancelled leave. On Tuesday, Tarique Ghaffur, Met assistant commissioner, said its specialist crime team had been obliged to put on hold several high-profile murder cases and drugs operations.
British Transport Police estimated the extra costs in “the hundreds of thousands”, including investigation costs, overtime, cancelled leave and accommodation costs for officers relocated from outside the capital, including from Scotland.
Deputy chief constable Andy Trotter said the response to the terrorist attacks had been “a huge strain both operationally and financially”, with the transport police working long hours and staying away from home at short notice.
Some of the extra demands will be covered by forces making a risk management assessment of other priorities and by redeployment.
With the English football season due to start this weekend, BTP officers are likely to reassess policing cover and have a reduced presence at matches regarded as medium or low risk. This weekend’s high-profile Community Shield match in Cardiff is likely to involve fewer London-based BTP officers in the Welsh capital than usual and more based in western England.
Police forces outside London are also looking at the cost implications of anti-terrorist policing. Colin Cramphorn, chief constable of West Yorkshire where some of the July 7 suicide bombers were born and brought up, this week called on council taxpayers to fund an extra 600 officers in order to confront the terrorist threat while also carrying out normal police duties. West Midlands police, which arrested one of the July 21 bombing suspects, is also concerned about extra policing costs.
Police authorities outside London will watch closely to see how the government views the extra policing needs of the capital, to see if it has a knock-on effect on their budgets. The Met’s £2.7bn budget includes £61m for counter-terrorism and £217m as a special payment reflecting its national capital city functions. But the special payment is made at the expense of the budgets of other police forces.
Costs for the City of London Police have risen 50 per cent isnce July 7. Its 877 officers has broadly been lending support to the Met’s investigation, but it has also been increasing visibility across the Square Mile.
“This is not only a reassurance initiative for our communities, it is also a deterrent tactic and a demonstration of our capability, said James Hart, the police commissioner.
Andrew Buckingham of Victim Support said the Met should be “commended for its honesty” in admitting the strain on its resources even though such statements would inevitably raise some concerns with the public.
But more resources would have to be made available for general police duties in the long term if such heavy demands continued to be made by anti-terrorism investigations.
Mr Buckingham said: “We would at some stage be concerned if there was clear and very tangible evidence that certain types of crime had shot up and that important and high-profile investigations were not being carried out.”