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Will Budget Cuts Raise the Terrorism Threat?

John Yates, an assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police and in charge of the country’s anti-terrorist police activities, has spoken up against the proposed government spending cuts.

Last week he warned that the cuts were coming at a time when the terrorism threat of an al Qaeda attack remained severe.

He also mentioned that less than two months ago, extremists plotted to kill a prominent British public figure.

Mr Yates made his comments at a private meeting at the annual conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Manchester, but his remarks were leaked to The Times crime editor.  The comments apparently enraged ministers in the coalition government and Mr Yates refused to repeat his criticism in public.

During his speech, Mr Yates stated that the Metropolitan Police would see £87 million wiped from its anti-terrorism budget, while units across the country would lose £62 million.  He went on the say that such budget reductions could result in the inability to monitor extremist activities as effectively as previously.

The comments prompted a public rebuke from the cabinet office minister, Francis Maude.  “There is a special responsibility on all public servants to be really careful what we say and what we do, ” he said.

“It’s going to be pretty important for people who are managing big public services like police forces to focus on cutting out unnecessary costs, driving down costs, being as efficient as they possibly can before they even begin to contemplate talking about alarming the public in this kind of way.”

A spokesperson for the chief police officers’ association said:

“The home secretary has made clear that alongside other areas of public spending, policing must deliver its share of savings to meet the fiscal deficit.  No area of policing is immune.  In counter-terrorism policing, as well as every other aspect, chief officers are determined to protect the front-line as much as possible, driving efficiencies, collaborating and looking at all ways of saving money while keeping the public safe.  The police service stands ready and committed to meet all the challenges we currently face.”

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