Police in England and Wales would struggle to deal with riots on the scale of 2011 due to budget cuts, an officer who oversees funding has said.
Chief Constable Dave Thompson, of West Midlands Police, said the “strain is showing” after multiple terror attacks.
“We’d have real challenges in dealing with something like the 2011 riots again,” he wrote on the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) blog on Friday.
The home secretary has admitted that police resources are “very tight”.
Amber Rudd told MPs on Thursday that the police response to attacks in Manchester and London required “additional work” in law enforcement.
She said: “I recognise the fact that we cannot carry on at that emergency level indefinitely.”
Mr Thompson, finance lead at the NPCC, which works with police leaders, called on the government to “stabilise” police funding so it can tackle not only terrorism but other threats, such as cyber-crime.
“Last year we saw the prison service snap under pressure with riots in Birmingham Prison. We cannot afford this to happen to policing but the strain is showing from recent weeks,” he said.
“I face a modern terror threat with 6,600 officers – a number that has already fallen by close to 2,000 and is set to fall further.”
He added more investment was needed “with a growing cyber threat”, adding: “Counter-terrorism policing is stretched and is in no place to deliver efficiency savings.”
He said mainstream police resources were being diverted to fight terrorism, echoing warnings by Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley that ordinary law enforcement faced “significant” funding risks after four terror attacks in as many months.
Mr Thompson said: “The firearms commanders, casualty bureau, custody staff, body recovery teams and uniformed officers patrolling crowded spaces that are so central to preventing and responding to a terror attack are paid for by core police funding.”
He said that two-thirds of the policing effort after the Westminster Bridge attack was met by core police funding and not counter-terrorism.
He said: “If we are to sustain the protection citizens want and need, police leaders need to continue to reform, look hard at what needs to be done differently, and be bold and innovative in rising to the challenge.”
The Home Office has said it is in “detailed engagement” with police over planned funding changes.
A spokesman said: “The government is undertaking a period of detailed engagement with policing partners and independent experts on the police funding formula.
“New proposals will not be implemented without a public consultation.”
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