FEARS over the potential effect of savage police cuts on the fight against terrorism in the West Midlands have been raised by MPs.
It comes as West Midlands Police terrorism unit says it is conducting a “significant number” of investigations in this region.
It follows the Paris attacks and comes as Conservative chancellor George Osborne is refusing to rule out pressing ahead with further government funding cuts to all forces in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday.
Coventry South Labour MP Jim Cunningham called in the Commons for a “review” of “the number of counter-terrorism officials in the West Midlands”, and called on ministers to make a statement.
Home Office minister John Hayes responded: “The Home Office has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period.
“An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”
The West Midlands force is expecting cuts of around £90million over five years, and warns of 2,500 more job losses.
That would double the cuts since the coalition came to power in 2010 pledging to cut the national deficit.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said last month government funding cuts – while still extremely serious – were expected to be less drastic than previously thought.
It followed a West Midlands ‘fairer funding’ campaign. It argued the government’s funding formula disadvantaged the West Midlands due to its relatively low Council Tax intake, resulting in more reliance on government grant.
Mr Jamieson estimates the West Midlands force had already been hit twice as hard as some other forces in England and Wales.
Mr Osborne said yesterday the counter-terrorism budget has risen this year and all public bodies must ensure they are spending public money efficiently.
Ministers say the fight against crime in a modern era of different crimes has not been damaged by fewer frontline police in communities.
The force’s budget currently stands at £500million.
Coventry North west Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson said: “Cuts have consequences, there is no way a police force can make cuts of this magnitude without it impacting on public safety.
“This is a terrible blow for communities in Coventry and the West Midlands who are being forced to bear the brunt of the government’s reckless police budget cuts.”
“Clearly the only people that are going to be happy about this are the criminals themselves.”
“The government is allowing neighbourhood policing roles to be decimated, so much so that if these proposals go ahead by September 2016 the West Midlands may only have 349 Police Community Support Officers left.”
“The unfortunate reality is that we will lose a lot of our police patrolling the streets as over four fifths of the West Midlands Police costs are wages so there is only so much they can do.”
Solihull Conservative MP Julian Knight said: “The counter-terrorism policing budget has been protected since 2010, and earlier this year, in his Budget speech, the chancellor confirmed that counter-terrorism spending across government would be protected over the course of the spending review.
“I am very glad at the announcement that new funding will be made available to the security and intelligence agencies to provide for an additional 1,900 officers—an increase of 15 per cent—at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, in order to respond better to the threat that the UK faces from international terrorism, cyber-attacks, and other global risks.”
Police are calling on the public to help tackle terrorism and have launched a new awareness campaign offering practical advice on how to be vigilant at home, in business and online.
The UK threat level remained unchanged at ‘Severe’, meaning an attack is ’highly likely’.
The country-wide campaign will begin with calls to be alert but not alarmed. Communities are asked to be vigilant and prepared, but go about daily business and not allow terrorists to sow division.
Later in the week there will be advice around cyber security and online radicalisation.
West Midlands Police says it has the largest counter terrorism unit outside of London.
Head of unit, Detective Chief Superintendent Sue Southern said: “The public should understand that the threat we face is complex. It could come from lone individuals intent on carrying out crude but violent attacks, or it could come from networks plotting more ambitious, coordinated attacks.
“All police forces have increased their activity in the wake of events in Paris and this is constantly under review.
“Together with the security services we are actively pursuing hundreds of investigations – with a significant number of them here in the West Midlands region.
“We urge the public to remain alert but not alarmed and to contact us if anything gives them cause for concern.
“Please do not worry you will be wasting our time. We would rather it turn out to be nothing than risk missing something. We need you to be our eyes and ears and have the confidence to call us.”