London 2012: Austerity Cuts To Counter-Terrorism Budget Could Hit UK After Olympic Games

Olympic Security

First Posted: 7/02/2012 06:20 Updated: 7/02/2012 06:20   PA

The end of the London 2012 Olympics could see a big drop-off in the sustained rate of UK counter-terrorism spending and staffing levels, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) claimed on Tuesday.

Security policymakers have placed a great deal of focus on mounting the biggest security operation to avert a terrorist threat in this summer's London 2012 Games, while postponing much-needed reform until afterwards, according to a new RUSI report.

Tobias Feakin, an RUSI senior fellow, warns: "The Games are both a help and a hindrance to UK counter-terrorism; a help because they have stimulated intense co-operation between the security agencies, but a hindrance because the shadow of the Olympics disguises the landscape for the years beyond.

"As budgetary restrictions are increasingly applied across the public sector, it is almost certain that the security agencies will also have to tighten their belts.

"Until the London Olympics has passed, it is not yet clear exactly what shape these cuts will take across the rest of the country, especially within London."

The death of Osama bin Laden began a succession of counter-terrorism victories last year, leading to a reduction in the threat level from severe to substantial.

The threat from Jihadist terrorism has not diminished, the report warns.

Despite recent arrests and failed plots, the authorities must contend with "lone wolves" and "self-radicalised" jihadi terrorists who are hard to track and pose a greater security risk, it was noted.

RUSI analyst Valentina Soria said: "There is very little which could justify complacency in the way we perceive the future threat from Jihadist terrorism to the UK.

"Although actual capabilities may have deteriorated, the intention to conduct large-scale attacks on British soil remains."

Dr Feakin suggested: "There is a sense in Whitehall that major decisions are being postponed until the event (the London 2012 Games) has ended in August, with an overriding priority to complete the Games without major incident.

"After this, the changes for the various security organisations involved will be inevitable."

A Home Office spokesman said: "National security is the first duty of any government. The UK's counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST) sets out our long-term plans to deal with the threat from terrorism. It covers the build-up to the Olympics and the following three years.

"Over that same period we are allocating £2 billion a year to the Security and Intelligence Agencies budget. The CONTEST strategy is designed to be flexible and we will continue to ensure that the UK's response reflects the nature of the terrorist threat we face."

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Filed by Michael Rundle  |