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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Met police 'close to bankruptcy'
Police patrol Whitehall
An extra 1,500 officers are patrolling the capital
The Metropolitan Police would run out of money if London came under attack within the next two months, the force authority has been warned.

And anti-terrorist detectives are sleeping in vans and at police stations as they work to tackle the current security crisis.

The Metropolitan Police Authority is currently dipping in to 17.5m of its reserves to meet the extra cost of policing London since the events of 11 September.

This includes having up to 1,500 extra officers on patrol and paying overtime.

Not only are we in a hole but the government is digging that hole deeper as we speak and that is disturbing

Richard Barnes Deputy Chairman MPA

MPA deputy chairman Richard Barnes accused the government of "hoping and praying" that no major incident occurs within the next eight weeks.

"We have managed to identify 17.5m in reserve and it will put off the evil day until November or December with us hoping and praying that nothing of a major incident happens," he said.

Senior officers told the authority's meeting on Thursday that they were in "almost daily contact" with the Home Office about next year's budget and the current policing crisis.

But Mr Barnes said he found it "disturbing" that the government had not given any indication as to whether it would reimburse the cost of the current operation.

"Not only are we in a hole but the government is digging that hole deeper as we speak and that is disturbing," he said.

The Met would not go bankrupt if the Government did not bale it out but "by God, we could be running close to it," said Tony Arbour, an MPA and GLA member.

Terror costs

The admission that officers are "over-stretched" and working long shifts since the terror attacks in America came from the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir John Stevens.

Sir John told the meeting he wanted to "beef-up" the anti-terrorist squad but he admitted officers were under pressure.

He said many of the unit's members were reduced to sleeping in vans or at police stations once their 12 hour shifts were over.

MPA chairman Lord Harris said that this could not continue indefinitely because officers "will not be able to do the job properly if they are exhausted or shattered".

The London Assembly has already been told that the cost of maintaining the anti-terror effort has pushed costs up to 1m a week.

The BBC's Terry Stiastny
"Each day police assess the level of threat"

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See also:

12 Oct 01 | England
Funds threaten terror policing
20 Apr 00 | London Mayor
Footing the capital Bill
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