London’s blue light services are well placed to respond to a terror attack, according to a wide-ranging review of the capital’s resilience published today by policing expert Lord Toby Harris.
The review was commissioned in May by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who wanted to ensure London’s emergency services had the training, equipment and funding necessary to keep London safe and respond to any incidents.
Lord Harris, a former chair of London’s policing authority and an expert in counter terrorism and security, has interviewed key figures within all of London’s emergency services and reviewed their operating procedures.
In today’s report he commends the services for their improved major incident readiness and says responses are now “substantially faster and more effective” than was the case five years ago.
He also praises the work done by the intelligence agencies and the counter-terrorist police who he credits as being “amongst the best in the world.”
With the threat level currently flagged as “severe” – which means an attack is highly likely – Lord Harris makes a number of recommendations to build on the existing resilience capability.
These include trialling public alert technology, allowing authorities to alert Londoners of a major terrorist attack by sending messages to mobile devices, the permanent inclusion of the Mayor in all COBRA meetings that affect London and the installation of CCTV on all underground and mainline trains and ensuing live and recorded footage is more easily accessible to emergency services.
Lord Harris has also urged the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which oversees the Metropolitan Police, to create new advisor posts covering counter-terrorism and resilience.
He also calls on Ministers to consider merging the Met and City of London police forces, full government funding of the National and International Capital Cities Grant, which currently costs the Met approximately £340 million a year, and for additional Department of Health funding for the London Ambulance Service.
Ministers are also urged to consider integrating the MPS and the underground policing functions of the British Transport Police as part of a wider review of the BTP, Ministry of Defence and Civil Nuclear Constabularies.
Publishing his report, Lord Harris said: “The quality and effectiveness of the work done by the intelligence services and the counter-terrorist police is amongst the best in the world, and if London were subject to a terrorist attack today, our emergency services response would be substantially faster than five years ago.
“Nevertheless, a serious terrorist attack remains highly possible and we cannot be complacent.
“London needs to become a city where security and resilience is designed in and is part of the city’s fabric, and where everyone who lives and works here sees security and resilience as their responsibility just as much as it is for the emergency services and civic authorities.”
Mayor Khan said the report’s recommendations “deserve careful consideration and exploration over the coming months so we can take steps to ensure we are as prepared as possible.”
A spokesperson for the Met says the force welcomes today’s report and says it will be “working closely with all of our key partners and stakeholders over the coming weeks and months to carefully consider the report and its recommendations and identify any opportunities to put these into practice.”
Labour’s London Assembly Policing Spokesperson, Unmesh Desai AM, welcomed the review and said Lord Harris “has done a good job on behalf of Londoners”.
He added: “Both the Mayor of London and government must quickly reflect on these recommendations and take appropriate action so that we can continue to deal effectively with the threat of terrorism.”
However Conservatives on the London Assembly claim the review “has a serious lack of focus” despite containing “some good recommendations”.
The party’s Gareth Bacon AM said: “Of the 127 recommendations nearly 50% are not even within the Mayor’s powers.
“Some complex aspects, such as merging the City of London Police and the Met, are explained away in a single paragraph. The danger of a review that is so slap dash is it clouds what London’s terrorism preparedness priorities truly are.”