World-leading counter-terror centre in Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review

World-leading counter-terror centre in Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak did a tough balancing act as he laid out the year’s Spending Review in Parliament this week to find funds for crucial projects as well as tackling the country’s Covid-19 response.

Besides a public sector pay freeze and a cut to foreign aid spending, the minister in charge of the UK’s economic response to the pandemic warned that the “economic emergency” has only just begun as the country battles soaring debt and unemployment.

However, besides an initial £18 billion already earmarked for next year for spending on personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and vaccines, one of his other key pledges was to set aside millions to establish a “world-leading” Counter Terrorism Operations Centre (CTOC) based in London.

Sunak said: "Our police and intelligence agencies do an extraordinary job every day to protect us all from terrorist activity.

“Bringing these partners together to form a world-leading operations centre will enable them to work more collaboratively to disrupt threats – allowing the government to deliver on its first and foremost duty to keep the public safe."

Public safety

An additional £400 million has been set aside to help recruit 20,000 more police officers by 2023, with 6,000 new officers in 2021-22; £63 million will be earmarked for tackling economic crime; and £337 million of extra funding has been allocated for the criminal justice system, which will include the new CTOC – expected to be fully operational within five years.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our police, intelligence agencies and criminal justice system who work tirelessly every single day to keep us safe from terrorism.

“This world-leading new centre will fully integrate their wealth of knowledge and expertise to ensure that we are responding to the range of threats this nation faces as quickly and effectively as possible."

The state-of-the-art facility would coordinate expertise and resources, including combatting hostile state activity and organised crime.

Scotland Yard Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “The investment that policing, the Mayor and the government are all making will create a Counter Terrorism Operations Centre that will assist significantly in keeping London and the United Kingdom safe.”

Historic milestone

The Metropolitan Police said the development of the CTOC was born out of a series of terrorist attacks in 2017, which killed 36 people and caused injury and life-changing impacts to many others. The attacks and the subsequent operational improvement review highlighted the need to further develop the UK's counter-terrorism response.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the Head of Counter Terrorism Policing at the Metropolitan Police, said: “The creation of a world-leading, fully-integrated counter terrorism operations centre is a genuinely historic milestone. Counter Terrorism Policing and our national security partners have always had a close and effective working relationship, but being co-located is an opportunity for us to take that one step further, and will only improve our ability to protect the UK and its citizens.

“This has been a complex project we have all been working on delivering for some time, and really demonstrates there are no party politics in protecting the public.”

The first parts of the new building are expected to be completed as early as next year. The Met Police said the need to further develop capability was emphasised by attacks in the UK in the past year and recent attacks across Europe; the 27 successful disruptions since the 2017 terrorist attacks; and the recent rise in the terrorism threat level to Severe – all in the context of a broadening threat environment and an increasingly challenging technical environment.

Smarter working

The UK's largest police force said that having a CTOC in London will enable co-location of the London-based elements of counter-terrorism (CT) policing, the intelligence agencies, and the criminal justice system, as well as other government agencies focused on tackling the threat from terrorism.

An integrated, partnership-driven approach within a purpose-built working environment – the CTOC is designed to bring the "right people, skills and technology" together to protect the UK. It will help install smarter working practices and cultures, rationalising processes and structures, and boosting innovation with new forms of collaboration.

The CTOC will be a new part of the overall UK CT response – bringing together, for the first time, all the London-based CT elements in one place, the Met Police said.

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