THE huge counter-terrorism effort is placing an unsustainable strain on the policing service, a former Thames Valley Police chief warned yesterday.

Sara Thornton, now head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the ‘flat cash’ funding settlement for forces introduced two years ago is no longer enough.

Hundreds of specialist counter-terrorism officers have been assigned to inquiries in the wake of each of the five attacks to hit the UK this year.

Ms Thornton said: “Every time there’s a terror attack, we mobilise specialist officers and staff to respond, but the majority of the officers and staff responding come from mainstream policing. This puts extra strain on an already-stretched service. With officer numbers at 1985 levels, crime up 10 per cent in the last year and police work becoming ever more complex, this additional pressure is not sustainable.”

The Government is boosting its spending on counter-terrorism from £11.7bn to £15.1bn. But Ms Thornton argued the amount allocated from that budget to policing, which currently totals about £700 million a year, is set to be cut by 7.2 per cent in the next three years.

Tackling terrorism is one of five main priorities for Thames Valley Police. Crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld has said officers are integral to minimising the risk of terrorism by preventing radicalisation.