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Protests ‘put neighbourhood police at risk’

Police officers hold back protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza during a Pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London on Jan 6
Police officers hold back protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza during a Pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London on Jan 6 - HENRY NICHOLLS /afp

Neighbourhood policing is at risk of being weakened by the number of protests taking up officers’ time, MPs have warned.

The repetitive nature of the large Israel-Gaza protests and the “deliberately disruptive” tactics of protesters such as Just Stop Oil was placing “considerable resource constraints” on police, the home affairs committee said.

Police have spent at least £30 million deploying thousands of officers to deal with marches since the Hamas terror attack on Israel on Oct 7.

MPs said this placed “additional pressure” on Britain’s biggest force, the Metropolitan Police. The force has already failed to meet its recruitment target under the Government’s officer uplift programme.

They noted that other forces were also facing their own local protests, while also being forced to deploy officers under transfer agreements to support the Met.

Members of the panel warned this was denuding neighbourhood policing. In a report on the issue the committee said: “Should these protests continue indefinitely, it stands to reason that forces across the country will be less able to carry out the everyday neighbourhood and response policing that is so vital to the public.”

They also raised concerns about the “human impact and the well-being” of police officers, with more than 4,000 rest days having been cancelled amid the protest action.

Dame Diana Johnson, chairman of the committee, said: “It is clear that the current demands on policing are unsustainable without proper reinforcement.

“It is vital the right framework is in place to ensure that protests can continue without the burden on policing becoming intolerable.”

The committee report urged the Government to set out a 10-year workforce plan for policing, replacing the system of individual proposals for each police force.

It said the Government should also consider increasing the six-day notice period for protests in order to give forces more time to prepare.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said there were more than 900 demonstrations between Oct 7 and Dec 10.

The Met said it spent about £18.9 million on pro-Palestinian protests.

The committee also welcomed a pledge by police to ensure MPs should be able to do their jobs “free from intimidation”.