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The UK's top counter terror cop is preparing to make cuts for the first time, as the recession hits the public sector, he revealed today.

Assistant commisioner John Yates, head of the Met's counter terror command, said he didn't think even the most high profile police work will escape the knife after 2011 when the current spending round ends.

"I can't imagine with a £90bn hole in the exchequer that counter terror isn't going to be affected," he said.

Budgets for counter terror operations have grown quickly since the July 7 attacks in 2005. "Is that funding growth going to be sustainable?" Yates said. "I think not.

"We're going to have to robustly look at where we can make savings."

He said he hoped savings could be found in backroom operations such as human resources and payroll. Front line staff would always be protected if possible, he explained.

The published terror threat level has been "severe" since the London bombings, indicating an attack is "highly likely". Yates said he expected it could soon be reduced to "substantial" by MI5's Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre.

"It would be a brave thing to do," Yates said. The new level would rate an attack as "a strong possibility". He added however that it was important the threat level system was sensitive, noting "the climate is grim, but the weather can change".

Yates took over the Met's counter terror unit in April after running the high profile cash for honours investigation. He succeeded Bob Quick, who exposed highly sensitive operational information to photographers on Downing Street. ®

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