Scotland Yard faced a furious backlash yesterday as it emerged that the Partygate investigation is set to cost more than £1million – at a time of rocketing crime rates.
Critics warned that the criminal inquiry into parties in Downing Street and Whitehall will swallow up valuable resources just as the force is battling an epidemic in violent and sexual offences.
The so-called 'Celebrity Squad' has been tasked with investigating eight parties in a wide-ranging probe, which policing experts have estimated could cost in excess of £1million and take at least six months.
Eight officers in the Special Enquiry Team, led by Commander Catherine Roper, have been assigned to the inquiry, with more officers and staff available if needed, the Daily Mail understands.
She will report her findings to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors.
Yesterday, the day after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick's bombshell announcement of the investigation, MPs and former officers questioned the decision to divert officer time and resources when the force's overall detection rates have plummeted by almost a quarter in the last year alone.
Eight officers in the Special Enquiry Team, led by Commander Catherine Roper (pictured), have been assigned to the Partygate inquiry, the Daily Mail understands
Dame Cressida refused to set any limits or timescale for the inquiry, promising the London Assembly: 'We will of course be going where the evidence takes us.'
But Tory Assembly member Susan Hall, who chaired the meeting, said it was a 'matter of regret' that the probe was being prioritised after the capital saw its worst year for teenage killings last year as well as soaring rates of violent and sexual offences.
She said: 'The Met detection rate is absolutely appalling. The number of teenage homicides is absolutely horrific. I understand the Commissioner was put in an impossible position and she felt that this was a matter of public confidence for the force.
'I do, however, deeply regret that significant resources are going to be put into this instead of solving rapes and violent offences.'
She added: 'It seems absolutely ridiculous to be in this situation where there is a prospect of war with Russia over Ukraine.'
Last year in London, 30 teenagers were killed, the worst death toll since the Second World War.
Despite the force having a record 33,076 officers – the highest number in a decade – detection rates remain woeful with 22 per cent less crimes solved in 2021 than in 2020.
Among other disturbing figures, sexual offences in the capital rose by 26 per cent and reported rapes increased by 17 per cent in 2021 compared with the previous year.
Yet in the same period the number of sex crimes being solved dropped by 8 per cent. Despite a taskforce being set up to tackle violence, offences continued to creep up by 6 per cent in 2021, while detections have dropped 20 per cent.
Similarly, the number of burglaries solved has fallen by a quarter, robbery detections are down by 21 per cent and there has been a 27 per cent drop in vehicle theft cases being cracked.
Yesterday former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: 'The big thing to focus on is the Met and gang violence in London, which is a big issue right now.
'There are concerns about stretched resources and problems with property crime. You very rarely get a serious response from them on things like car crime.
Critics warned the criminal inquiry into parties in Downing Street and Whitehall will swallow up valuable resources just as the force is battling an epidemic in violent and sexual offences
'In my area and many others in London, there are deep concerns about the efficiency of the police in getting to the scene of the crime when property is involved and then thereafter resolving any of it.
'There has been a real surge in gang-led violence in London, it's now becoming a byword.
'All of this is stretching the police and should be an absolute priority – to catch criminals and resolve crimes. I