po­lice face phone fury

Thou­sands of calls unan­swered each month is ‘un­ac­cept­able’

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By MATTHEW REVILLE matthew.reville@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk

THOU­SANDS of calls made to the po­lice have gone unan­swered since cost-cut­ting mea­sures were put in place.

Fig­ures show that the amount of calls made to Cam­bridgeshire po­lice’s non-emer­gency num­ber go­ing unan­swered by staff has dra­mat­i­cally in­creased since June.

The num­ber of calls re­ceived by the non-emer­gency call team jumped from 16,000 calls in May to 59,000 calls in June.

The jump co­in­cides with the force’s cost-cut­ting move to axe the jobs of phone op­er­a­tors who di­rected and fil­tered calls to rel­e­vant de­part­ments.

Out of these a stag­ger­ing 8,000 peo­ple hung up be­fore get­ting through to any­one in June and July – com­pared to just a few hun­dred in pre­vi­ous months.

Since then the numbers have been im­proved but there were still around 4,000 aban­doned calls in Oc­to­ber – which are the most re- cent fig­ures avail­able.

The po­lice are ex­pected to an­swer emer­gency calls in 10 sec­onds and non-emer­gency calls in 30 sec­onds.

In their board meet­ing on De­cem­ber 13, mem­bers of the Cam­bridgeshire Po­lice Au­thor­ity said im­prove­ments were needed.

Speak­ing af­ter the meet­ing Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil deputy leader Cllr Matthew Lee, who is also a mem­ber of the po­lice au­thor­ity said that the fig­ures are “not ac­cept­able”.

He said: “The numbers of aban- doned calls are too high and it needs to be re­duced.

“You will al­ways get some calls aban­doned but it is clear the amount has in­creased sub­stan­tially in re­cent months.

“I do think we need to put in more re­sources – whether it’s more staff or bet­ter tech­nol­ogy.”

The sen­ti­ment was echoed by city politi­cians, who called for in­stant changes to be im­ple­mented.

City MP Ste­wart Jack­son said: “I plan to write to the Chief Con­sta­ble) Si­mon Parr to see what their ac­tion plan is.

“It is im­por­tant to re­duce the num­ber of unan­swered calls so my con­stituents can talk about is­sues. Maybe they need to look at other au­thor­i­ties to see how to im­prove re­sults de­spite still mak­ing the nec­es­sary sav­ings.”

MP for North West Cam­bridgeshire Shailesh Vara added: “This is very wor­ry­ing. I will be ask­ing some key ques­tions and look­ing for an im­prove­ment. Peo­ple should be safe in the knowl­edge that con­tact­ing po­lice will not be a prob­lem.”

The sat­is­fac­tion rat­ing taken from call­ers has also dropped, from the pre­vi­ous three-year low of 78 per cent in Septem­ber 2008 to 57 per cent in June 2011 and 52 per cent in July 2011.

A po­lice spokesman said: “The num­ber of call han­dlers was cut, which did have an ef­fect on our per­for­mance.

“We are com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the non-emer­gency call-han­dling ser­vice and are re­view­ing the num­ber of han­dlers we have to ac­cu­rately meet the de­mand. We also have plans in place to in­tro­duce a speech di­alling ser­vice which will ease the pres­sure on the po­lice ser­vice cen­tre.”

A po­lice au­thor­ity spokes­woman added: “At the re­cent meet­ing the au­thor­ity high­lighted im­prove­ments that still need to be made that would re­store con­fi­dence in the call han­dling process.

“Cre­at­ing sav­ings of this scale is not with­out risk and per­for­mance in call han­dling has suf­fered.

“But ac­tion has been put in place to rec­tify it and the sit­u­a­tion has im­proved. Over­all the con­stab­u­lary are to be con­grat­u­lated on how they have made sav­ings and im­proved per­for­mance.”

con­cern: Cllr Matthew Lee.

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