police face phone fury
Thousands of calls unanswered each month is ‘unacceptable’
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.