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News : Staffordshire Police Still Taking Too Long to Answer 101 Calls
Nov 6, 2014 -- Police are bringing in experts, because people are still waiting too long on the phone to report crimes.
Extra cash is being ploughed in to sort out the delays at Staffordshire Police's crisis-hit 101 non-emergency service.
People had complained after waiting on average two minutes for their calls to be answered following the merger of the force's two call centres.
But the situation has got worse over the past six weeks despite the recruitment of more staff.
It means people are now waiting on average three-and-a-half minutes for their calls to be answered.
Now Staffordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis has intervened in the issue after blaming senior officers for failing to sort out the mess.
Mr Ellis told a meeting of the force's police and crime panel: "This has been a real challenge for me – the service has not been what it should be.
"The police knew they needed to improve. Six weeks ago they were told to improve, they have not done, so my office will be intervening, supporting them to make some very urgent decisions to improve the service.
"They now know they got this wrong. It is sufficiently wrong that my office is now offering some assistance to police to get it right.
"I have agreed with my chief of staff to put some funding in to bring in expert help. This is an operational matter, but they have got it wrong. The police and the chief constable now know they got it wrong."
The force shut its control room at Hanley Police Station and opened a bigger call centre at its Stafford HQ this summer to save money each year.
But 19 staff from Hanley did not move to Stafford and 22 more call-handlers were due to return to front-line policing. That left 146 staff working at the call centre.
Police blamed the shortage on fewer staff than anticipated making the move to the Stafford HQ and are recruiting dozens of staff to plug the gap.
Back in March, people were waiting on average 20 seconds for their calls to be answered – but that rose to 113 seconds in July.
Members of the police and crime panel this week called for the 101 service to be improved.
Councillor Joy Garner, who represents Stoke-on-Trent City Council on the panel, said: "A lot of people have been waiting up to an hour for their calls to be answered and then still end up putting the phone down.
"A lady told me she called up and was kept on hold for 20 minutes until she got a response.
"If people can't get through on 101 then they will call 999 and that could be seriously unhelpful."
Panel vice-chairman Colin Greatorex said: "Some might say 101 is not fit for purpose."
Staffordshire Police have answered 250,000 non-emergency calls since April.
In response to the situation, Assistant Chief Constable Bernie O'Reilly said "We are experiencing delays in answering calls in our contact centre. We have seen a deterioration in the average response times over the past few months as a result of some significant issues around staffing in our contact centre. We have recruited and started to train a number of new colleagues and this recruitment and training is continuing.
"We have spoken with the police and crime commissioner about improving the service we provide to our communities and we are working to ensure that we maintain the high standards of service the staff working in the contact centre deliver once callers get through."
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More Editorial From Staffordshire Police
About Staffordshire Police:
Staffordshire Police is the territorial police force responsible for policing Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent in the West Midlands of England.
Published: Friday, November 7, 2014