Police bosses have admitted they can improve after ‘extremely alarming’ figures revealed response time targets are missed on THOUSANDS of calls to the 101 and 999 police hot lines every week.
More than a third of the 15,000 calls a week to the non-emergency 101 number were abandoned by the caller in 2017, a trebling of the 2015 rate, and that trend is mirrored for 999 calls, figures released exclusively by Lancashire Constabulary reveal.
Coun Tony Dobson, Hyndburn Conservative group leader, said the statistics were ‘disturbing’.
He said: “Those figures are extremely alarming. To imagine that one-third of everybody who calls the police in Lancashire does not get an answer is very disturbing and mirrors what I’m hearing in my ward.”
He said spending cuts were starting to ‘bite’ throughout all public sector organisations, but questioned whether the police are utilising modern technology well enough and using the best management systems.
He added: “Is the criminal justice system letting everyone down by not penalising criminals?”
The figures, revealed to the Observer by a Freedom of Information Act request, also show that the 10-second answer target was missed for more than 70,000 calls to 999, and more than 4,000 emergency callers hung up without being connected.
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said the police service is ‘collapsing’.
He said: “People are calling 999 or 101 because other public services are failing. The pressure is all being dumped on the police. I know the police are exceedingly concerned about this.
“I’m angry about it, the public are angry about it. The police cannot man the telephones
and catch the criminals.”
Hyndburn council leader Miles Parkinson said the Constabulary was ‘feeling the effects of austerity’.
He said: “While other services and partners face further cutbacks this inevitably has a knock-on effect.
“Once you add in the extra call length to the extra volume, this means an intense strain on the service.”
Steps are being taken to improve the performance of the 101 and 999 numbers, with new staff being recruited.
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw told the Observer: “The number of calls to Lancashire Police and the volume they are able to answer are a real concern.
“Cuts to other services mean more people are reaching crisis point. I have continually raised the issue of call performance with the Constabulary and now an action plan is in place to improve the service which has seen 40 new staff brought into the control room. I will be closely monitoring this progress to ensure it delivers the improvements the public rightly want to see.”
Chief Supt Pete Lawson of Lancashire Constabulary, said the unpredictable nature of emergency services can lead to sudden spike in emergency calls.
He said: “Many of the calls we receive aren’t crime-related; we are dealing with increasing amounts of complex public safety demand such as reports of concern for the welfare of people who are often vulnerable because of mental or physical health issues.”
“We apologise to anyone who has used the 101 service and feels they have not received the level of service they expect. We know there is more we can do to improve.”
Withdrawal of funding for PCSOs is “disappointing” - police chief
Local authority funding cuts to Police and Community Support Officers have been described as “disappointing” by the county’s top police boss.
Lancashire County Council voted last month to remove £265,000 part funding towards 17 PCSOs across the county.
Police Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “Withdrawal of funding for PCSOs by local authorities is disappointing, with partners having difficult financial decisions to make and it is further evidence of cuts across the public sector having a real impact on policing.
“I have maintained my commitment to maintain my funding for PCSOs and will work with Lancashire police and local authorities to mitigate the impact from reductions.”
Mr Grunshaw could not confirm the exact impact of the cuts on the overall PCSO budget across the county.
Residents across Hyndburn will pay £8 a year more (the rate for band A homes) in 2018/19 towards their policing as part of measures to raise an extra £5 million for the Constabulary. The police ‘precept’ rise forms part of an overall council tax hike of £60 a year.