Cambs police under fire for non-emergency call handling

CAMBRIDGESHIRE police say they are reviewing the number of staff manning their non-emergency phone lines after recent figures showed thousands of calls went unanswered.

Figures released this month in a report to Cambridgeshire Police Authority show 15 per cent of non-emergency calls – 7,145 – were abandoned in July. The spike coincides with cuts to call centre staff which have seen numbers fall by 15 people to 50 over the course of 18 months.

Since the summer the number of abandoned calls has been reduced – to 1,844 or 4.6 per cent in November, and was this month at 4 per cent.

Superintendent Paul Fullwood said police would look again at the number of staff at the Police Service Centre in Peterborough, which handles the majority of non-emergency calls.

“What has happened is over the last 18 months the organisation has taken �2million out of core management – it is not something we have a choice about.

“The cuts have really had an impact in terms of public confidence. This is the shop window for Cambridgeshire police and the public are going to see far more of an impact than they would have seen previously.

“But it is complex. If I take an officer off the beat to answer calls, that means one less officer on the beat. We have to make best use of our resources.”

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A police authority spokesman said: “The PA has previously acknowledged that the constabulary has achieved significant savings while improving many aspects of performance.

“Creating savings of this scale is not without risk. In this case performance in call handling has suffered and action has had to be put in place to rectify this.

“Changes were immediately put in place and the situation improved significantly. At the recent scrutiny committee the police authority highlighted further improvements still need to be made in both response times and eradicating abandoned calls in order to restore confidence in the call handling process.”

North and West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara said: “We already have problems with police response times, especially in rural areas after complaints have been made, but the thought that the police cannot be contacted is a matter of grave concern.

“I will be contacting Cambridgeshire’s Chief Constable Simon Parr to find out how quickly improvements can be made and what is being done to achieve this.”

Callers are being asked to have the following information to hand when reporting a non-emergency to the police: the location of the incident, your name, address and telephone number, and a brief outline of what has happened.