Commissioner heralds police call answering improvements

Police, fire and crime commissioner Zoe Metcalfe Picture: LDRS

An outgoing police commissioner has heralded the force’s improvement in answering calls as a ‘tremendous achievement’, following a watchdog’s critical report and years of concerns about people hanging up in frustration.

North Yorkshire and York commissioner Zoe Metcalfe has issued the praise just eight months after demanding immediate improvements as it emerged a third of calls to the non-emergency 101 line were being abandoned.

A report by Mrs Metcalfe to a meeting of the North Yorkshire and York police, fire and crime panel on Monday states since last January North Yorkshire Police have gone from 45th out of 45 nationally for 999 performance to 25th, as of November 2023, despite receiving 16 per cent more emergency calls than the year before.

Comparing the force’s performance from December with the same month in 2022, the number of calls answered within ten seconds has improved from 74 per cent to 90 per cent.

The number of 999 calls taking more than a minute to be answered dropped from four per cent to one per cent.

Statistics for last April showed of the 16,939 non-emergency calls made to North Yorkshire Police just 60 per cent were answered within the target 120 seconds, the average answer time was five minutes and 27 seconds, resulting in 34 per cent of callers giving up.

The commissioner’s report states the average answer time last year improved to two minutes and 21 seconds.

She stated: “It is fantastic that the clear improvement plan put in place following the initial inspection last year has led to genuine, embedded, and measurable progress in keeping the public safe and feeling safe.”

The progress follows panel members expressing dissatisfaction over the performance of the Force Control Room and successive commissioners pouring millions of pounds of investment into tackling persistently high call answering times.

In 2022 government inspectors found the force to be ‘requiring improvement’ in several areas, including responding to the public and that North Yorkshire Police needed to improve the speed with which it answers and responds to emergency calls as it was “well below the national standard”.

Mrs Metcalfe said she was “delighted” that the investment she had put into the Force Control Room had led to the inspectorate recently declaring the call answering issue had been resolved.

She states: “The Inspectorate noted that significant steps had been taken in response to the cause of concern being issued; that strengthened governance and an improved understanding of force performance was improving service to the public through delivery of an improved police service.

“To see the single cause for concern removed just 12 months on from the initial inspection is a tremendous achievement, and testament to the hard work of both the Chief Constable and their whole team, and crucially, demonstrated the effectiveness of public oversight.”