Police commissioner faces renewed 101 telephone line complaints – 12 months after councillors raise similar concerns

Katy Bourne faced repeated complaints about the 101 non-emergency telephone service
Katy Bourne faced repeated complaints about the 101 non-emergency telephone service

Reported problems with the police non-emergency telephone service persist, a year after councillors raised concerns over response times.

Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne faced questions about the 101 service from frustrated Arun councillors last February – and now similar complaints have been raised at an Adur and Worthing meeting.

Mrs Bourne last year said police were looking at the issue, but 12 months on admitted she had grown ‘increasingly frustrated’ by how long it took some calls to be answered.

Speaking at a meeting of Adur and Worthing councils’ joint overview and scrutiny committee last Thursday (February 7), the commissioner said: “For a lot of people, the first time they ever come into contact with a police officer is over the phone so that 101 non-emergency number is absolutely key.

“I have been increasingly frustrated, as have many members of the public, with the call handling times.”

At both meetings, Mrs Bourne said more people were going online to report crimes, with 101 callers signposted to the web when they rang.

Both occasions heard accounts of significant waiting times before residents got through, or gave up altogether.

Adur councillor Joss Loader said residents had reported waiting between 45 minutes and an hour for their call to be answered – with many giving up completely.

Mrs Loader asked how reported crime figures could be seen to be accurate if people were unable to get through. Mrs Bourne conceded it was a ‘fair point’.

Last February, Arun district councillor for Ferring Roger Elkins highlighted a watchdog report which said an average of 6,131 calls per month to 101 went unanswered between April, 2016, and April, 2017.

Mrs Bourne raised the topic with Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner at a performance meeting before Christmas. A report to that meeting said that, in October, more than half of 101 calls had been abandoned and calls that did get through were taking longer to deal with.

The commissioner said a rise in the police precept would help fund improvements to the service.

“I would hope that, with the increase in funding now, we will start to see improvement in this,” she said.

*Additional reporting by Karen Dunn, local democracy reporter