Non-emergency 101 system ‘not fit for purpose’, Cheshire Police Commissioner says

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CHESHIRE residents are dialling 999 when they shouldn’t because the non-emergency 101 number is ‘not fit for purpose’, the county’s police commissioner has said.

John Dwyer told members of the Cheshire Police and Crime Panel that he has put the chief constable under pressure to improve the 101 service.

He was speaking after Cllr Martyn Delaney (Cheshire West & Chester, Lab) said he had waited 14 minutes on 101 to report an anti-social behaviour incident and, in that time, only moved from 14th to 13th in the queue so abandoned the call.

Mr Dwyer said: “Sadly, I can report to you this morning, that this is a common occurrence.

“I am getting reports all the time – I did during my campaign and since I’ve been in office – of delays of up to 14 minutes, even longer on the 101 and so I put the chief constable under pressure.

“I want that improving. Absolutely, it’s not fit for purpose. You can’t expect people to hang on the phone for 14 minutes to deal with a call.”

He added: “What I think is happening as well now, is that people are getting frustrated with no answer to the 101. They’re then dialling 999 for what actually isn’t an emergency call, so that’s having a knock-on effect into the 999 system so it does need to be sorted, needs to be sorted quickly, and the chief constable is on to it.”

Panel chair Evan Morris told the meeting in Crewe he had some sympathy with the police control room staff and the commissioner because of the ‘staggering’ number of calls which were made.

He said: “1,245 calls on 101 to the control room in an average day, you know that’s gargantuan.”

Mr Morris said there needed to be public education and understanding as to what was a real emergency and people needed to be aware of other agencies which were available so they didn’t always default to the police.