Police and Crime Commissioner Bright Says He Has Published Non Emergency Call Answering Decisions


Friday, March 21st, 2014. 1:51pm

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright attended Cambridge’s North Area Committee on the 20th of March 2014.

I asked Commissioner Bright why he had not published his decisions relating the time taken by the police to answer calls to their non-emergency, 101, phone number. I noted the decisions were not on the Commissioner’s published decision log and had not been reported to the Police and Crime Panel. The commissioner responded to say he had published the material, which gained him a round of applause. In my view this was a brazen lie, and it is easily verifiable as such by reference to the decision log and panel meeting papers.

I also asked why the commissioner had not published, or reported to the panel, his decisions relating to the initial set up of his organisation, including deciding to hold his key decision making body, his business co-ordination board, in secret. The commissioner avoided this question, merely noting the meeting papers are published (which they are, but only in retrospect)

The Police and Crime Panel have the power to hold the commissioner to account, I would like to see them taking action to curb the commissioner’s habit of making misleading statements. I have already used the public participation slot at panel meetings to question the accuracy of some of the commissioner’s statements to the panel.

Cllr Tim Bick, Cambridge’s representative on the Police and Crime Panel has accepted the commissioner has not reported his decisions relating to 101, and has noted the panel has consequently not looked into them, and he has proposed they look into widening the scope of the panel’s activities to include unreported decisions. Responding to my public submission, at the February 2014 panel meeting Cllr Bick said::

There are some serious changes, some serious decisions, and they bear deep examination and whether it is call handling, which suggests itself actually first, as it was one of the first declarations of change that was made, maybe we should contemplate: “What is our agenda?” and spend some time not going through the structured agenda like we have today but go through an issue based agenda where we sit down and decide who we want to talk to and questions we want to ask so we can go from beginning to end on the subject. For me that is what scrutiny ought to be about and I’m missing it so far.

Exchange from the March 2014 North Area Committee

Richard Taylor: Thank you. Well one of the things that Sir Graham has said to have been one of his big successes is dealing with the problems that existed with the 101 non-emergency phone number and the police’s performance answering the phones. And what I’d like to ask the commissioner is: Why hasn’t he published the decisions which he has made on that subject, both to the public on his decision log on his website and make them available to the police and crime panel along with the performance information which shows what has actually changed following those decisions so we can all see exactly what you’ve done and to see how much of a good job… or to see if the good job you claim to have done has actually happened.

Another area where I’d like to see the commissioner reporting his decisions relates to when he set up his operation when he first came into office, so when he did things like deciding to hold his key decision making body, his Business Co-ordination Board, in secret behind closed doors. One of the things I’ve really missed since the transfer to the commissioner is being able to see, in advance of major police policy changes, what those proposed changes are. Because the Police Authority published their meeting papers in advance of decisions whereas your Business Co-ordination Board doesn’t, and I could go to the Police Authority and I could see people make those decisions and see the decision makers, and the Chief Constable, which I can’t do under this, under Sir Graham Bright.

Chairman Pitt: Can I interrupt. There are two related questions and your other question I know I’ll come back to you on that. The first one is on the particular aspects of the call answering statistics and changes; why aren’t they published and why isn’t the data available. And the more general point about could you make your meetings more open.

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Well first of all I hate to disappoint but we have published those; because there have been a number of instances where I’ve called for reports and they’re online so I suggest you go online and have a good look at them.

Now in terms of improving it. 101 I was pretty upset that 101 was taking far too long to respond when somebody phoned in and I was picking this up all the time from people. Now there was an incidence where I tried and it took over nine minutes, we’re now getting an average of seven seconds for the answer and that is good, but we haven’t finished yet because we need to speed up the secondary, in other words putting you through, getting additional information for you, that is a matter of training lots of people, which is going on so we hope to speed that up, because obviously it is the way public engage and we’re very keen on building 101 because we want to know what’s going on. If you’re concerned about something, if there’s something suspicious, let us know about it. What we don’t want to do is hang on the phone forever. So yes we’ve made huge strides on that and we are now working on the secondary part of that because it is taking too long, I admit that, and we’re working on it, it is a matter of training people.

In terms of the board that we have, again, that’s all published, it’s all online, that’s all there for you to read.

Richard Taylor: Can I ask for some clarifications then? You say that the reports I was asking for have been published. Are you saying you have published your records of decision on call answering performance in the same way as you publish your other decisions, on your decision log, and you report them to the Police and Crime Panel?

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: [The commissioner made an unintelligible noise]

It was always the 101 system was up and working. I had to hold the police to account on that and you will see quite clearly where I have reports to the board on account and the report that’s come back and I will quite soon have asked for another report on that because I am concerned about the secondary part of things.

Richard Taylor: So I think that’s a “no”; we haven’t had the decisions being reported.

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: But, I mean. No. Nonsense!

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: It’s there for you to read. I mean you tell us you’re literate well go and read them because they are there.

[Public applause for the commissioner]

Richard Taylor: We hear now that the commissioner tells us the average is seven seconds. What I’ve been asking for is the statistical information so I can see for example how long the longest waits are and that’s the kind of information which we should have available.

Chairman Pitt: That’s a related question I think. I would like to move on.

I have noted a recent performance report published by the commissioner contains only information on 999 performance under the call handling heading and nothing on 101 whereas previously both were covered.

Later in the meeting a member of the public, Mr Bond, spoke of his recent experience of the police being slow to answer 101.

Cllr Ian Manning: Could we consider publishing the median call time rather than the mean so we get a probably more realistic, well actually my experience of 101 has been quite good, but if you could publish the median rather than the mean it could help to let us know, what the actual spread is

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: I have actually asked for a full report on 101 to come to the board meeting in the next sort of, sort of, couple of months I think we will have a proper report on that and I will ask if we’ve got that, we know what the response time is up because we’re down to around seven seconds, and when I first took over as the, well I didn’t take over there was no-one else there, when I got the job as Police and Crime Commissioner people were telling me how long it was taking and I’ve told the story to several people before, but I tried it out and it took me nine minutes and twenty-seven seconds to get a response and so I did have some very senior people in to see me and I asked them about it and they told me there was a blip sort of a couple of months ago now and I said well what is it today then because it just took me nine minutes and twenty-seven seconds and we did actually, or they introduced, various things to actually speed it up..

Chairman Pitt: Can we go onto the hotspots, we have heard this before, my Cllr Todd-Jones colleague is going to beat me up otherwise.

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Yes I will try and …

See Also

Some of my previous articles and actions campaigning, lobbying and drawing attention to this subject:

5 comments/updates on “Police and Crime Commissioner Bright Says He Has Published Non Emergency Call Answering Decisions

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have written to Police and Crime Panel member Cllr Bick:

    Cllr Bick,

    I am writing to you as you are Cambridge City Council’s representative on Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel.

    You were present at the February 2014 panel meeting where I suggested the panel look into the decisions the commissioner has made on the subject of call answering performance. I noted the panel hadn’t already done this because the commissioner had not volunteered the relevant decisions for the panel’s scrutiny.

    At Cambridge’s North Area Committee on the 20th of March 2014 I asked Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright why he had not published information on those decisions both to the public on the decision log on his website and to the police and crime panel.

    The commissioner responded to categorically state:

    “We have published those.”

    This is demonstrably false. You are aware the commissioner has not volunteered his call answering performance decisions for scrutiny by the panel as at the February 2014 you suggested it as a matter for scrutiny, noting it was one of the commissioner’s first decisions and the panel hadn’t yet looked into it. The Commissioner’s published decision log (http://www.cambridgeshire-pcc.gov.uk/work/decisions/) does not include his decisions on call answering.

    I would like you to challenge the commissioner on his statement to the North Area committee at the next panel meeting. I would like to see the panel recommend the commissioner return, in person, to the North Area Committee to publicly apologise and correct the record.

    I note I have previously raised concerns about the accuracy of the commissioner’s statements to the panel. At the North Area Committee on the 20th of March the Commissioner again, in my view, mis-described his “Alert” system. While you have a copy of the commissioner’s response to my submission covering this point the panel did not order it’s publication, and I therefore have not seen it. I think addressing this is important to ensure the commissioner is not providing inaccurate information when he appears at public meetings.

    I would like to know if you feel this is something you can raise at the next Police and Crime Panel meeting as if you are not I will consider it for a submission for the public participation agenda item, and perhaps consider other approaches such as suggesting the North Area committee use the public participation agenda item as the Huntingdonshire District Council committee did at the last panel meeting.

    I have made a video of the Commissioner’s full appearance at the North Area Committee available at:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ31mZ9p8H8

    I have also transcribed my question and answer:
    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/101-police-graham-bright.html

    Regards,

    Richard Taylor
    Cambridge
    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    The question arises as to why the Commissioner lied rather than admitting he hadn’t published details of his decisions on call answering. One possibility is he has too much faith in is office and if they tell him they’re publishing all his decisions he really thinks that’s happening. The Commissioner has told the Police and Crime Panel he publishes and reports all his decisions too so this appears to be an ingrained belief he holds, and routinely shares, despite being faced with evidence to the contrary.

    As to failing to accept his Business Co-ordination Board meets in secret and doesn’t publish its papers in advance I think this must be deliberate; he points to the fact the papers are eventually released, presumably hoping no one spots that doesn’t address the question he was asked.

    The meeting saw a similar approach when the commissioner was questioned on PCSO numbers; the commissioner never mentioned his plans to reduce PCSO numbers and just spoke on other subjects when he responded.

  3. Paul Lythgoe

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: “I have actually asked for a full report on 101 to come to the board meeting in the next sort of, sort of, couple of months I think we will have a proper report on that and I will ask if we’ve got that, we know what the response time is up because we’re down to around seven seconds…”

    This is an interesting response from Sir Graham. on th 27th February 2014 Sir Graham was provided with an operational report to his Business Co-ordination Board from the Chief Constable that gave a summary of the 101 call stats, and concluded. “Delivery of the action plan has proved successful, with a reduction in complaints and reduced call waiting times. As a consequence of this improvement and the fact that this area will continue to be routinely monitored within business as usual,it is requested that consideration is given to removing this item as a standing update within each operational update.” http://www.cambridgeshire-pcc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/14-02-27-BCB-Agenda-Item-15-Operational-Update.pdf

    Like you apart from the reference within these board minutes I can’t find on his website any published stats relating to 101 calls. It is interesting that Sir Graham declines to discuss many issues that the public feel relevant on the grounds that they are operational issues. 101 calls seem to be defined as an operational issue yet he is happy to involve himself in this. In this board report Sir Graham is invited to know that “From 6th–7th January, an inspection was undertaken into undercover policing. The debrief from this inspection indicated that the constabulary has effective systems and processes inplace and no significant areas for concern were identified. Due to the nature of this element of policing, there will be no detailed reports published.” In my view this is an area of legitimate public concern that Sir Graham should be involved with. The Cambridgeshire police have been caught out more than once trying to recruit people to spy on political activists. If the report is similar to 2012 it will be fairly benign, and will be based on information and processes that the police wish to submit to the inspector. The report states, “Failure to raise issues in this report should not automatically be construed as endorsement of the unreported practices.” https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/186430/response/463448/attach/5/FOI%200775.2013.pdf

    Sir Graham’s brief to himself is to be the representative of the people not the police – as yet there is little evidence to support this.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cambridge City Council’s representative on the Police and Crime Panel has replied to me saying:

    Dear Richard,
    I am intending to push the call centre performance as a scrutiny target when the group that was formed last Wednesday meets to recommend a scrutiny programme.
    I am not sure what classifies some things as decisions which are reported to the PCP and – apparently – some which are not. I will try and find out whether there is some underpinning for this or not. Personally if the PCC said beforehand that it was his mission to fix call handling and now he tells us he’s fixed it, I think it would difficult to achieve this without a decision of some kind.
    If we are successful in scrutinising this subject, it will presumably be possible for us to understand what he actually did and what impact it has had.
    Tim Bick

    Cllr Bick suggests he thinks it is likely the commissioner has made a decision, or decisions, on call answering performance. The commissioner isn’t denying this; in response to my question at the North Area Committee he claimed he has published details of those decisions and has reported them to the police and crime panel. As detailed in the above article this appears demonstrably false to me.

    It is positive that Cllr Bick is to keep trying to get the Police and Crime Panel to look into the call centre performance.

    The group he refers to may be a secret meeting though as it’s not on the Panel’s public future meetings’ webpage (but then no future meetings of the panel are).

    The question of what criteria the commissioner is using to decide if he will volunteer a decision for scrutiny at the Police and Crime Panel is an important one. The Commissioner does publish this, on his decision log he states he includes “decisions of significant public interest”.

    I hope the Panel will help the commissioner understand things like the fact the police omitted 101 call handling from their recent performance report to him; and that he needs information on the distribution of call waiting times to properly understand the performance. There is also the issue of calls being answered (to manipulate the answering performance figure) only for people to then be put on hold or transferred.

    This is an area where the publication of information could result in the commissioner getting assistance from elected representatives and others across the force area who’ve been looking into this matter for some time.

    I think it is notable Cllr Bick doesn’t agree to take up the issue of the North Area Committee being misled. This I suspect is because councillors are used to just politely ignoring such behaviour from other elected representatives. I think it’s an important issue though, and I would like to see the panel act to recommend the commissioner corrects those inaccurate statements he has made to-date and is more careful in future. I think this is potentially worthy of a question at the public participation slot at the next Police and Crime Panel meeting, perhaps linked to any follow-up on the commissioner’s response to my previous submission which also raised questioned the accuracy of some of the commissioner’s statements.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on the 12th of September 2014 that he will have the problems with answering 101 by January 2015.

    The commissioner denied that answering calls quickly and then putting them on hold was a way of fiddling the statistics.

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