On the 13th of September 2012 I observed, and was unexpectedly invited to participate in, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Police and Crime Scrutiny Committee.
In December 2011 the committee had requested detailed statistics from Cambridgeshire Police on their failure to answer non-emergency 101 phone calls in a reasonable amount of time in many cases. In June 2012 I persuaded councillors on the scrutiny committee to chase up the police as they still had not been provided with the requested information.
Cambridgeshire Police had not provide the requested information in advance of the September 2012 scrutiny committee meeting. The police however did send Deputy Chief Constable John Feavyour to appear in front of councillors. Mr Feavyour arrived in what I assume was the full dress uniform of a Deputy Chief Constable, he remembered his shiny black shoes and large hat (which he put on a table at the side of the room) but did not bring the committee the data they had requested. The Deputy Chief Constable gave an excuse I have heard him make a number of times now – the request had he agreed come into the police but it had not he said entered his system.
Mr Feavyour did rattle off some statistics orally, but these were not what had been requested which was details of where the target answering times were not being met – how badly were they not being met.
The committee was told by Mr Feavyour that there was some improvement and the longest wait on 101 by anyone to-date in September 2012 was 13mins and 43 seconds. Feavyour told the committee that 999 performance was generally good, with the longest 999 waits occurring following major crashes on the A14 where up to 50 people call 999 at once, he said it was those times where people ended up waiting up to three minutes.
Mr Feavyour told the committee that after having their call to 101 answered people could be asked to wait again, for up to 43 minutes currently, for someone to take their information. Mr Feavyour said there were different groups people could have their phone calls transferred on to with different phone answering performance.
The meeting’s chair Cllr West invited me to comment. I noted that the requested information had not been provided and no information at all had been provided as part of the published meeting papers. I explained again that while we now knew following my freedom of information request and from what Mr Feavyour had said how long the waits were in the worst cases, what we didn’t know for example was how many people had waited more than 1 minute, how many more than 5 minutes, how many more than 10 minutes. We don’t have access to the level of detail needed to really understand how bad the problem is. I noted that this is a long-standing ongoing problem which has been in existence for over a year.
Cllr Wilkins took up my request for better data and went further. He requested a graph on which each individual call wait time was plotted as a point, to enable councillors to see how many callers were waiting well beyond the target thirty second time for answering.
Councillor Laine Kadic, going slightly off-topic, expressed concern about a different point; and said a constituent had waited four hours for the police to turn up after calling 999. I have suggested the County Council’s scrutiny committee looks at 999 and 101 responses as a whole, including the infrastructure, and the role of the telecommunications companies through to the responses from the emergency services. This is being considered, but Cllr West, the chair of the Police and Crime Scrutiny indicated at the meeting that his preference is for his committee to deal with the police and for the health committee to deal separately with ambulance response.
My Previous Articles and Actions
- Cambridgeshire Police Not Answering Phone – September 2011 article following a Police Authority Scrutiny meeting I observed where problems with phone answering were raised via the police performance report.
- Cambridgeshire County Council Full Council Question on Phone Answering – November 2011, question asked by Cllr Steve Tierney following my suggestion that the issue ought be raised.
- I was a co-opted member of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee in December 2011 and raised the issue of police phone answering performance.
- Cambridgeshire Police Authority December 2011 – phone answering was again discussed
- Cambridgeshire Police Getting Even Worse at Answering Phone – December 2011 article reporting my use of the public speaking slot at Cambridgeshire Police Authority’s Scrutiny Committee to stress importance of the subject
- Asking Cambs County Council Police Scrutiny Committee To Chase Cambs Police for Phone Answering Performance Data – June 2012
- I asked a public question to the June 2012 Full Meeting of Cambridgeshire Police Authority this question stated: “Will the full authority take on the work the scrutiny committee was doing monitoring phone answering performance, and in particular take on the committee’s efforts to get information from the police on how badly they were missing their target phone answering times?”. The “answer” did not address the question.
- FOI request to OFCOM on 999 system performance and failures.
- Cambridgeshire Police Phone Answering Failures Continue – July 2012
- Penultimate Meeting of Cambridgeshire Police Authority – September 2012. The police did not supply the requested information to the authority. The Chief Constable urged the public to be “patient and persistent” when trying to phone the police and said an additional three members of staff would make a significant difference
There was a discussion of road safety as a member led review in to the council’s activities was presented to the committee. If it was necessary to have a police constable in the role of casualty reduction officer providing education in schools was discussed inconclusively. It was noted that funding cuts meant it was hard to justify a officer in such a role.
Cllr Stone described speed awareness course as putting “motorists on the naughty step”. Cllrs, especially Cllr Reeve, noted that running speed awareness courses generated income and they had been silly to give this income stream away by contracting the service in Cambridgeshire to a private company, they noted that other councils use this income to support road safety education services.
Cllr Smith suggested improving the driving test would be the best route to ensuring people were better educated about road safety.
20 mph limit enforcement was briefly discussed, with one councillor reporting the police had told him that “speed watch” equipment can not be used in 20mph limits. Speedwatch is a scheme where volunteers with speed guns and sometimes signs which show drivers their speeds, who sometimes note down number plates resulting in the police sending warning letters. Cllr Whitebread who represented Market Ward in Cambridge had entered the room to try and meet an officer, she heckled and said speedwatch had run in her ward on a 20 mph limit. It appears that a councillor has been lied to by a police officer about what is possible.
Cllr Reeve urged for a focus more on speeding over 30 mph than over 20 mph as he said that it was speeds over 30 mph that kill.
Cllr Samantha Hoy reported she is to meet the Home Secretary to discuss domestic violence following her leading of a review on the subject in Cambridgeshire.
I have written separate articles on two other aspects of the meeting:
- Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel Meeting in Secret
- Million Pound a Year Personal Office for Cambs Police and Crime Commissioner
Cllr Belinda Brooks-Gordon was absent from the meeting without apologies or explanation. Cllr Pellew was also absent, but sent a fellow councillor in his place.