A leading councillor was told by the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire that a ‘critical incident’ has been declared as she battles to make the 101 service work properly.
Leader of Ripon City Council Andrew Williams says he’s not surprised by what he was told when he met Lisa Winward and North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) Zoe Metcalf, to discuss crime and anti-social behaviour issues in Ripon.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesperson said a critical incident was not declared – but 101 was being addressed like one, with extra focus and resources. However, Cllr Williams stands by his interpretation of what he was told.
There has been an increase in trouble in the city over the past couple of years and there was recently a public meeting for residents to air their concerns.
The issues with anti-social behaviour are common all over York and North Yorkshire, as is public frustration with 101.
Cllr Williams, who is also an Independent county councillor, says he has a lot of sympathy with the Chief Constable who faces some huge challenges in recruiting the right people to operate the service.
In an interview for YorkMix Radio, Cllr Williams said: “Given the public criticism that’s been ongoing over several years, it didn’t exactly come as a surprise to learn that the Chief Constable has had to declare a 101 critical incident.
“People in Ripon tell me they regularly ring then spend over half an hour on hold and never actually get through.
“They find this so frustrating that in the end, they just hang up.
“I think that there’s a widespread view amongst the public that the service is so poor that many people don’t even bother to pick up the phone in the first place.
“I have some sympathy and understanding that, for example, the staff are on a 28 day notice period, but it takes six months to train a replacement. So in the case of somebody who leaves their posts now, if the force is successful in recruiting someone to replace them, it is six months of training before they can take their first phone call.
“There are pressures in terms of recruitment too with other employers perhaps being more generous with their pay.
“It’s not difficult to understand that the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police has got a real problem.
“I’m calling on the Police and the Crime Commissioner to work together to solve these issues which have been ongoing for a number of years. We’ve been consistently promised that it IS going to be solved and it never has. It gets worse and worse and worse until we’ve now reached, as it were, rock bottom, where a critical incident has been declared.”
We have asked North Yorkshire Police to respond and they say they will give more details about the issues they are facing on Thursday.
Zoë Metcalfe, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire and York, said:
“I am aware that the public are experiencing some delays in contacting North Yorkshire Police on 101, the non-emergency number. Since March, I have been raising my concerns with the Chief Constable as improvements must be made.
“I know that the Chief Constable is working tirelessly to identify the root causes, including the fact that the control room is dealing with large increases in demand for both 999 and 101. The Chief and her team have assured me that they will implement short and long term solutions. I am regularly receiving updates on the progress being made. This includes investing in additional staff who are trained and skilled to keep our communities safe.
“Having the right people and the right support may take time, but I am satisfied that at every hour of every day, our dedicated professional call handling colleagues work immensely hard under huge pressure.
“At my Public Accountability Meeting on Thursday 21 July, which is broadcast live, the Chief Constable and her senior team will be providing an update on service improvement.”