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Suffolk police chiefs say investment in the control room will deliver immediate improvements to 101 service

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Police chiefs in Suffolk have said the public will see swift improvements in 101 response times if a taxpayer-funded investment in the control room is approved later this month.

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore has proposed a £10 increase for a Band D property on the policing element of the 2022 council tax bill which will fund a £1.4million investment in the police control room to address 101 service concerns.

That proposal is due to go before the police and crime panel at the end of the month, but at Friday’s accountability performance panel, police bosses said victim satisfaction rates and 101 response times will improve quickly once the cash is invested.

Tim Passmore
Tim Passmore

Rob Jones, Suffolk Constabulary’s assistant chief constable, said: “There is no doubt no matter how well our staff work and how clever we are in technology and managing demand, the numbers and investment need to happen in order to create the service around 101 which we would all expect to see.

“I think the return and the improvement would be really swift. We are training people up as they come in, and they are really attractive interesting jobs to serve the public, so we think there is a really great employment opportunity there.

“With the technology, investment, leadership and new roles that will go in – and we have already planned for how we will spend that money if we get that investment – the improvement would be immediate and would be pretty dramatic by this time next year.

“We could see very quickly the reduction in 101 waiting times and drop-out where people get fed up, and we can also accelerate our digital service having live chat all the time, being able to look at social media and other aspects too.”

The meeting was told that there were 17 control room vacancies at its peak during the last year, but 12 new recruits had started on the 101 service in the last few weeks, which made an “immediate impact”.

Latest data showed a drop in victim satisfaction at the first point of contact from 74.2% satisfaction at the end of October 2020 to 65.5% by the same period in 2021.

Assistant chief constable Jones said that was because some people experienced long waiting times on 101 calls – particularly when there were higher volumes of 999 calls which had to be prioritised.

Mr Passmore said: “This is a fundamental part of the proposal to be discussed at the police and crime panel with the increase in council tax and the big investment programme, if it goes ahead, focused on the control room, better public engagement, and more technology and digital platforms as well as traditional means of communication.

“When we get to this programme, and I know it is a long term investment programme that is not going to happen overnight, there will be considerably higher numbers of staff and officers in the control room.”