ONE in seven calls to the police non-emergency number 101 goes unanswered in Lancashire, according to shock new figures.
And today the county’s constabulary apologised for being rated the worst in Britain over the four years since the help lines were introduced.
According to a Freedom of Information request almost 500,000 of Lancashire’s 3.5m calls to 101 terminated before they were picked up. In some cases callers were left hanging on for up to two hours before they received a response - or got fed up and hung up.
“We apologise to anyone who has used the 101 service and feels they have not received the level of service they expect,” said a spokesman at the force’s headquarters in Hutton.
“Over the last four years Lancashire Constabulary received more than three and a half million non-emergency calls with an average wait of just over 30 seconds for the call to be answered.
“Each of our calls is answered by a customer contact advisor who can try to address the caller’s issue in person, rather than relying on an automated service as many other forces do. Having said that, we recognise that there have been some historic issues moving from six contact centres to one and we are continuing to iron out these issues.
“We know there is more we can do to improve and we will work to ensure that we are able to continue to deliver the best quality of service we can to the public of Lancashire.”
Nationally more than three million calls to 101 lines have gone unanswered since the service was brought in during 2011/12. While Lancashire’s 486,284 unanswered calls were the worst of 36 forces over the four-year period, Nottinghamshire Police had just four.
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I have consistently challenged the Chief Constable over the performance of the 101 service and will continue to do so regularly in my scrutiny of the force. Performance in the call centre has improved since I raised concerns two years ago but the service is still not where I and most importantly the public expect it to be.
“When people are contacting the police they expect to be able to speak to someone who can help them as quickly as possible and although the force is doing more than ever before with email and direct mobile numbers to officers dealing with existing cases, the 101 service must improve. Almost 80 per cent of non-emergency calls are now answered within 40 seconds, a substantial increase compared to last year but I want to see it higher and I am sure that is what the Lancashire public want too. “