Review into ‘frustrating’ police calls system nears completion

Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire Alan Billings.
Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire Alan Billings.

A review of the ‘frustrating’ 101 telephone system for reporting crimes in South Yorkshire has nearly been completed.

Police commissioner Alan Billings told a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel that a review he ordered in July into methods of communication with South Yorkshire Police is in its final stages.

The review was ordered after it emerged callers to the Atlas Court communications centre in Sheffield were left waiting 40 minutes to get an answer in some cases earlier this year.

Barnsley councillor Martin Dyson asked for an update from Dr Billings after noting the public had become ‘really frustrated with waiting times on 101.’ Dr Billings said the situation is improving, with the ‘sheer volume’ of calls reducing recently and more staff manning the phones.

But Rotherham councillor Caven Vines added: “People are frustrated - when they ring they get through or if they do, they get ignored. People think it is a waste of time ringing.

“Atlas Court has been unfit for purpose since it opened.”

“There is something fundamentally wrong with the reporting system.”

Dr Billings: “We are all frustrated with 101. It has improved a bit from the really bad reports we were getting earlier this summer.

“Not everybody is dissatisfied.”

The Atlas Court communications centre was opened more than a decade ago to replace old-fashioned local control rooms, with the staff made up of civilians rather than police officers. It experienced similar early problems, blamed partly on teething troubles with the then new technology, but senior officers also had to increase staffing to cope with demand.

Since then there have been other changes, including the introduction of the 101 telephone number as the only way to contact police for non-emergency calls.