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South Yorkshire Police's new multi-million pound system to 'speed up calls' delayed again

Dr Alan Billings.
Dr Alan Billings.

A new multi-million pound computer system which is meant to speed up the way South Yorkshire Police deals with calls from the public has been delayed again due to technical difficulties.

The Smart Contact system will replace outdated systems currently used by staff who take calls from the public using the 101 non-emergency number.

It is hoped this will mean calls are answered more quickly as the current system has long been the source of complaints from people claiming they have been waiting for long period at the end of the phone.

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The new system was first mentioned two years ago and was meant to 'go live' in spring this year but that date was missed.

And South Yorkshire Police have confirmed that the system has again been 'postponed' and there is no new date set for the switch over.

A spokesperson said: "The decision has been made to extend the postponement of South Yorkshire Police’s new telephony and incident handling system, Smart Contact.

"This difficult decision has been reached following discussions with the system’s supplier, Sopra Steria, who has confirmed that aspects of the system’s functionality are not working correctly.

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"We appreciate this is frustrating and disappointing to the communities of South Yorkshire, as it is for us, however the safety of the public and our colleagues is our paramount priority.

"Customers can continue to report their crime to us on 101, or on 999 if your matter is urgent or relates to a threat to life."

Details of the new system were first revealed in 2016 when police chiefs said they would put aside £12 million for a new system.

At the time South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings said this was necessary as the current system is 'not good enough'.

More than two years down the line and with no new system in place, the lack of progress has sparked complaints.

Rotherham councillor Stuart Sansome, vice chairman of South Yorkshire’s police and crime panel – a watchdog body which monitors the work of Dr Billings – said the situation had become “farcial.”

This also comes after figures revealed using the Freedom of Information Act showed some callers to 101 are waiting more than an hour to get through.

The data, based on 101 calls received between January 2017 and January 2018, showed the average waiting time now stands at over 90 seconds.

But records also revealed one person waited on the line for an hour and 13 minutes.

In March, Dr Billings told members of the police and crime panel that the situation has improved in recent months.

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He added: "It would be true to say the performance has stabilised and we know morale has improved.

“They are being helped by the College of Policing to progress a wellbeing plan and the churn of leavers is not what it was."