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PM Makes More Police Performance Promises Despite Ongoing 101 Call Delays in Surrey

Published on: 29 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 29 Jul, 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel at Surrey Police HQ. Image Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says every Surrey crime victim will have access to a named police officer, as Surrey Police struggles to meet its target answering 101 calls.

The prime minister was at Mount Browne headquarters in Guildford on Tuesday (July 27) to launch his “Beating Crime Plan” aiming to give people more confidence in their safety.

This includes bringing in league tables for 101 and 999 call answering times, which he reckons will make the police up their performance.

“I think the idea of competition from a 101 league table is a good thing,” said Mr Johnson.

Aware that 27 per cent of callers failed to get through to an operator between April and August last year, outgoing police and crime commissioner David Munro this year increased the police portion of council tax by 5.5 per cent to hire more call centre staff.

The average wait time reduced from 3mins 52 secs in August 2020 to 3mins 5secs in May 2021, when the force was still only meeting its three-minute target in 55.8 per cent of calls.

Asked if it was right that Surrey council taxpayers had to shoulder the burden of financing improvement, Mr Johnson said: “We’re investing in the police massively.”

He said this year’s police funding settlement was £15.8bn, a £600m increase on last year.

But Surrey Police relies more on council tax than the grant and gets only 41 per cent of its funding from government – the lowest proportion of all forces, according to the Institute for Government.

The prime minister added: “I do think that it’s a good thing that local people should have an idea about how effective their force is in answering 101 or 999 calls; irrespective of the funding, it’s right that people should have that sense of the performance of their local force.

“This is a very safe part of the world to live but people need to know that they’re going to have their crime taken seriously.

“Our policy is every crime matters – your crime matters to us – so that’s why we’re making sure that every victim of crime in Surrey or across the country has a named police officer that they can go to.”

Questioned whether they would have the time to answer the phone, he said: “I think that they will, if it becomes clear that they’re falling behind.

“We want all police forces to understand that the public needs their crimes to be taken seriously.”

He said his government had so far delivered almost 9,000 of the 20,000 extra police officers he promised by 2023.

Though the workforce is now increasing, it is still below its 2010 level, when the number of offences was lower.

“It’s an increase on when this government was elected, massively,” said Mr Johnson.

“Yes it’s true that the population has grown, but actually what we’ve seen in the last 18 months is a depression of the crime stats.”

However, last month Surrey Police Chief Inspector Mark Offord said: “It’s fair to say we’ve had increases in antisocial behaviour, alcohol-related violent crime. We’re seeing more serious crimes coming back in.”

Burglaries were also said to be increasing again as people started to leave their homes post-lockdown. Domestic abuse, phishing scams and fraud had also gone up.

Detective Superintendent Juliet Parker said: “Performance for 101 at the moment continues to be a challenge due to the large increase in demand. Calls to the service have gone up as we’ve come out of lockdown.”

She said the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May saw the highest level of calls ever recorded nationally and that was reflected in Surrey, with 2,153 calls to 101 and 1,417 calls to 999 in three days.

Surrey’s average wait time for answering 999 calls had, however, remained at below the national 10 second target.

Other measures proposed in the Government’s Beating Crime Plan include electronically monitoring burglars’ whereabouts 24 hours a day on release from prison, trialling the use of alcohol tags detecting alcohol in the sweat of prison leavers in Wales, and permanently relaxing conditions on the use of section 60 stop and search powers.

Surrey Police Federation chair Mel Warnes Image: Martis Media

With officers not receiving any offer of a pay rise, Surrey Police Federation accused the government of using Surrey police officers “as part of a PR stunt to show that everything is rosy between policing and the government – when nothing could be further from the truth”.

“I very much doubt any of our colleagues will be smiling at the thought of meeting two people who have decided against giving them any sort of pay rise… despite everything police officers across the country have done these past 18 months,” said Federation chair Mel Warnes.

“Frankly their visit is not welcomed by, I am sure, the majority of hard-working police officers.”

“The police are our number one priority, fighting crime is our number one priority,” Mr Johnson responded.

“The country is going through tough financial times, and I think most people do see that and they can see the huge sums that the Exchequer has spent on looking after jobs and families throughout this pandemic, £470 billion.

“Of course we want to see public sector workers properly decently well-paid and we’ve invested massively in policing, but we also want to see more officers out on the street and we want to give them every possible backing in fighting crime.”

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test 2 Responses to PM Makes More Police Performance Promises Despite Ongoing 101 Call Delays in Surrey

  1. Anthony Mallard Reply

    July 29, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    Surely, the Prime Minister’s comments that “Every Surrey Crime Victim will have access to a named police officer,” is, in practice unlikely and probably unworkable, given the stretched nature of policing in the county, and in reality, throughout England and Wales.

    It also appears to be an inappropriate political intervention into the operational role of the chief constable whose duty it is to effectively and efficiently deploy police resources. Crossing the line between the operational role of chief constables and politicians’ diktats, for short term political gain, would be a dangerous precedent and hopefully to be resisted by the police service.

  2. Brian Creese Reply

    August 3, 2021 at 5:51 pm

    I am disappointed that The Guildford Dragon did not recognise this as the flagrant publicity stunt it was. None of PM Boris Johnson’s policies will ever see the light of day, because they are not meant to. None will change rates of crime detection because they are not meant to. They are not thought out, not discussed with the professionals who need to implement them, not funded and cannot be done with existing personnel numbers.

    The stunt was simply to say – my popularity is falling so let me tell you I am really tough on crime. Let’s have chain gangs like they used to in the States, that’s a good idea. None of this is real, just a positioning exercise.

    Brian Creese is chair of Guildford Labour Party

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