COUNCILLORS applauded the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for her progress but questioned why the 101 service is still falling short.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police and Crime Panel (PCP) was impressed with Hampshire PCC Donna Jones’ annual report, praising the force’s commitment to improvement and putting victims first.

Positive changes included reduced reoffending, drug testing upon arrest, making CCTV mandatory in taxis, and £350,000 that has been invested into preventing domestic abuse.

However, councillors from across the county remain concerned that people using the non-emergency line are not being heard.

The average speed to answer a 101 call from April to August of this year was recorded as 15 minutes, compared to just over eight minutes in last year’s report.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Chief constable Scott ChiltonChief constable Scott Chilton (Image: Newsquest)

But chief constable, Scott Chilton, emphasised that nearly a third of calls were answered in less than three minutes.

Speaking at the meeting on Friday, October 20, chairman of the panel, Cllr Sean Woodward, said: “A great deal has been achieved since you came into post and I appreciate your relentless focus on catching criminals.

“All is not good with 101. It’s something that you advertise that people should be able to use comfortably and confidently. But it has always been a service that has not been the best.

“What you have done is overwhelmingly positive but there are still concerns with this public interface.”

Between July and September the PCC’s scrutiny manager analysed the Hampshire Police’s 101 service, focusing on service performance, demand, people and technology to understand its limitations.

Recruitment and retention of staff in contact management centres (CMCs) has contributed to the ongoing service level issues.

Plans are in place to address this alongside the restructure of the force’s new policing model by increasing the number CMCs and re-opening stations.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Donna JonesDonna Jones

PCC Jones said: “There has been a significant increase in the national 101 demand.

“It’s a non-emergency number so people feel they can call it for everything. Being under the three-minute mark puts us in the top 10 per cent of the country.

“There needs to be a shift back to the right agency dealing with the calls and that is having an impact on police.

“The reputation of 101 needs rebuilding and repairing which will take a few years.”

Chief constable Scott Chilton told the panel he has enlisted a team to do a “forensic deep dive” on the data following dissatisfaction with the 101 service.

Constable Chilton said: “The public feels police are not responding to their calls but that is not unique to Hampshire, it’s a national issue of concern.”

A top focus for the PCC since she took up the post in 2021 has been improving police visibility.

Some 600 additional officers have been employed, 102 more than the government’s requirement.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary has recruited more student officers under the national Police Uplift Programme (PUP)than almost any other force.

Hampshire Chronicle: The panelThe panel (Image: Adele Bouchard)

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Cllr Luigi Gregori questioned whether the force was raising expectations by not clarifying to the public that many of the new officers are limited in what they can do while still in training.

The Andover councillor said: “There is very little they can do until they finish their probation and sometimes it is one supervisor to three new recruits.

“It would be very useful to give people some idea of those numbers.”

With the addition of more officers the PCC is also focusing on introducing more neighbourhood patrols, with dedicated ‘local bobbies’ for communities being enforced by December.

The PCC has allocated £2m in the 2023 to 2024 budget to opening 10 more police stations over the next 18 months.

Stations will open in Petersfield, Portsmouth, Cosham, Cowes, Ryde, Totton, Yateley, Eastleigh, Park Gate and Gosport, giving residents the opportunity to report crime face-to-face again.

Overall, councillors from across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were impressed with the PCC’s and chief constable’s efforts in delivering on their promises.