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'Inappropriate' calls delay wave two roll-out

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The Home Office is to delay the roll-out of the 101 non-emergency number due to complaints from police forces about its misuse.

The decision was made at a meeting after police forces complained that two out of every three calls were deemed inappropriate.

Hampshire Constabulary's deputy chief constable Ian Readhead told the Home Office at the meeting his authority had become nothing more than a provider of train timetables or tourist information service. It was also reported that many callers had a genuine emergency and needed a 999 service.

Readhead said: "We made representations to government. We recommended it was too early to go live with wave two and that the government should spend more time learning about this."

The force had to employ 18 telephonists just to deal with the volume of calls made through 101.

Superintendent Nigel Hindle, head of call management at Hampshire Constabulary, said: "Hampshire Constabulary fully supports the decision by the Home Office not to proceed with the roll out of the single non emergency number at this time to allow more time to fully assess the learning from wave one, including optimum costs and benefits.

"We remain committed to supporting wave one and building on and learning from the many benefits that have already been realised, including increased partnership working with local authorities, improved call handling, more coordinated community safety service delivery, and high levels of customer satisfaction.

"Nationally, 101 is proving a popular service receiving 50,000 calls a month and findings from an initial review of the service showed customer satisfaction to be at 89 per cent across wave one partnerships and 92 per cent in Hampshire.

"Decisions on future programme development will be deferred pending the outcome of a fuller evaluation of wave one, undertaken by the Home Office in the autumn of 2007."

A Home Office spokesperson told GC News: "Although we are pleased with the performance, we not going to proceed with the roll out of the 101 number until we have assessed the findings and learned from it.

"The number has bought many benefits so far, including increasing partnership working across councils and the police and other agencies. It also has a high customer satisfaction rate."

The 101 number - implemented in five regions in England since May 2006 under wave one - was supposed to be used as a single contact number for non-emergencies only. These include intimidation and harrassment, vandalism, graffiti, criminal damage, fly tipping, and environmental problems.

The other police forces involved, along with some local authorities, include Leicester and Rutland, Cardiff, Sheffield, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear. A further 20 police forces across England and Wales were expected to join up in wave two early next year.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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