Tackling Crime (Supplementary) [2]

Session date: 
November 1, 2018
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Central to tackling crime is responding to 999 calls.  In July [2018], 1,150 999 calls were diverted to police forces outside of London between the hours of 9.00pm in the evening and 6.00 am in the morning.  To start off with I would like to ask Mr Mayor: do you feel it is acceptable for emergency calls in London to be handled by forces outside the capital?

Supplementary To: 


Answer for Tackling Crime (Supplementary) [2]

Answer for Tackling Crime (Supplementary) [2]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I think in percentage terms it is very small in relation to the calls we are talking about.  It is a reciprocal arrangement.  They come back to the MPS once the call has been through a call centre.  I have the numbers here but in percentage terms it is very small.  You will be aware --


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  It does not concern you even that those numbers are going to outside forces?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Of course it concerns me.  As a consequence of Government cuts, the amount of 999 handlers we have, the amount of 101 call handlers we have, the amount of people in the call centres that we have are less than there should be.  We are advertising now for more call handlers.  There are still some vacancies.  Clearly, the sooner we get all the call handlers in place, the less the delay will be for those ringing 999 but the less we will have to rely upon the reciprocal arrangements we have with police forces outside of London.  By the way, it is a two-way process.  In percentage terms, we are talking about a very small percentage. 


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Perhaps I could just ask the Commissioner: I have been contacted by the manager of Heaven nightclub in the West End, and he is incredibly concerned about call answering delays.  On one recent occasion he was put on hold for 20 minutes after dialling 999.  On another he waited eight minutes before the call then went through to Hampshire Police.  Really that feels to him - and I think to most of us - unacceptable.  He had to actually let some suspects go whom he was holding.  We know there has been an increase in call volumes.  The Mayor has just suggested you are recruiting more call handlers.  Is there a serious staffing issue at the MPS’s call centre?


Cressida Dick CBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  There has been, undoubtedly, but I am optimistic about this.  I am not happy about what happened there and the man from Heaven having to release people.  That is obviously not a good service.  I absolutely accept that.  You will also understand there are occasions where all sorts of things are happening, where we may not be able to provide the service we would at a different time of day and in a different place. 


It is a good trajectory, though, Caroline.  It honestly is.  We now have a completely new way of dealing with 101, which, as you know, has been a big problem, and I am sure all Assembly Members will have had complaints about that.  That was partly caused by old technology, which we have now changed, and partly by staffing gaps, and partly by huge increases in volumes. 


The last time I went into our call centre, there was actually no waiting time on 101 and no waiting time on the 999.  That is not quite the norm, but we are not far off it a lot of the time now.  The 101 wait times on average in the last couple of months have been one and a half minutes or less.  That is the 101.  999 calls, as you say, have gone up by about 5% year to date, but we have managed through better working to reduce the actual deployments to emergency response requirements by about 10%, and we have been recruiting people after our failed campaign two years ago.  We have been recruiting people very fast, good people coming in, enjoying themselves.  I am absolutely clear that the call answering, and call handling, has got a lot better in the last three months and is going to continue to get better in the several months.  I am convinced of that. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, for the sake of completeness - and it is very important we have completeness here - the number of calls made this summer to the MPS was 625,640.  0.3% were redirected to other forces.  This does not mean the responding force will not be the MPS.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  A clear concern is if there were a major incident, a terrorist incident, and people are being put on hold when they ring 999 for 20 minutes.  That is a huge concern.  I want to know what your message is - it is perhaps for the Mayor - to this nightclub manager and other concerned businesses across the capital who really need assurances that when they need the police they are going to be there, and they can keep their customers and the streets safe. 


Cressida Dick CBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  That is really, truly an extraordinary event that you have described there.  You may have seen some other police chiefs talk about the struggles they had in the summer.  We did not suffer the same huge increases in volumes as some of the other forces did, but I think it is the sign of a resilient system that we can divert calls around and it is a reciprocal arrangement.  As I say, my message is: there will always be, in the nature of policing, moments of huge demand.  During the heat wave, with the World Cup - “and, and, and” - there were hours that you could look at which were absolutely out of all kilter with a normal, average day in terms of calls to the police.  We have a system that I think can deal with that really very well, and it is getting better and better.  My message to the man from Heaven is I am very disappointed that happened.  I do not think it is anything like the norm and was not last summer, and I am absolutely convinced this service is getting better literally week by week at the moment.