Public Audit Committee calls for better co-ordination of police non-emergency numbers

29/01/2009

Scotland’s police forces should have a single non-emergency telephone number instead of a series of different numbers, according to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee.

In its report on the findings of an Audit Scotland publication – Police Call Management: an Initial Review – the Committee raises concerns about the number of police forces opting to have their own individual non-emergency telephone numbers instead of a single number for all forces in Scotland. It also highlights concerns about the cost of calling non-emergency numbers for many phone users.

Committee Convener Hugh Henry said: “The Committee believes that the development of non-emergency numbers requires a consistent national approach and a greater degree of leadership from the Scottish Government. We are asking the Scottish Government to examine detailed proposals for a single non-emergency number.

"The Committee is also worried that the 0845 numbers being implemented by some forces will cost too much to call as they are often excluded from many phone providers call allowances. The Committee believes that any non-emergency number should not be an 0845 or other premium number.”

The Committee report also makes a series of other recommendations, including:

  • The endorsement of recommendations from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS) that forces should develop clear internal guidance setting out minimum standards on how forces deal with callers and how and when callers should receive feedback on the action taken as a result of their call
  • That police forces should give more information to their local police boards and communities on the length of time it takes them to respond to non-emergency calls
  • The Committee shares concerns expressed by the Justice Committee, the Auditor General for Scotland and HMICS about the transparency and accountability of the work undertaken by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS). The Committee is especially concerned that ACPOS may only effectively be held to account via local police authorities’ scrutiny of their own chief constable’s activity. The Scottish Government is to receive a wide-ranging report from HMICS in early 2009 about the roles and responsibilities involved in policing in Scotland and the Committee recommends that the Scottish Government should, following receipt of this report, develop stronger and more transparent national mechanisms for scrutinising and holding ACPOS to account
  • That the Auditor General for Scotland should consider carrying out future work to scrutinise the development of a number of tools which are designed to improve the performance management of Scottish police authorities.

Mr Henry said: “The Committee is aware that ACPOS plays a leading part in developing policing policy and practice in Scotland. However, it is difficult to see how ACPOS is currently held to account for this role. The Committee believes that the Scottish Government should consider how the work ACPOS undertakes can be made more transparent and how ACPOS could be more effectively scrutinised.”

Background notes
According to the Audit Scotland report, people should only call the police on 999 where there is a situation requiring urgent police attendance. All other calls should be directed to the relevant police non-emergency number.

The Public Audit Committee report has been published following the Committee’s inquiry into the joint report produced by the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission – Police Call Management: an Initial Review. The report examined the arrangements police forces have in place to answer calls from the public and the performance management information available in this area.

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