Postcode lottery of police response times for Suffolk revealed
06:00 15 July 2015
Sarah Lucy brown
Suffolk police are failing to reach emergency situations in parts of rural Suffolk within the required 20 minutes, despite achieving the 90% target for the county as a whole.
Since April, the county’s constabulary has met its 20 minute emergency response target less than 80% of the time in parts of east Suffolk.
Although police have achieved their overall target of 90% for 999 incidents around the county, the Halesworth, Leiston, Southwold, Aldeburgh, Beccles and Bungay areas have fallen well short of the standard.
Suffolk Constabulary figures reveal the response rate for that sector is 78.6%, while in Mid Suffolk the average response rate is 82.9%.
To date there have been 299 reported emergency incidents in the Beccles and Leiston area in the past three-and-a-half months and 560 in Mid Suffolk.
Police are tasked with responding to 999 calls within 15 minutes in urban areas and 20 minutes in rural areas.
Although the Beccles and Leiston sector has fallen below the standard, officers have pointed out the situation does fluctuate and that last week the target time was met on 94.1% of occasions.
Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Tim Passmore acknowledged there was a concern over emergency response times for rural areas, but said work was being done to improve the situation.
Mr Passmore said: “I do recognise that rural areas at the moment are not getting the same response times as in urban areas.
“This is not satisfactory, (but) I wouldn’t use the term postcode lottery because it is a fluid situation.”
“We must ensure rural areas are not losing out.
“We are taking positive measures to make sure they are getting a fair share of policing resources. After all three-quarters of the population of Suffolk live in a rural area.”
The PCC added he was working with Temporary Chief Constable Gareth Wilson to ensure the target times were being met throughout the county.
John Last, a Leiston Town councillor, said residents pay their share of council tax and a ‘large chunk’ of it goes to the constabulary. Therefore the community should not get an inferior service to anywhere else.
He added: “If the constabulary, or indeed the Government, has set targets then there should be the resources to meet those targets.
“I would assume the larger towns get better response times because they are resourced to some degree better, or differently, to rural areas. However, it is disappointing if the police are falling short of their targets just because we are in a rural area.
“We should get the same level of service as anyone else.”
A spokeswoman for Suffolk Constabulary said its focus remains on ensuring target response times are achieved and are appropriately graded and allocated, with increased monitoring by supervisors.
Further guidance to call handling staff has been given.
In relation to the Beccles and Leiston area in particular new and enhanced deployment plans have been introduced to address the issue with the aim of improving response times in the future.
The best performing area in Suffolk is Felixstowe in Woodbridge where 606 incidents were responded to within target on 96.2% of occasions. The other highest figures related to most of Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds.