POLICE Scotland’s Edinburgh control room is taking almost an hour to answer non-emergency calls as staff struggle to cope following the closure of other centres across the country, it has been claimed.
Nearly a dozen staff at the call centre at Bilston Glen were said to have gone off sick with stress after emergency and routine calls from Fife were transferred there following the closure of the Glenrothes
control room last week.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said at First Minister’s Questions he had been told more than 1000 calls were dropped in one day and it was now taking up to 58 minutes to answer some calls.And he urged a halt to further control room closures until the problems at Bilston Glen were sorted out.
Centres at Dumfries and Stirling have already closed and ones in Glasgow and Aberdeen are also due to shut under Police Scotland’s plans to “modernise contact, command and control arrangements”.
One email sent to Mr Rennie last week said: “The call centre at Bilston Glen has been accepting Fife and Central calls for three days. Due to the pressure, 11 call handlers are off sick, meaning that 101 calls are taking 58 minutes to be answered. Meanwhile the purpose-built call centre at Police HQ Glenrothes lies almost empty.”
Another said: “Putting in an automated system makes it look like the calls are being answered when the truth is up to 100 calls are then held in a queue for over 20 minutes.”
The phased closure plan will see Motherwell and Govan retained in the west of Scotland, with Bilston Glen covering the east, and Dundee the north.
Mr Rennie said: “The reports of the turmoil in Scotland’s police control centres are deeply alarming. People waiting for up to an hour is completely unacceptable and needs to be addressed by the Chief Constable and the First Minister. This is not fair on the staff to be put under this level of pressure.”
Police Scotland denied it took callers 58 minutes to get through and said the average time to connect a 101 call was one minute.
A spokeswoman said: “On Saturday, March 21, there was an issue with one call received by the Bilston Glen service centre where the caller chose an option treated as a lower priority. This call stayed in the queue longer than expected. Action has been taken to stop this happening again.
“The number of staff on sick leave varies from day to day and managers work hard to ensure that sickness absence does not have a detrimental effect on performance.”