You are in:


Report 10 of the 12 May 2011 meeting of the Strategic and Operational Policing Committee, with details of the move to adopt the new National non-emergency number, namely 101, instead of 0300 123 1212.

Warning: This is archived material and may be out of date. The Metropolitan Police Authority has been replaced by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).

See the MOPC website for further information.

Single non emergency number

Report: 10
Date: 12 May 2011
By: Assistant Commissioner Territorial Policing on behalf of the Commissioner.


This report provides an overview of the use of the current non emergency contact telephone number used by the Metropolitan Police Service, 0300 123 1212, and gives details of our move to adopt the new National non-emergency number, namely 101.

A. Recommendation

  1. That members note the important role that a non emergency number plays in providing accessibility to policing services in London.
  2. That members note the benefits, opportunities and costs of moving to the nationally recognised 101.

B. Supporting information

Current non emergency telephone number in London

1. The MPS has operated a single non-emergency number (0300 123 1212) since 2008. In 2010/11 the MPS received just over 5.1 million telephone calls from the public (excluding those to direct dial internal numbers and calls to Safer Neighbourhood team Mobex phones). Of these, just over 2 million were to the 999 system and 3.1 million were made on non emergency lines.

2. Non emergency calls are answered in the three Central Communications Command centres (Lambeth, Bow and Hendon). In 2010/11 the MPS answered 91.4% of non emergency calls within 30 seconds. The most recent MPS User Satisfaction Survey shows overall satisfaction with initial contact via the non emergency system at 96.4%.

Strengths and limitation of the 0300 123 1212 non emergency number

3. Having a single non emergency number for contacting the police in London has a key benefit of increasing accessibility to policing services. People can contact police for matters that would not be classed as an emergency and know that this is the number that can be called wherever one is in London, without having to look up particular local police station contact number.

4. The availability of a non emergency number provides an alternative to 999 and diverts demand from the 999 system. This was notable in the first year of the 0300 service where 999 calls declined in line with the rise of non emergency usage.

5. All calls to both 999 and the 0300 number are handled by the same highly trained communications officers. This allows effective triage and risk identification. Approximately 7% of all non-emergency call are subsequently triaged as emergency response calls. Significant investment has been made in equipping staff with skills in ‘risk identification’.

6. Additionally, a single number for non emergencies dealt with by a central centre allows effective application of ‘diversity support plans’. For example, easy access to Language Line Interpreter services as well as access to Typetalk for customers who are deaf, hard of hearing or whom have generic or unique speech requirements.

7. A single non emergency number allows better assessment of demand and work load. This means that staffing levels can be adapted on a daily basis to ensure effective and high standards of service can be achieved.

8. However, the current 0300 number is non-memorable. It requires active and specific effort to record the number in address books or on mobile phones. This limits its future use.

9. Use of the 0300 is charged to the caller. The current cost varies significantly (depending on the call package used by the caller). This is because the 0300 is classified as a local number. Evidence shows that a minority of callers use 999 if they do not have available credit on a mobile phone (as 999 remains free). This issue is unlikely to change with the move to 101, however it remains manageable.

Overview of the National Police Non Emergency Number ‘101’

10. As part of ‘Policing in the 21st Century: Reconnecting Police And The People’ the government made a policy commitment to provide a single national non emergency number, for all forces in England & Wales, for the public to access and contact the police.

11. The 101 project is wholly different to the ‘SNEN - Single Non Emergency Number’ that was proposed in 2005, whilst it still utilized the same number, 101. The Home Office are clear that there is no short term intention to extend the use of 101 to partners outside of policing; however it remains a long term ambition of the government to have a single number for contacting all public services.

12. The ‘101’ non emergency number is already in use for policing services in Hampshire, Sheffield and across all of the Welsh forces. Consequently, there is evidence to both prove the benefits, as well as identify the risks associated with implementation. This learning has been included in the ACPO roll out plan.

13. In January 2011, the Home Office and ACPO Council endorsed the implementation of the 101 across all 43 Home Office forces in England and Wales. It was agreed that the ACPO funding formula would be applied.

14. The Home Office is supporting roll out through the funding of a national implementation team. Basic set up costs are also being covered by the Home Office (see finance section for details).

15. The 101 number will operate on the Police National Network (PNN) and is provided by Cable and Wireless (C&W). The contract with C&W will be managed by the Home Office on behalf of all forces and will be in place until the end of financial year 2013/14.

16. Adopting the 101 number is a key element of the National Contact Management Strategy, of which the MPS is a key signatory.

Access for London (AFL)

17. Separately, and independently of the national 101 project, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, also set out his ambition to improve accessibility to London Government. This programme is called Access for London.

18. The AFL vision is still being refined and developed. AFL is exploring both ‘single access points’ as well as ‘shared services’ between the GLA family (and the Corporation of London).

19. The AFL vision is still being formatted and is therefore still in its infancy, however the MPS recognises that there may be potential benefits to the MPS and our communities in the concept of shared services. The MPS is therefore fully engaged on both steering and working groups, and will continue to weigh and examine the potential benefits / risks of the AFL programme; no decisions or commitments have been made at this time regarding further MPS participation.

Implementation of the National ‘101’ within London and the MPS

20. The MPS Management Board has, on 24 November 2010, committed to be the first police force to roll out 101. This roll out will cover the services offered by the City of London Police. The project is being sponsored and managed by Territorial Policing, under the leadership of Commander Tony Eastaugh.

21. 101 will be ‘live’ in the MPS by mid June 2011 - the exact date is still subject to final negotiation based on technical infrastructure. The National roll out will follow with further ACPO regions going live in September 2011, November 2011 and January 2012. Importantly, all forces bordering the MPS will go live with 101 within 2 weeks of London. This will ensure commuters and day visitors to the capital will enjoy ‘consistency of service’.

22. The national media campaign on 101 will be managed and overseen by the Home Office. In addition, a London specific campaign is being created by the Met DPA and will compliment the national approach. Arrangements can be made for members to be briefed on the campaign in the forthcoming weeks.

Benefits and drawbacks of National ‘101’

23. The national 101 police non emergency number has all of the benefits of the current 0300 number with the addition that it is memorable. In the short term, it will benefit from a nationally co-ordinated media campaign as well as a focused MPS media and marketing drive.

24. In addition to improved accessibility, there are some clear strategic benefits in the National 101. These include 1) increased trust, confidence and satisfaction, and 2) accurate monitoring and efficient resourcing of demand and non-emergency services.

25. The latest British Crime Survey (BCS) shows that only 54% of people know how to access their local police if they want to talk to them about policing, crime or anti social behaviour. An objective of the national 101 media campaign is to improve this figure significantly.

26. It is anticipated that 101 will bring previously unreported issues into police focus, allowing the opportunity to effectively meet the needs of the public. This will address the BCS findings that only half of people believe police can be relied upon when needed and that only 48% expressed their belief that the police can be relied upon to deal with minor crime.

27. A clear single access point for telephone contact for non emergency issues on a national basis will allow the police to accurately understand and deal with non emergency demand. This will take pressure off the 999 system where a significant percentage of calls do not relate to emergency issues.

28. The call charges, which have been set and agreed nationally, are a flat rate of 15p regardless of call length. The average cost of calls to the current 0300 number (at £0.005 per minute) is 3.4p, representing an increase in cost.

Operational & organisational implications

29. Operational management of the National 101 will remain the same as the current non emergency number within the MPS. The system is, in essence, a simple routing system that directs calls to the appropriate force for the area where the customer is calling from. When calling 101, the caller will be told what force they are being connected to by a voice recording. They will then be given the option to change if it is not the one they wish to speak to. If they opt to change, the caller will be connected to a C&W operator who will make sure they are connected to the right force.

30. Service level agreements in place with C&W are robust and will guarantee 99% of calls connected within 10 seconds. Contractual oversight will be with the Home Office whilst the MPS will also scrutinise performance on a daily basis. Systems and processes exist to challenge the service provider.

31. All calls in London will come to the MPS Central Communications Command (CCC). This is the same arrangement as with the current 0300 number where they will be prioritised and answered in the same way. As a result, the current robust management and governance arrangements will be unchanged. The ACPO lead for performance standards will be Commander Tony Eastaugh, who reports through the Public Access Board into Confidence Board, then MPS Management Board. Community oversight will remain with the CCC Community Consultative Forum. This meeting is chaired by Ch Supt BJ Harrington and meets quarterly.

32. The MPS 101 Implementation Board meets bi-weekly. 101 issues are also managed daily as part of the Daily Management Meeting process. A member of the CCC Community Consultative Forum also sits as part of the Implementation Board.

33. It has been agreed by the Home Office that any future expansion of the 101 number to partner agencies will not occur until 1) the reputation and resilience of 101 has been proved and 2) until after the current contract has matured. Therefore, 101 will remain a police only contact number for 36 months. Thereafter, significant benefits may be apparent in developing a shared services model.

Transfer to National ‘101’ and advising the public of London

34. The first stage of transfer involves the mapping of London boundaries to allow accurate routing of calls between the MPS / CoLP and the bordering forces. Over and above this the MPS has opted for internal boundary mapping into three internal catchments; North East, North West and South. This is in line with the three CCC centres and facilitates demand / load balancing between our resources and supports disaster recovery measures. This is scheduled for completion by the end of April 2011.

35. A key part of transfer will be internal and external media. This will include ensuring that the ‘101’ number is being actively promoted by all staff. To support this, the Directorate of Public Affairs will be leading on both the internal and outward facing marketing campaigns, starting in mid-May 2011.The campaign will be based on the ‘Here for London’ ethos.

36. As part of the roll out plan, the existing 0300 number will operate in the background. This will allow people to access the police during this period, but will have a recorded message advising them that they should use ‘101’ in future. The date for full 0300 switch off will be set according to latent demand and the volume of call traffic. This will be reviewed on a daily basis. The 0845 National CT hotlines will not be affected or switched off - these remain independent of 101.

37. Once the new number is switched over and the MPS is confident that it is operating properly a full London media launch will be started. It is anticipated that this will be within 2-4 weeks of 101 going live.

Risks and Challenges

38. The main risk associated with the National 101 relates to the unseen potential for increased demand on both call volume and requests for policing services. Consequently, additional staff and resources are being planned for the early weeks to ensure performance integrity is maintained.

39. An additional short term risk is linked to management of those calls on the borders of the MPS and from those callers who commute into London and may wish to report a matter that occurred in another force area. To mitigate this risk, and in line with the National Contact Management Strategy, the MPS already has effective processes for the recording of incidents for other forces and the transfer of these to the home force to deal.

Other organisational and community implications

Equality and Diversity Impact

40. A full Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) is under development for the rollout of 101 in London. It is not anticipated that there will be any disbenefits associated with this number that do not already exist with 0300 123 1212. There are anticipated improvements with wider accessibility as the use of Language Line and Typetalk are established practices within CCC.

41. The Communication Strategy has its own EIA detailing the requirement for the MPS to promote the right to fair access to services and outlines channels to engage with difficult to reach groups.

Financial implications

42. The 2009/10 cost of the 0300 service to the MPS is assessed at £101,445. This is based upon an average call length of 412 seconds and a total of 2,954,719 calls per year.

43. The estimated cost of National 101 in 2011/12 including set up costs is £213,582 with annual running costs expected to be £116,508 per annum thereafter. Following agreement to use the ACPO national charging formula 24.6% of this fee falls to the MPS.

44. The MPS has requested additional mapping (as detailed in paragraph 34) and this brings an initial £12,000 charge and also £2,400 annual update cost.

45. There is an additional £30,000 breakage charge payable to the current supplier of the 0300 number.

46. The total cost of 0300 if maintained until the end of 2013/14, based on 2009/10 call volumes, would be approximately £304,335. Thus, the additional net telephony cost for National 101 single emergency number compared to 0300 for the three years 2011/12 to 2013/14 is £142, 263. This is shown in Table 1

Table 1: MPS Non-Emergency Number - telephony cost comparison

Cost of National 101 213,582 116,508 116,508 446,598
Cost of 0300 Retained 101,445 101,445 101,445 304,335
Extra 101 cost 112,137 15,063 15,063 142,263

Note: Figures exclude staff and other costs which will be unchanged

47. The MPS budget currently includes £125,000 per annum for the 0300 number. The additional cost of National 101 in 2011/12 will be contained within the overall resources available to the Service.

48. Following go-live the cost of operating the National 101 will be subject to review to determine the on-going running cost requirement and this will be reflected in the 2012-15 budget.

Legal implications

49. The new non-emergency number is aimed to increase accessibility and customer service, which should as a result improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the police service.

50. The contractual arrangements with Cable and Wireless referred to within the body of the report must comply with the Public Contract Regulations 2006.

Environmental implications

53. There are no identified environmental implications.

D. Background papers


D. Contact details

Report author: Chief Superintendent Ben-Julian Harrington, MPS. Central Communications Command.

For information contact:

MPA general: 020 7202 0202
Media enquiries: 020 7202 0217/18

Send an e-mail linking to this page