An MP has hit out at Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner after statistics revealed nearly 5% of all callers who phone 999 in the North East were met with a wait of sixty seconds before their emergency was handled by an operator in 2023.

Darlington MP Peter Gibson has stated that “we were promised improvements” as the latest police data release states that hundreds of people calling 999 in the North East this year were met with a wait of up to a minute before they could speak to an operator.

The latest data, released by, reveals that in April of 2023, 841 people who called 999 waited sixty seconds or more to be connected to an operator from Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham police forces.

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This wait applied to 5% of all calls from 2023 compared to the national average of 4.8%, as all three forces combined dealt with nearly 28,000 calls for help across April 2023.

Following the release of the statistics, Conservative MP Peter Gibson has remarked that Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner should state what they are doing to reduce these wait times.

Mr Gibson said: “Just as we experience challenges with 101 we need a better 999 service when getting through to the Police.

“I want to know what, after several years in the job what Durham’s Labour Police & Crime Commissioner is doing about this. We were promised improvements and it’s time we started to see them.”

Individually, Cleveland Police saw the lowest percentage of calls answered after a minute or longer in April of this year, with just 75, equivalent to 0.8% of all calls being answered after this time.

Responding to the data, Superintendent Paul Richardson of Cleveland Police Force Control Room, said their reponse rate is down to the hard work of their staff, systems and processes.

He said: “We have very dedicated and hard working staff within our Force Control Room who perform to a high standard, and experienced and well-trained supervisors who manage the demand coming in to our Force well.

"We also have a dedicated training team who deliver comprehensive and effective training to those staff and officers."

Comparatively, Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police call handlers took over a minute to answer 515 and 885 calls for help respectively, with Durham's figures equating to 5.9% of all their calls from that month.

The Northern Echo also contacted Northumbria and Durham police for comment on the figures as Chief Inspector Ian Leach of Durham Constabulary says the force is working “tirelessly” under pressure to keep up with demand.

He said: “Across the country, the number of 999 calls being made to police has almost doubled in the last ten years. Just last month our control room handled more than 10,800 999 calls - the highest number of emergency calls that Durham Constabulary has ever recorded in a single month. 

“The vast majority of our emergency calls are answered within ten seconds. But sadly, we are still seeing people inappropriately using the 999 system, which does affect our ability to respond to those who genuinely need our help.

“Only around 20% of our 999 calls are genuine emergencies that require an immediate response, the remainder are things like non-urgent queries, requests for updates on ongoing investigations, prank calls, pocket dials, or calls made in error.”

Regarding the data for Northumbria Police, Assistant Chief Constable Scott Young, claims numbers for May that have not been released yet evidence great improvement from the force.

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He said: “We have been very open about the challenges we are facing as we continue to see a significant increase in the number of 999 calls received. We are committed to being here for you when you need us, which is why we have invested in new technology and additional contact handlers to help ensure we can provide the best service possible. 

“Those steps have already led to significant improvements. In May this year, we achieved our highest percentage of 999 calls answered in under 10 seconds – despite it being our busiest month in terms of the number of calls received since November last year.”

He added: “This is incredibly encouraging and is testament to the outstanding passion and dedication of the teams working in our control rooms, answering 999 or 101 calls and responding to online enquiries.

“However, we are not complacent and recognise there are times, for example when we see higher numbers of calls coming into our control rooms, when we are not able to respond as quickly as we would all want.”

The Northern Echo contacted Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner for comment regarding the data and Peter Gibson’s comment but did not receive a statement.