NORTH Yorkshire police's long-running financial problems have now resulted in the most extraordinary idea - a premium rate phone line for the public to contact the force in non-emergency situations.

Chief constable Della Cannings deserves credit for having the front to float the concept and she has been wise enough to acknowledge the sensitivity of the subject. But after years of trying to encourage the public to talk to the police in the fight against crime, it seems rather odd to penalise the members of the public who wish to do so. For many who have experienced difficulty in contacting the North Yorkshire force since introduction of its problematic new controls rooms, it adds insult to injury.

Those shiny new control rooms have been a disaster because of computer software problems and it is reasonable to suppose that charges for non-emergency calls will simply channel more callers to the 999 service. Is that sensible?

Ms Cannings is sincere in her efforts to give the county the very best police service and has gone out of her way to spell out what she believes are stark choices. But she risks undermining public support by suggesting such radical revenue-raising ideas.

We trust this is not a cynical exercise in news-managment to make another large increase in the police's portion of the county council tax bill seem benign by comperison.

The force's cash crisis, caused largely by the burden of its huge pension bill which has to be met from its operational budget, will not go away of course. But this idea smacks of money-grabbing desperation rather than considered financial management.