CHARGING people for making non-emergency calls to the police was yesterday dismissed as a non-starter - for the time being.

The possibility of introducing a single, premium rate number for such calls in North Yorkshire in the near future was thrown out by the county's police authority.

Instead, they have backed the option of creating a county-wide non-emergency number, charged at the normal local rate.

The idea of using a premium rate number - which can charge anything between 10p and £1.50 a minute - had been floated by Chief Constable Della Cannings as a possibility.

But the prospect caused concern in the county.

Harrogate's Liberal-Democrat MP Phil Willis described it as "outrageous".

Yesterday, members of the police authority's strategic planning and best value board were unanimous in supporting a single number, charged at just a local rate.

Ms Cannings said afterwards: "It was right and proper that we had this debate to discuss the various options.

"I believe that the introduction of a single number will remove confusion from members of the public about how to contact the police and have the added benefit of reducing inappropriate 999 calls.

"We always have to consider all the options and one of these was income generation through a premium number. As expected, the police authority did not think the time was right for such action."

Authority chairman Jane Kenyon said they had a responsibility to look at all aspects of the proposal, including the possibility of income generation from a premium rate line.

However, she said: "Members were of the opinion that such a move would be a step too far at this time, although it is possible that such a proposal could be raised again at some time in the future."