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Exclusive: Police officers redeployed to answer 999 calls as force struggles with demand
We reveal a new sign of pressure on GMP. Plus: more trouble with a low traffic neighbourhood in Prestwich
Dear Millers — good news for everyone who’s panic-bought three fans and a six-litre portable air cooler. Our weatherman Martin predicts dry and sunny days before another scorching weekend. More on that below.
Last week, a reader tipped us off that Greater Manchester Police has been moving frontline officers to answer 999 calls — something the force has now confirmed. We take a look at why that’s happening and what it tells us about the police’s struggle to recruit new staff. As ever, if you have a story you think we should look into, please email email@example.com, hit reply to any of our newsletters or contact one of our reporters direct on Twitter. You can also pop into our office: just buzz number 537 at the Royal Exchange Offices entrance on Old Bank Street and we will let you in.
Last week we sent Mill members a piece about the “perplexing inquest” into the death of student Charley Gadd, who died in the River Irwell after running away from his parents. They also received our bumper Thursday newsletter, featuring Joshi’s analysis of where “levelling up” goes after Boris Johnson and a piece on the Portico’s new exhibition of artworks created by detained Aboriginal children in 1940s/50s Australia.
In this week’s members-only stories, we are digging into the allegation that local media coverage unfairly cast a group of young black men as members of a gang by giving undue weight to the arguments of a controversial prosecution. Plus, we examine another controversy relating to “low traffic neighbourhoods” in Greater Manchester, and interview a Manchester-based barrister about the broken justice system and why she is going on strike. To get those stories in your inbox, join us as a member today.
We have just passed 1,400 members, and we are hoping to reach 1,500 this summer, which will allow us to hit our financial projections and keep on growing. Members get two extra editions of The Mill each week, and their subscriptions, ideas and support are the bedrock of everything we do. As it stands, around 93% of readers on our free list haven’t joined as members, and while we take our mission of producing public interest journalism very seriously, the work we do isn’t free. Our stories take days, weeks and sometimes months to report and edit, so if you want more of that kind of journalism in Greater Manchester, join up now by hitting the button below. It costs just £7 a month, the equivalent of two oat-milk iced lattes.
This week’s weather 🌤
Our forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says that after today, things will cool down a bit but remain dry and sunny.
Tuesday ⛅️ Very warm with hazy sunny spells. Max 25°c.
Wednesday 🌤 Dry and breezy with patchy clouds and sunny spells. Cooler. Max 21°c.
Thursday 🌤 Dry with sunny intervals. Max 21°c.
Friday 🌤 Warmer with long spells of sunshine. Max 24°c.
Weekend 🌤 Remaining dry and settled with temperatures in the high 20s/low 30s.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Why are frontline GMP officers being taken off the streets?
Top line: 999 phone calls are being answered by redeployed police officers in Greater Manchester, The Mill has learned. After a reader tipped us off, GMP confirmed the story and said it was a temporary measure while the force trains up new call handlers.
The lowdown: They have moved 40 officers to their Force Contact Centre, 20 of which are operationally fit, frontline officers.
What’s going on? This time last year, it took an average of a minute and a half for an emergency call to GMP to be answered. “(GMP) massively underinvested in the number of people to deal with daily demand,” admits Chief Superintendent Chris Gibson, who has led the Force Contact Centre since November. The average call answer time is now 17 seconds, a figure which has been achieved since Gibson got new investment to grow the department.
Waiting times: In May, Home Office data showed that 12.3% of 999 calls directed to GMP took longer than a minute to be answered. 67.4% of calls were answered within 10 seconds, still well short of the government’s target of 90%.
Gibson says these 40 redeployed officers — around three from each of GM’s 13 policing districts — have been brought in to plug the gap while 40 newly recruited call handlers complete their training. The officers will cover the summer months, peak season at the contact centre.
Half are fit for the frontline, while the others have injuries that keep them from active service.
GMP received 2,200 emergency calls yesterday, the busiest day in the last 12 months.
“If police officers are being taken away from the frontline and into back office roles such as call handling, I think that's of concern,” says Rick Muir, director of the Police Foundation, a think tank. “I think the public would expect police officers to be deployed on the street.”
The government’s police uplift programme, a response to the “effective freeze” that was put on police recruitment during the austerity period, aims to put 20,000 new police officers on the street by 2023. Muir says focus on officer numbers feeds the idea that the UK needs more “bobbies on the beat,” but neglects civilian roles like call handling. “When we’re talking about recruitment, we need to be talking about the whole police workforce.”
GMP are now driving to recruit more into civilian roles in the force. The contact centre, says Gibson, is about 220 people short of meeting daily demand. By the end of this year, they’re aiming to recruit 170 call handlers, and fill 50 vacancies across the centre’s crime recording and radio dispatch offices.
On the 40 re-allocated officers, Gibson accepts it is a significant number, but won’t endanger the public. “There’s been a full risk-assessment, it won’t have any impact on frontline services during that period.”
Got a story about policing in Greater Manchester? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will assume you want to remain anonymous unless you tell us otherwise.
Home of the week
This deceptively large 3-bedroom, 18th-century townhouse just off Tib Street in the Northern Quarter mixes the contemporary with the old. It’s got a lovely terrace and good size rooms. It’s on the market for £650,000.
Would you like to sponsor our Home of the Week? Get in touch: email@example.com.
Your Mill news briefing
A woman has died after a bus crashed into a bus stop next to Piccadilly Gardens last night. The bus mounted the kerb around 9:30pm and killed the woman in her 50s, who has been described as a pedestrian. One woman remains in hospital with serious injuries, and a man has been treated for minor injuries. A spokesperson for bus operator Stagecoach said: “Our first thoughts are for those affected by the incident and their families. Safety is our absolute priority and we are supporting the investigation into the circumstances involved in any way that we can.”
New research by Transport for the North compares the carbon emissions of people travelling across the region by car and by train. Some car journeys with one passenger are almost four times worse for emissions than if that person had taken a train. Two people travelling by car from Wigan to Oxenholme, in the Lake District, would produce carbon emissions equivalent to burning 1.7kg of coal, compared to 1.1kg when travelling by train. However, a family of four travelling from Manchester Piccadilly to Blackpool North would produce the same carbon emissions whether they travelled by car or by train.
The race to succeed Boris Johnson is hotting up, with foreign secretary Liz Truss joining the race with a promise to cut taxes “from day one” and chancellor Nadhim Zahawi saying public spending has been “skyrocketing” for too long. What they’re not talking much about (as we predicted last week) is “levelling up” — a policy agenda that will require a lot more public spending over many years. Sajid Javid, the former chancellor who grew up in Rochdale, today described the leadership contest as "a wake up and smell the coffee moment,” whatever that means. You can learn more about Javid in Joshi’s 2015 profile in the Guardian, which focuses on his banking career. “This guy is good,” one former colleague says about him, “off-the-charts good”.
The National Youth Summit is being held in Manchester today. Organised by the Co-operatives UK, the summit explores how the key problems facing young people can be solved through co-operation and features sessions on sustainable fashion, politics and wealth-sharing.
Ekua Bayunu, the Manchester councillor who recently defected from Labour to the Greens, has written a piece for The Meteor about her reasons for switching. “They have welcomed me as a working class, black, female socialist,” she writes. “They care about people. They care about people’s political enfranchisement.”
And finally, it seems another “low traffic neighbourhood” proposal has run into trouble. Consultations have been going on for months about a scheme in Prestwich, which certainly seems like the kind of place that would embrace “active travel”. But we asked our reporter Alex King to find out what’s going on, and it seems trust has broken down between residents and the organisers of the plan. Alex discusses his reporting so far in our latest podcast episode (listen on Apple Podcasts here or Spotify here) and he’s putting the finishing touches to a long read as well. Join as a member to read that, and get in touch if you have a nugget of information.
Our favourite reads
Lee and Adam Parkinson are both primary school teachers in Manchester and were behind the hit podcast Two Mr Ps in a Pod(Cast) which became “the nation’s virtual lockdown staffroom” during the pandemic. In this interview, they highlight some sobering statistics about primary education in Manchester. “Only 14 per cent of primary school teachers are male, and in a quarter of primary schools in Manchester there are no male teachers. To have Lee, 37, a teacher, and Adam, 33, a teaching assistant, from one family feels like a probability question gone wrong.”
They were heroes who fought the Nazis and fled Russian tyranny. Their graves now lie desecrated — Manchester Evening News
Crime reporter John Scheerhout shares the stories of Polish resistance fighters, soldiers and nurses who fled both Hitler and Stalin’s Red Army during the Second World War. Their graves in a Moston cemetery have been damaged by vandals, although a question hangs over the piece about why these graves specifically have been repeatedly targeted. “Apparently in a drink and drug stupor, the culprits have smashed and pushed over headstones, demolished crosses and desecrated the memory as well as the tombs of heroes who helped ensure Britain remains free. One wooden statue of Christ was removed from a grave and tossed on a bonfire.”
‘The country is in a dangerous place – people are frightened’— The Guardian
This interview with Andy Burnham interview opens breezily, with a rundown of Glastonbury (“I loved every single waking second of it”) but moves onto the “dark clouds” hanging over GMP and its handling of child sexual abuse over the years. John Harris notes that Burnham has a “streak of self-doubt, which seems to surface when he gets close to centres of power and influence. You can still detect the lingering traces of this: when he makes a point, he has a habit of ending it with a question — usually ‘isn’t it?’ — as if he needs a final bit of validation.”
Angry young woman — The Times Literary Supplement
Anna Coatman in the TLS writes that biographer Selina Todd knew that Shelagh Delaney — of A Taste of Honey fame — deliberately presented herself as a “naive northern ingénue” as she knew what the “gatekeepers of the London arts scene” wanted to hear. She was 19 when she wrote to theatre director Joan Littlewood, and lied that a mere two weeks prior to writing to Littlewood, she had no idea that the theatre existed. “The burning question”, Todd recounts, “was how a working-class teenage girl from Salford could write such a shattering play.”
Our to do list
⛓ The Movement for Justice and Reconciliation presents After the Flood: the church, slavery and reconciliation at Methodist Church on Oldham Street. This new feature documentary tells the story of the 18th century Church's role in chattel slavery, its legacies and how we can reconcile this past today. Starts 6:45pm. Book here.
🎻 Psappha Ensemble will be sharing works from their “Composing for Cello and Percussion 2022” scheme. The scheme lets emerging composers collaborate with Psappha’s musicians to create new works. Available to watch on YouTube.
🎨 There’s an art workshop for kids at Apostles’ Church in Miles Platting. You can make animals for next year’s Miles Platting and Newton Health community climate pageant. Drop in from 11am to 5pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
📷 Photo Mooch in Stockport will be holding a photography walk to boost your mood. Each walk has a prompt to get those creative ideas going. Starts 10.30pm. Book here.
🎶 Night and Day Café will be hosting indie band HAVEN for their 20th-anniversary gig. Originally formed in Cornwall, they moved to Manchester at “the behest” of Smiths manager Joe Moss. Profits from the show will be donated to the Christie. Starts 8pm. Book here.
🍅 The Vegetarian Society Supper Club in Altrincham has sesame broccoli, ginger rice, and miso corn on the cob on this month’s menu. Starts 7.30pm. Book here.
🎷On Saturday, The Hallé will be performing “Giants of Jazz” with Katie Birtill at The Bridgewater Hall. Their program includes pieces by Gerswhin and Porter. Starts 7.30pm. Book here.
Letters to the editor
I wonder if a similar service to 'Street Pastors' (‘An ‘inexplicable episode’ and the death of Charley Gadd’) could help in patrolling the danger areas on key nights/weekends? They operate in my town on a Friday night from 10pm I think until 5am Saturday morning. It is run by the Baptist Church here and it is a very important service that they provide. Anne