Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner has said there is "no complacency whatsoever" in the force as it seeks to improve waiting times on its non-emergency helpline.

Peter McCall, the county's PCC, stressed to Cumbria County Council's police and crime panel on Friday that Cumbria Police is "far, far better" than most police forces in the UK with its response time for 101 calls.

But he added that this is "not good enough", especially for those who find themselves facing a wait when using the 101 non-emergency helpline, and said that improving waiting times remains a goal for the Constabulary.

The average wait time for a caller to Cumbria's 101 service is four minutes, though Mr McCall said that at particularly busy times waiting times can extend to between 30 and 40 minutes.

Mr McCall addressed a number of "spikes" in wait times that occurred last month during his meeting on Friday with the council's police and crime panel.

He explained that control room operator numbers had been temporarily reduced as a result of illness or self-isolation.

"The cops aren't immune to Covid. We have had some instances of that," he said.

In addition, September brought additional pressure to Cumbria Police's control room in the form of assistance given to police control rooms in Manchester and Merseyside.

Mr McCall explained that when other nearby force areas are "absolutely inundated" with emergency calls, further 999 calls can be diverted to Cumbria.

"On several occasions, in September in particular, our control room was taking 999 calls for Manchester and Merseyside," Mr McCall explained. "When they're doing that, that takes operators off answering 101 calls.

"We have identified three spikes where in particular that has happened, compounded by illness of our own staff and self-isolation."

Mr McCall added that these were "not excuses" for longer waiting times, but instead explanations for "occasional spikes in waiting time" that have occurred recently.

Cumbria Police have taken a number of steps in order to improve waiting times to 101, and are considering more.

"We have put more staff into 101," said Mr McCall, explaining that there was now about 80 staff in total attached to the force's control room.

"That sounds like an awful lot when you consider our force is some 1,200 or so in total.

"But I'm absolutely sure that 101 has to be as effective as we can possibly get it."

He added that there has to be a "balance" struck between different aspects of Cumbria Police's officer deployment.

"Of course the more people we put into the control room answering the phone, the fewer we can put onto the streets dealing with the issues.

"It's a constant battle to get that balance right."

He explained that the introduction of "live chat" - instant messaging online between 101 operators and members of the public - is also being considered.

If introduced, this would follow the introduction of the force's ability to receive video and email correspondence from members of the public, something Mr McCall said also "increases demand" on its non-emergency service.

However, the use of email correspondence has proven "very successful", Mr McCall added.

He acknowledged that there was "often" a desire among members of the public to speak to an individual on the phone, rather than correspond via email.

But he stressed that it has to also be acknowledged that the 101 service is meant for non-emergency contact, and the priority in the force's control room when it comes to answering calls has to remain with 999 calls.

"Our record for 999 calls is second to none, it's within three to four seconds," Mr McCall said.

"But that of course is in a scenario when you really need police support, and you need it now."

One further issue that can slow the response time of the Constabulary's 101 service, Mr McCall said, is when it is used for queries that have "nothing whatsoever to do with policing".

"The number of calls we get for issues, because other agencies aren't operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Things like fly-tipping, for example," he said.

"Lots of those sorts of issues are for other agencies to deal with.

"But when you're in the control room, you don't know that until you've picked up the phone, and you're dealing with someone."

Mr McCall added that the use of the "local focus hub" Facebook pages should also be encouraged, as a "more effective way" of quickly getting in contact with an individual's local neighbourhood team.

But he underlined that there is "no complacency whatsoever" across the force when it comes to improving 101 waiting times.