Police response performance notably declined' in Barnet after the opening of a £33 million hi-tech call centre in Hendon.

A report delivered by the Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick to Barnet police in January obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the number of crime scenes reached in 12 minutes dropped by eight per cent after the move to MetCall at the Peel Centre in Aerodrome Road, Colindale, from Barnet police headquarters, in Grahame Park Way, Colindale.

Police put this down to the change in targets from time taken to answer the telephone rather than time taken to dispatch a police officer.

The transfer to the centre had already been delayed in January last year when the Met identified a serious risk' because the centre was not ready for calls, but, seven months later, performance still dropped, and is only now showing signs of recovery.

The Met sets a target of 80 per cent of incidents to be reached within 12 minutes, and performance in Barnet was already on the slide when 999 calls were moved from Colindale police station to the new centre in July last year.

In December 2004, 69 per cent of calls were dealt with in 12 minutes, and by June this figure had slumped to 55 per cent. By September it had fallen to a low of 47 per cent.

"Performance in this area response times has notably declined since the Basic Operational Command Unit's Barnet call centre migration to MetCall in July 2005," the report revealed. "The difficulties could be best summarised by the fact that SX police code for Barnet is measured on I call' response time achievement whereas MetCall is only measured on the time taken to answer the telephone."

Barnet police said this week that the performance was again improving, although figures have not reached levels seen before the move.

Superintendent Richard Walton said that problems with software and training had resulted in problems, but measures were being taken to resolve the issue. "Clearly, since MetCall was introduced, response times to emergency calls have increased albeit that they are now steadily improving month on month," he said. "It has taken time for officers and police staff in MetCall and at police stations in Barnet to adapt to the changes in both technology and applications. Further, training issues have been identified with staff, some of whom are new to the Metropolitan Police. The problems are seen as rectifiable but the scale of this change should not be underestimated."