RESPONSE times for the top two highest priority police incidents have risen in recent years, new figures show.

Data obtained by the Guardian through the Freedom of Information Act show that Cheshire Police’s combined average response time for ‘emergency’ and ‘priority’ incidents rose from 22 minutes in 2011 to 26 minutes last year.

Although response times to ‘emergency’ – or G1 – incidents remained below 11 minutes, 113 such calls last year took officers more than an hour to attend compared to 71 in 2016.

In ‘priority’ – G2 – incidents last year, 3,344 calls took more than an hour to respond to, compared to 2,464 the previous year.

Supt Debbie Hooper said: “There are a number of reasons why a call to 999 sometimes does not require an immediate response.

“Incidents are often fluid and their circumstances can change and are then downgraded at the point of call as they are no longer an emergency.

“However some incidents are left as an emergency response, such as abandoned 999 calls, until we traced the person who made the call resulting in a deployment of a patrol at a later time missing the grade one response.

“They can also remain on the system as requiring an immediate response, even when the incident has been closed.”

The figures also show that the shortest individual response time last year just 25 seconds, and the fastest responses to G1 and G2 figures have never risen above 59 seconds.

On the other end of the spectrum, the longest response time to a G1 – emergency – incident was clocked at one day, 10 hours and 49 minutes, while a G2 incident took more than five days to respond to.

In the data, covering 2011 through to 2017, the longest response time was 11 days and 18 hours. This occurred in 2014.

Supt Hooper added: “We have reviewed all 14 incidents that appear to have received an unacceptable emergency response time and can reassure the public that all were downgraded for various reasons, and had been closed without reflecting the downgrading.

“I would like to stress that at no time has anyone been in immediate danger and all these incidents have been dealt with appropriately.”

Government funding for Cheshire Constabulary has dropped in recent years, with a National Audit Office report casting doubt on the financial sustainability of the country's policing as a whole.

Officer numbers and arrest rates have fallen, and Home Office figures show that government funding for Cheshire Constabulary was cut by 2 per cent between their 2015-16 and 2018-19 budgets.

In real terms, when inflation is taken into account, the fall is greater, and Cheshire taxpayers have picked up the bill for policing, with the contribution from council tax increasing by 19 per cent to £65 million between 2015-16 and 2018-19.

Cheshire’s force has bucked the trend by increasing its officer numbers in recent years, but nationwide workforces have been reduced.

Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner, David Keane, said: “Local police funding continues to be subject to stringent austerity measures implemented by central government and over the last few years, police forces have been subject to flat-cash funding from the government. This means funding has not increased in line with inflation and, in fact, has reduced each year with local residents having to make up the shortfall by paying more council tax.

“In Cheshire, we’ve seen a 37 per cent real term cut to our policing budget since 2010. I am doing everything I can to protect front line policing and make back office functions more efficient but our already thin blue line is now at breaking point.

“Crime is becoming more complex and we need increased investment from government to tackle the challenges we face. Our police officers are working harder than ever with increased pressure and ever diminishing resources, yet the government ignored the recommendation of an independent board to give them a 3 per cent pay rise. Instead, they recommended that they should only be given a 2 per cent rise which is to be funded entirely by already stretched local police budgets.

“This shows central government’s lack of understanding of the difficult position police services across the country are in and I am concerned about the long-term impact this could have on our communities.

“I will continue to work with other elected representatives locally to campaign for a fairer funding settlement for policing in Cheshire to allow us to put in place the necessary resources to protect residents.”