A POLICE accountability board was told that response time in Barnsley could be ‘slowly but surely’ improving - with hundreds of officers currently in training.

A report shows that while overall emergency response times have increased to 71 per cent within the target of 15 minutes, the number of officers trained and capable of responding remains below capacity.

Chief Superintendent Simon Wanless, who is the district commander for the Barnsley district, said they had a ‘steady stream of student officers coming through the process’.

He added: “It’s fair to say that some of our response teams suffered obstructions more than others through ill-health, retirements and transfers.

“That does have an immediate knock on our ability to perform against response times.”

Chief Supt Wanless added a plan for the summer months was in place and the response teams would be established come October and November.

Almost 500 more will join by 2024, with a further 220 posts being secured through local resources such as the policing aspect of tax.

The announcement - long called for by councillors in Barnsley - was given by Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, who admitted previous provision cuts had resulted in an increase in criminality.

“The loss of around 500 police officers contributed, I believe, to an expansion of the drugs markets and associated criminality, including knife and gun crime,” he added.

“I welcome the government’s commitment to restoring police officer numbers, providing an additional 487 officers by 2024 - I will go beyond that and fund a further 220 posts.

“People need to be kept safe, but they also need to feel safe and I want the force to think about how communities can feel reassured, especially in those places that are more remote or are smaller townships or villages.

“For some that will mean that attention needs to be paid to visibility.

“People are reassured by the visible presence of the police in their neighbourhood or by knowing that officers call regularly at places in their community.”

Barnsley now has neighbourhood policing teams (NPTs) in the town centre, Cudworth, Goldthorpe, Hoyland, Kendray, Penistone and Royston - all of which will receive new staff as a result of the recruitment drive.

“NPTs were cut during the period of austerity - from 2010 - but in 2016 I asked the previous Chief Constable to re-introduce them,” Dr Billings said.

“They are now becoming well-established within Barnsley I wholeheartedly support the problem-solving approach to crime and antisocial behaviour we have led on developing nationally.

“NPTs are also the eyes and ears in communities and a trusting relationship between local communities and officers helps secure vital information about issues of concern.”