THE non-emergency police number 101 is free to use as of today, Wednesday.

Following calls on the government to waive the fees to call 101, Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) David Keane has announced that the previous 15p connection charge has been scrapped.

The Home Office is now investing £7 million per year to meet the connection costs.

PCC David Keane said: "The charges that were in place to call 101 were creating barriers for some vulnerable people in our communities to access the vital service.

"No one should be charged for reporting crime or passing on intelligence to police so I’m welcoming the removal of this charge.

"It’s more important than ever that we’re connected with our communities and that our police service is accessible.

"However, I would like to remind people to only call 101 when it’s absolutely necessary – to report a crime or request an update on something they have previously reported – and to always call 999 in an emergency.

"With the current coronavirus crisis, Cheshire police is seeing its helplines under increasing pressure so I’d also urge those who can to report issues online – the Cheshire police website now has an easy to use reporting feature."

The waiving of 101 fees also coincides with the commissioner’s investment into Cheshire Constabulary’s force control room.

Funding from this year’s budget will be used to provide an improved service for callers to 999 or 101.

Mr Keane added: "We know there has been pressure on the 101 service for some time with an increased amount of callers using the service which has resulted in longer wait times.

"This investment will allow us to recruit more staff to increase resources in the Force Control Room and provide a more positive experience for callers.

The vast majority of people will be able to use the service free of charge from today, Wednesday.

However, from April 1 to July 1 there remains a chance that users of small operators will be charged for using the 101 service.

The Home Office will be urging those providers to refund their customers.