A HOMEWATCH co-ordinator told how he was placed in a telephone queue after dialling 999.

Mr Tony Sprason, Homewatch co-ordinator for the South Royds Street and Laurel Street area of Tottington, said he phoned Greater Manchester Police control on a Saturday evening after a fight broke out among a gang of youths.

He told the Ramsbottom, Tottington and North Manor Area Board: "After ringing the police number 872 5050 number I was put through to Bury Control, where the phone was ringing out for 45 minutes.

"There was a gang of about 20 to 30 that night and they started fighting among themselves and starting beating up a young lad."

Mr Sprason, who is also the spokesman for the local residents' association, added: "So I dialled 999 and asked for police, and then I was put in a queue. It was beyond belief. I was waiting about 20 minutes before the call was answered."

In the end Mr Sprason, who was attacked by a group of youths last year, said he was forced to go out and confront the gang.

"By the time the police arrived, which was in about 16 minutes, the gang had gone."

Inspector Steve Clark, head of Ramsbottom and Tottington police, said he would investigate the delay Mr Sprason experienced in going through the Greater Manchester police central switchboard number.

A spokesman for British Telecom, responsible for managing the emergency number, said that the company was only responsible for connecting the caller to the relevant emergency service and any problems experienced afterwards would be the responsibility of the emergency service, which in this case would have been the police.