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News : Essex County Council Reviews Use of 0845 Numbers
Essex County, UK, July 8, 2015 -- Essex County Council is reviewing its controversial use of 0845 numbers.
The council makes 5p a minute when residents call any of their numerous 0845 numbers, with callers facing provider charges on top.
It means the council is profiting from numbers, including the protection for children and adults helpline and the highways incidents line.
Former Stanway councillor Lesley Scott-Boutell said: "They need to change this. People could give up and lives could be at risk."
Mrs Scott-Boutell raised the issue after spending 20 minutes trying to report highway issues in Stanway.
She said: "I understand councils are struggling financially, but they are the first point of contact and they should not be using 0845 numbers."
The charges were revealed after new legislation from Ofcom came into force last week.
Authorities and businesses must now inform customers about charges at the start of a call.
The council has added a new recorded message.
It states: "Welcome to Essex County Council. Calls to this number cost 5p per minute plus the access charge from your service provider."
However, a report from the National Audit Office suggests public bodies shouldn’t be using the numbers at all.
Last year, £56million was spent by taxpayers trying to call Government bodies.
Charges are about 10p per minute from landlines and up to 40p a minute from mobile phones.
Roger Hirst, cabinet member for customer services, said: "In 2005, when Essex County Council set up its contact centre in Essex House, most people had a BT landline and 0845 numbers were charged at a low call rate.
"More and more people are now using mobile phones, meaning they are paying higher tariffs.
"We are aware of these developments and are looking at moving all main telephone numbers to 03 numbers, which are all charged at low call rates. We are going to manage the change over the next year."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Essex County Council:
Essex County Council is the county council that governs the non-metropolitan county of Essex in England. It has 75 councillors, elected from 70 divisions, and is currently controlled by the Conservative Party. The council meets at County Hall in the centre of Chelmsford.
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Published: Thursday, July 9, 2015