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News : Resident’s Worries of 0845 Council Number
Jan 13, 2014 -- A Loughborough man who claims housing and Council Tax benefit says he has serious concerns that he has to call an 0845 number on his mobile phone in order to access the council service.
Capita, which runs the benefit service on behalf of Charnwood Borough Council, uses an 0845 number.
Ofcom, an independent regulator for the communications industries, says that calls from this number can be between 14p and 41p per minute off a mobile phone and 1p to 11p per minute off a land line.
The council says that the 0845 telephone line goes through to Capita’s call centre but is charged at the same rate as an 01509 number.
It told the Echo it puts customers "at the heart of what it does" and "ensures customers have a number of ways to contact them including email and in person".
However, the Echo contacted the main council switchboard as we went to press. An automated message said we had to redial the 0845 number in order to reach the benefits office, with no mention of other ways in which to contact the department.
A spokesman for Ofcom says it encourages public bodies such as councils to use the 03 number because the 0845 number does not give customers the guarantee it will cost the same as an 01509 number.
The Loughborough resident, who did not wish to be named, contacted the Echo about the 0845 number after needing assistance with his housing benefit and Council Tax support.
He said: "Most people have mobile phones now, not land lines, so it is going to be more expensive. It feels like a money making exercise."
A joint statement by Charnwood Borough Council and Capita said: "The 0845 telephone line goes through to Capita’s call centre, the rate the caller is charged is dependent on the provider and the package the caller has.
"The 0845 number is not a premium rate line. No revenue is generated for the council or Capita.
"We make benefit applicants and claimants aware of the various communication methods in all correspondence we send to them so they can choose the best way for them to make contact with us.
"As part of our commitment to customers, we recently launched an online benefit application system which, between July and November, has become the most popular way of people making a claim with 35.5 per cent of all new claims being made on our website.
"We are constantly looking to improve the way we provide customer services and are currently working on a new programme to make it even easier for people to access our services and interact with the council."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014