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Message started by Barbara on Feb 8th, 2006 at 3:16pm

Title: Essex County Council
Post by Barbara on Feb 8th, 2006 at 3:16pm
This is my first posting although I have been using the website for some time, since I saw it mentioned in The Times.   I think it is a wonderful website and I recommend it to everyone I speak to about telephone numbers.   For some time before I discovered the site, I had been becoming increasingly furious about the value of my phone package decreasing as the number of NGNs is allowed to proliferate and had written to OFCOM on the matter in 2004 (with, of course, no result).

Anyway, I have made an FOIA request to Essex County Council who have recently changed to NGNs and are publicising them (without any guide to price) in the publicity magazine they distribute county-wide.   I have already added their main no to the site and will add further when I receive them.   Have also addedd Anglia Ruskin University who are going NGN I think.

As I pointed out to ECC, most people's contacts with them are to complain, why should they have to pay to do this when they already fund the council through taxation and council tax?   I will post response when received.   I also copied in Lord Hanningfield (Leader of ECC) who sent a rude non-reply and my local councillor who has totally ignored me - will pursue!

Re Swansea University, am surprised by what they say about charging - didn't think this was allowed.    Certainly, we have just received 200 pages of documents in response to an FOIA request on an unrelated matter from another local authority with no charges mentioned at all.

Re Police Forces, has anyone tried contacting the Chairman of the Police Authority who, as a politican, MAY have a little more idea of dealing with the public?   I intend to do this for Essex police who I fear may be thinking of changing to NGNs.

Thanks again for everyone's work, it is very helpful.

Title: Essex County Council
Post by Barbara on Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:28am
I hope I am posting this in the correct place but I need some help with a reply.   In addition to my FOIA request to ECC, I also made a complaint via their CEO, Cust Services Manager (Jane Hallett) and the council leader, Lord Hanningfield and my local cllr - the last 2 refuse to make any proper reply and I just receive a rude brush off every time I make contact - odd as they SHOULD need my vote!   I first received the usual standard nonsense to which I replied and have now received a further response which is more detailed.  However, I feel that there are still arguments which could be raised and this may be worthwhile as they have moved a very small amount between letters 1 & 2.  I feel I lack the expertise to make the best possible reply (and I am a bit confused with all the information on the site, particularly where it becomes more technical).  Is there a way I can scan my letter onto the site to avoid having to re-type what is a fairly lengthy document ( I am not very technical)?   One particular point, they still say "The cost of a call to a 0845 nymber is charged at the local rate from anywhere in the UK if called from a BT line."   I am sure I have seen something on the site but cannot be certain and I don't want to get it wrong.   They also refused my challenge to give me details of any benefit to ME from the use of 0845, but I expected that.  I had mentioned COI guidelines, quoting bits, they focus on 3.53 while choosing to ignote 3.50 & 3.51!

Of course, if telecoms providers were compelled to include 087x/084x nos in their inclusive packages, that would help a lot of people.

Any advice would be appreciated.   Please keep up the good work.
Barbara

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by omy on Feb 15th, 2006 at 2:18pm
Until you are able to tell more details of the actual complaint you made to ECC, I think it will be hard to elicit any advice from forum members.
Even an overall'gist' of what it's all about would help.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Barbara on Feb 15th, 2006 at 3:00pm
I was complaining about their change to 0845 nos without providing geog equivalents (although these can be found by trawling their website, I have a real thing that they should be provided with equal prominence to any NGN), their failure to provide any cost guide on their Essex Matters publication which is delivered to all Essex residents, the fact that I am certain (although this will be confirmed by FOIA response) that they didn't consider the issue of 0845 increasing the costs of many Essex residents etc - the usual sort of complaint we all have with the use of NGNs.  If I could work out how to post their reply on thie website, it might help.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Feb 15th, 2006 at 4:38pm

Barbara wrote on Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:28am:
I am sure I have seen something on the site but cannot be certain and I don't want to get it wrong.   They also refused my challenge to give me details of any benefit to ME from the use of 0845, but I expected that.  I had mentioned COI guidelines, quoting bits, they focus on 3.53 while choosing to ignote 3.50 & 3.51!

Of course, if telecoms providers were compelled to include 087x/084x nos in their inclusive packages, that would help a lot of people.

Any advice would be appreciated.   Please keep up the good work.


See

Para 1.3 Page 1 of www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/oftel_0845/responses/leicester_cc.pdf

and

www.asa.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/Hanging+on+the+telephone+on+and+on+and+on.htm

and

www.asa.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/Stop+the+call+confusion.htm

and

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=28872%09%09%09%09%09%09%09&SESSION=875

www.cap.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/CAP+rings+the+changes+for+telecoms+providers.htm

and Pages 5 and 6 of the below minutes from my own district council where we agreed policy to stop the future use of 0845 and 0870 numbers.

www.molevalley.gov.uk/media/pdf/1/s/Council_Minutes_190705.pdf

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Barbara on Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:07pm
Have now received a response to my FOIA request which I think is quite helpful and very interesting.   I am going to retype the letter here, minus the opening and ending.

"1) Enclosed is extract from the Minutes of the Corporate Management Group meeting held on 16th March 2005, plus supporting paper.
2) No briefings were provided to Councillors in relation to the proposal to move to 0845 numbers and this was not discussed specifically at any Councillor meeting.   However, enclosed is a copy of an email sent in resopnse to a query from the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources about the costs of moving to 0845 numbers.   This issue was not progressed further.  
3) PLease find enclosed a copy of a) Research Study conducting [?ed] by MORI on behalf of Essex County Council, written in Sept 2003; b) an extract from the Access to Services Position Statement Final 17/01/2003 p9-15; c) our Access to Services POsition Statement Feb 2003, please refer specifically to p14-19 regarding telephone contact with the Council.
4) No votes were taken by Councillors on this issue and the proposal to move to 0845 numbers was not discussed at any member meetings.
5) Please find enclosed a list of numbers you would need as a Governor of an Essex School.  [NB all geographical]
In addition to the numbers on this list, please call Jo Lang on 01245 436064 for Governor Training and GOvernor Development.   All enquiries relating to Higher Education Funding should be directed to the details listed under Student & Pupil Financial Support.
The Geographical number for your local Highways Office is 01279 642500.
The Geographical number for Trading Standards (Business Enquiries) is 01206 222307.
Trading Standards for consumers is delivered for Essex by Consumer Direct.  Their number is 0845 404 0506.   The geographical number for this is 01438 737460 as this service is based in Hertfordshire and is not managed by Essex County Council.[This, in itself I find disgraceful]
You may reuse all of this information free of charge in any format or medium.   You must reuse it accurately and not in a misleading context."
Lend ends with writer saying she is leaving ECC on 24/2/06 and usual re if not satisfied.
email from officer to Member CC d 8/3/05
"David [another CC] would like to speak to you about the charges for the 0845 numbers that will be used in the Contact Centre.   I have spoken to Jane Hallett, who tells me we will "break even" on calls being received from within Essex as they are charged locally to us and we in turn charge local rates.   However, we only charge local rates for calls originating outside Essex and therefore effectively subsidise these calls as they are charged to us at national rate.   Jane estimates (very generously apparently) that total call costs to ECC, including line rental will be around £20,000 per year.   Hope that makes sense!
David thinks there is an opportunity to generate income on these numbers, to at least break even on call costs, if not make a profit.   He asked me to drop you an email and will catch up with you at some point soon."

Apols for any typos in these docs.

Very interesting, the only member involvement was to see if the CC could make money out of its residents!!!  I will post the geog nos I received in the next few days.   I find this response very interesting in that it is in total contrast to the Police Authority replies and that from Norfolk CC.  Do they actually want to get out of NGNs but don't know how?   This also explains why members refuse to respond.   I am sure this will interest the forum member who is also a district cllr (is it Non-Geographical Man - I have forgotten, sorry).

~ Edited by Dave: Highlighting added

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Barbara on Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:16pm
Just thought I would add here that I have posted my very interesting reply to FOIA application under that thread.*   Basically, I got everything I asked for and it is very illuminating eg councillors were not involved in the decision at all!

I didn't use the format on that thread for my request as I hadn't found it by then.

I would like to thank those who posted helpful links on this thread, particularly NonGeographicalMan (found name now!) whose link to Mole Valley is very helpful, partic as the district council where my husband works is planning to go for a Contact Centre and I keep berating him about the evils of 0845 numbers although they do say they are not planning any!

I also made further contact with OFCOM (yes I know they're useless but we have to use what we have).   Some of the links in their consultation document which they supplied are actually helpful in my battle with ECC.

One more thing, Jane Hallett of ECC said in her reply to my complaint that their monitoring has only picked up 1 complaint re use of 0845 so, if any other members of this foum live in Essex or have to phone it, here is her email so that you can add your complaints: jane.hallett@essexcc.gov.uk

[edit]* Threads have been merged. The FOI response which this is referred to is above, in the previous posting.[/edit]

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:45pm

Barbara wrote on Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:07pm:
Very interesting, the only member involvement was to see if the CC could make money out of its residents!!!  I will post the geog nos I received in the next few days.   I find this response very interesting in that it is in total contrast to the Police Authority replies and that from Norfolk CC.  Do they actually want to get out of NGNs but don't know how?   This also explains why members refuse to respond.   I am sure this will interest the forum member who is also a district cllr (is it Non-Geographical Man - I have forgotten, sorry).


Barbara,

I think the rather more helpful attitude by the County Council reflects the fact that whatever their faults may be County Councils are a more open and accountable form of organisation than the Police.  If Council staff get a question about their administrative decisions (especially under FOI) they are likely to try to be as helpful as possible within reason.  By contrast in my experience most of the Police force has an attitude of "we know better" and "you are a deviant trying to buck the system" to any attempt by the public to query or question the way that they operate.  It also seems that many Police FOI officers have received active training in how to circumvent COI requests by using the various possible exemptions.  Whereas  the Essex FOI officer sounds like they are personally sympathetic to stopping the misuse of these numbers by councils.  Note they indicated they were about to leave the County Council which usually makes staff much more inclined to act in the way they personally feel is right.

As a district councillor I can honestly say that most of the time many of the Councillors haven't a clue about the detail of many of the decisions taken by their own organisation and that they only get to sign off the big strategic top level decisions on many matters and that far too much power is left in the hands of officers to decide what is considered to be mere detail on many matters.  And unfortunately the type of telephone number used is considered a matter of detail that can be delegated to their IT manager in many councils.  That is what had happened at my council where 0845 numbers had just started to be used (although only for a credit card payment line and the new recycling waste collection scheme rather than the main switchboard).

I am happy to report that as an organisation with about 300 permanent staff that we do not have a contact centre and matters are handled directly with the public by staff in each department on a normal geographic number.  I hope that we will never have a central customer service contact centre or 084/7 numbers for such activities if I have anything to do with it, although unfortunately the government currently seems to be planning to try to get rid of us and replace us with a vast unitary councils crossing the West Sussex and Surrey County Council boundaries by 2009 - no doubt that would handle all customer enquiries through a vast faceless contact centre - quite possibly based in India if current trends are anything to go by.

Sadly too many of my fellow district councillors like to bask in a sort of worthy civic glory but do not often question the detail of business decisions put in front of them.  For instance I have just tried to challenge an officer led plan to hike our car park charges by 14% to 30% on the alleged basis that this is preferable to increasing our element of the Council Tax by 0.5% (so only 0.05% on the actual Council Tax people pay) due to government funding cuts.  But only two of my other fellow councillors on the ruling group wanted to think about this and the rest just went along with their heads in the sand saying what the officers had recommended was right and not wanting to know about killing off our town centres and pushing everyone to use out to Tesco and Bluewater etc in the long run.

You may be interested in Ofcom's just launched consultation on a new National Telephone Number Plan.  This suggests a new class of NGNs beginning 03 that will be charged at geographic rates and included in inclusive calling plans.  But 084/7 numbers will be able to continue without proper price disclosure that they are premium rate so what incentive will there be to move?

See www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/numberingreview/numberingplan/?a=87101 and www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/numberingreview/ and

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Barbara on Feb 24th, 2006 at 2:14pm
Thank you NonGeographicalMan.  As I said, my husband is a long standing and senior officer with a district council and has recently lost the battle about contact centres; however, "his" councillors take a very involved role and he was very surprised that the county lot had not been involved in this decision.  This probably also explains why the leader and my local county councillor won't have an opinion on this matter, but I intend to ambush the latter at a future parish council meeting in my village. Your comments mean that I will have to keep my husband asking about our council and 0845s although when ever he asks it is always denied!   I suspect that the staff and councillors dealing with these issues know very little about the detail and are pushed by the companies selling the systems!   Re Police Authorities, one of our more aware county councillors, who is also a district councillor, is Chairman of Essex Police Authority so I am planning to make contact with him so he is at least aware of the issues.

Note what you say about move to unitaries although, going off topic a little, there is hope the Govt and particularly Blair will find it all too much in the short term but certainly an issue.   Interest by your area as I have a son working for Guildford Borough Council at the start of his career.

Will peruse OFCOM consultation.  My husband wonders if I think of much else BUT telephone numbers!

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Feb 24th, 2006 at 2:43pm

Barbara wrote on Feb 24th, 2006 at 2:14pm:
Thank you NonGeographicalMan.  As I said, my husband is a long standing and senior officer with a district council and has recently lost the battle about contact centres; however, "his" councillors take a very involved role and he was very surprised that the county lot had not been involved in this decision.

Note what you say about move to unitaries although, going off topic a little, there is hope the Govt and particularly Blair will find it all too much in the short term but certainly an issue.   Interest by your area as I have a son working for Guildford Borough Council at the start of his career.

Will peruse OFCOM consultation.  My husband wonders if I think of much else BUT telephone numbers!


My district council in Surrey (the one with a river valley named after those annoying little creatures who insist on burrowing under your lawn and throwing up mounds of earth) has been no overall control for all but one of its nearly 32 years of existence.  This seems to lead to a culture where officers are very strongly in control of many decision processes because they often have to broker a compromise between the divided opinions of the different parties.  It is also to do with the attitude taken by our current Chief Executive of some 14 years standing.

The 0845 numbers that were introduced were done so entirely by our IT manager without any decision at a committee requesting him to move to using these numbers.  But of course he is normally in charge of all telecoms matters day to day and so thought he also had the decision making power here.  His excuse for using 0845 numbers for the enquiry team for the trial recycling scheme was that he didn't have budgetary authority to offer more real geographic phone lines with an 01 phone number and that he could acquire these 0845 numbers for nothing during the duration of the trial at zero cost to the council (never mind that it was not zero cost to those having to call the numbers).  He then allowed the 0845 numbers to carry on when the service rolled out from being a trial to being the full service.  A committee chairman responsible for Environment would have seen the leaflet with an 0845 number on before it went out but didn't query it.

So the only way round it was for me to put down a motion to the full council highlighting the disadvantages of these numbers and insisting that we did not use them in future.  In the beginning I was thought to be a little cranky or obsessive on the matter but after referral and discussion at our Environment Committee the motion saying we should  not use them in future was passed unanimously at the Environment Committee and at full Council.  As with so much of this whole issue the difficulty at the outset is always communicating to people what the real problem is.

It is good to have at least one female member of this forum who feels as passionately on this subject as the other mainly male forum regulars.  I was beginning to think that opposition to 0870 numbers was an exclusively male phenomenon, a bit like trainspotting and plane spotting!

I assume your husband is a senior officer though on an Essex district council then and not down here in southern Surrey?  When I hear of the culture of other councils where one party is in overall control and has been for many years I am always amazed at how different it all sounds with the councillors leading most of the important projects at a fairly detailed level.  I recently also tried to get involved in the selection of a new audio system, tv monitors, electronic voting etc for our Council Chamber but by the time members were involved the officers had already decided the equipment spec they wanted and the only control left was over which supplier we used to install the equipment.  No councillor was allowed to be involved during the installation works and the result is hideous and unsightly large black monitors on long poles in front of the faces of the Chairman and council staff on the rostrum that they sit on in the Council chamber.  The new visualiser device is also hopeless as it requires the lights to be dimmed to see it.  We should have used a large widescreen plasma display for this job.  Once again it was a case of our IT manager wanting him and his staff to be able to do it their  way and not wanting to let the councillors interfere.  And believe me I did try to get involved!

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Dave on Feb 24th, 2006 at 3:10pm

wrote on Feb 24th, 2006 at 2:43pm:
So the only way round it was for me to put down a motion to the full council highlighting the disadvantages of these numbers and insisting that we did not use them in future.  In the beginning I was thought to be a little cranky or obsessive on the matter [...] As with so much of this whole issue the difficulty at the outset is always communicating to people what the real problem is.

This seems to be the case. People seem to believe marketing material and be taken in. Surely nothing as simple as a telephone number cannot be at the centre of such a con!

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Feb 24th, 2006 at 3:25pm

Dave wrote on Feb 24th, 2006 at 3:10pm:
This seems to be the case. People seem to believe marketing material and be taken in. Surely nothing as simple as a telephone number cannot be at the centre of such a con!


Or they simply think of it as spending time worrying about something that only costs a few pence a minute and are unable to perceive that a typical housewife or homeworker could easily pay up to £200 a year extra in phone call costs if they did not actively avoid calling these 084/7 numbers.

I seem to have the same problem with my councillor colleagues who suggest it is better raising parking prices another 20p an hour than increasing the council tax yet further.  They seem unable to work out that the extra cost of not raising the car park rates on the Council Tax Bill is less than a pound per council tax payer but that increasing the car park charges costs those working in or shopping in town centres between another £20 and £100 a year - and that's just this year's little increase in the car park charges. :o

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by mc661 on Feb 25th, 2006 at 11:55pm
was looking at the response form for the new consultation.

The comment I read in someones earlier response (it seems that OfCom staff get paid by the amount they write not the hours) is true.

theres 61 questions they want you to answer!!!

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Feb 26th, 2006 at 12:11am

mc661 wrote on Feb 25th, 2006 at 11:55pm:
The comment I read in someones earlier response (it seems that OfCom staff get paid by the amount they write not the hours) is true.

theres 61 questions they want you to answer!!!


It was me that made the comments about them getting paid by the amount they write (there are 158 pages in this consultation even though it can be summarised in to just the one A4 summary page of new number range designations) and also me that suggested that they should have an easy to use web form for people to send in any comments without all the rigmarole with the cover sheet and the attachment.

I just imagined people who only wanted to drop a few lines filling out one form with any comments they might have and never suggested that they have far more questions than they ever used to (only previously asked up to about 15 questions).  I can only suggest that they didn't like the amount of independent freeminded thought they were getting from some respondents (such as your truly) and so have tried to head off these inconvenient views by asking more questions that spin the responses in the right direction.

Luckily you can bypass their endless 61 question boxes by sending an email the old fashioned way with a Word attachment and Cover Sheet to NumberingReview@ofcom.org.uk  Imagine if you filled out all 61 boxes and then there was a problem when you pressed Submit and all your comments were lost (of course this may in fact be what Ofcom is counting on so as to reduce the number of trouble makers who respond)/ ;) ;D  Anyone else with this many questions in a consultation would let you submit the answers to 5 or 6 questions at a time so there is no danger of the whole lot being electronically vaporised in one hit.

Another issue seems to be how will they actually publish the responses of the people who answer the 61 question boxes on the Responses to the Consultation section?

Trust Ofcom to as ever be lousy at Communication. :o ::)

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by bill on Mar 7th, 2006 at 3:58pm

Barbara wrote on Feb 24th, 2006 at 12:16pm:
One more thing, Jane Hallett of ECC said in her reply to my complaint that their monitoring has only picked up 1 complaint re use of 0845 so, if any other members of this foum live in Essex or have to phone it, here is her email so that you can add your complaints: jane.hallett@essexcc.gov.uk
Must've been mine!

Her (factually incorrect) reply was:
Quote:
7th March 2006

Dear Mr William

Thank you for your email of 25th February.  

I’m sorry you are concerned about the adoption of the 0845 numbers by Essex County Council but this decision was determined on the basis of consistency and fairness for all the people of Essex from wherever their call is made.  

Callers to Essex County Council are now directed through our new contact centre based at Colchester, ContactEssex and we made the decision to move to 0845 numbers based on the above and for what we believe are robust business reasons.  The customer and business benefits of using 0845 are clear to us and are specifically:

0845 gives the opportunity for a low cost rate for all Essex residents as well as those who travel or work outside the county.  There are only five areas in Essex that have a local call rate to Colchester if using the geographical 01206 numbers.  These are Clacton, Braintree, Maldon and Sudbury and Colchester itself.

The cost of a call to a 0845 number is charged at the local rate from anywhere in the UK if called from a BT line.  Other providers do vary their charges and the choice of telephone supplier is for each consumer to decide based on their own personal circumstances and situation.  

The 0845 infrastructure provides built in resilience so that in the event of an emergency we are able to maximise our ability to answer calls or overflow to another site or location.  This forms a sound and effective part of our business continuity plans and provides options for any potential disaster recovery.

Comprehensive management information about the calls is available from 0845 numbers giving us useful data to plan and organise our business

It is not usual to publish both the 0845 and the associated geographic number and we have no plans to do this in the foreseeable future.  We feel this would cause confusion for customers and if due to unforeseen circumstances the calls had to be directed elsewhere it would be impractical to inform customers of the new arrangements.

Feedback from our customers indicates that the implementation of ContactEssex at Colchester has been very successful and provides a first-point-of-contact resolution of queries for the majority of our callers. We are collecting feedback specifically relating to the 0845 numbers and this has been positive.  We do encourage our customers to use the direct dial telephone number if this is known to them and there is an on-going query or relationship with someone in the County Council.

I hope that this addresses the issues you have raised and gives you the reasons for the choices we have made.

Yours sincerely

Jane Hallett
Customer Services Manager
Essex County Council

The usual nonsense about 'local' calls from a limited surrounding area and so on.

I've just realised why!  They never look outside the 'business' box and so don't know that us plebs, the public, the citizen consumer, the 'customer' (as they call us) who pays them and elects their political masters, is charged differently.

Response to follow.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Mar 7th, 2006 at 4:29pm

bill wrote on Mar 7th, 2006 at 3:58pm:
The usual nonsense about 'local' calls from a limited surrounding area and so on.

I've just realised why!  They never look outside the 'business' box and so don't know that us plebs, the public, the citizen consumer, the 'customer' (as they call us) who pays them and elects their political masters, is charged differently.

Response to follow.


This is just a standard letter from a managerial customer services drone and has been answered at Stage 1 of their complaints handling process.  It is just a stock letter undoubtedly given to them by their telecoms supplier.  They obviously haven't even bothered reading properly what is in your own letter.

Ask to have your letter considered and reviewed at Stage 2 (a Council Director of some kind) and if not happy then on to Stage 3 (Chief Executive) and beyond that the Local Government Ombudsman.

Suggest you point out to them this little lot which shows why they are wrong and possibly in breach of ASA guidelines:-

The views of Ian Livingston, CEO of BT Retail:-

http://business.scotsman.com/banking.cfm?id=764772005

and

Para 1.3 Page 1 of www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/oftel_0845/responses/leicester_cc.pdf

and

www.asa.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/Hanging+on+the+telephone+on+and+on+and+on.htm

and

www.asa.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/Stop+the+call+confusion.htm

and

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=28872%09%09%09%09%09%09%09&SESSION=875

and

www.cap.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/CAP+rings+the+changes+for+telecoms+providers.htm

and Pages 5 and 6 of the below minutes from my own district council where we agreed policy to stop the future use of 0845 and 0870 numbers.

www.molevalley.gov.uk/media/pdf/1/s/Council_Minutes_190705.pdf

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by bill on Mar 7th, 2006 at 5:07pm

Quote:
I thank you for your reply of 7/3/06.

Although clearly a pro forma response designed to deal with Stage 1 of a complaint, I have studied it carefully.  I have come to the conclusion that Essex County Council personnel based their decision to introduce 0845 telephone numbers only on 'business' telephone usage rates and failed to realise or take into account the fact that the vast majority of the people who need to call are members of the public - who pay residential telephone rates.

I note that your opening paragraph includes the assertion that, "....but this decision was determined on the basis of consistency and fairness for all the people of Essex from wherever their call is made...." and you then attempt to justify that statement by stating later that, "There are only five areas in Essex that have a local call rate to Colchester if using the geographical 01206 numbers.  These are Clacton, Braintree, Maldon and Sudbury and Colchester itself."  The latter, of course, is factually incorrect - and has been for getting on for 2 years now - so the former is demonstrably untrue.  In any case, I am one of 'the people of Essex' and the decision is not fair to me because (see below) it will result in extra cost to me when I telephone my Council.

In case you are genuinely unaware, your 'five areas' statement ceased to be true when, on 1st July 2004, BT eliminated the differentiation between local and national calls (i.e. calls to geographic numbers - STD codes starting 01 or 02) for residential customers and standardised their charges for such calls at 3p per minute peak (and 5.5p for up to an hour off peak).  In other words, the historical designations 'local call' and 'long distance call' disappeared when BT decided to charge for all such calls identically.

Hence, using my BT residential landline, I can now call a Chelmsford, Exeter, Glasgow, Belfast or London (or any other) UK 01 or 02 number for 3p per minute during the day.  I could also make such a call (with a standard time allowance of 15 minutes) from a telephone box for the standard minimum charge of 30p.

Because I manage my limited resources carefully, I use an alternative provider instead of BT for most of my calls and so such a 15 minute (or 4 hour for that matter) call would cost me a total of 3p (not 3p per minute).  However, because their prefixes are non-geographical, I have to pay BT rates to make 08xx calls and, in the case of one of your 0845 numbers, it would therefore cost me fifteen times as much, 45p, for that same 15 minute call.

You clearly have not considered the extent to which you are penalising less-fortunate members of our society (those who cannot afford a home telephone and who have to make their few calls from telephone boxes) by changing to exclusive use of 0845 numbers.  As I explained above, the minimum telephone box charge of 30p pays for a 15 minute call to an 01 or 02 number.  To an 0845 number though, that same 30p pays the connection charge (10p) and two 'connected time' periods, each of only 55 seconds.  That same 15 minute call would, therefore, cost £1.74

I fail to see how publishing geographic numbers with equal prominence would 'cause confusion for customers' as you put it.  On the contrary, it would offer callers a choice.  Ofcom, for example, initially did just that and, now, have ceased using non-geographical numbers completely.

I am also particularly concerned that you chose to state in your reply, "The cost of a call to a 0845 number is charged at the local rate from anywhere in the UK if called from a BT line" when use of such terminology is specifically contrary to the Central Office of Information's advice on the subject.  In case you are not in possession of such advice, I append two relevant extracts therefrom hereunder:

3.53  0845 in particular has been known as ‘local rate’ – however with increased competition in the marketplace and resultant changes in tariff structures, these rates will often be in excess of normal local rates that citizens might be charged on their package. 0845 (and 0844) costs through phone boxes and some mobile tariffs can also be expensive to the citizen and this should also be considered.

3.57  You should always clearly communicate the cost to customers on publicity materials (see paragraph 3.75) and this should not use any misleading terms such as ‘local’, ‘national rate’, etc.

The Advertising Standards Authority is of the same opinion and has offered the same advice - http://www.asa.org.uk/cap/advice_online/ad_alerts/Advertising+0845+and+087+numbers.htm

Indeed, one enlightened local Council has recently made the decision to abolish its 0845 numbers after they were introduced by staff apparently without the facts being considered by/receiving the approval of Councillors.  http://www.molevalley.gov.uk/media/pdf/1/s/Council_Minutes_190705.pdf (see Page 5 & 6).

I have no knowledge as to whether Essex County Councillors were consulted regarding the introduction of 0845 numbers but, because it is clear whoever made the decision regarding their introduction did so on wrong and/or based upon incomplete information, I ask that you put the full facts to Councillors at the very earliest opportunity so that, in the public interest and to ensure "fairness for all the people of Essex from wherever their call is made", they can consider reverting to geographical numbers as a matter of urgency.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by NonGeographicalMan on Mar 7th, 2006 at 5:30pm
Good reply but ask for it to be considered at Stage 2 of their complaints handling process by a Council Director rather than by a customer services drone at Stage 1 who will always be programmed to make up pathetic excuses to try to justify the cynical actions of their customer services centre.  I would also suggest that you say that if you do not get responses which consider the points you have made directly and indiviudally (rather than sending a stock out of date propaganda based response from their telecoms supplier) that you intend to take matters on to the Local Government Ombudsman after reaching deadlock withe their Chief Executive at Stage 3 of the complaints handling procedure.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by mc661 on Mar 8th, 2006 at 4:56pm

wrote on Mar 7th, 2006 at 5:30pm:
Good reply but ask for it to be considered at Stage 2 of their complaints handling process by a Council Director rather than by a customer services drone at Stage 1 who will always be programmed to make up pathetic excuses to try to justify the cynical actions of their customer services centre.  I would also suggest that you say that if you do not get responses which consider the points you have made directly and indiviudally (rather than sending a stock out of date propaganda based response from their telecoms supplier) that you intend to take matters on to the Local Government Ombudsman after reaching deadlock withe their Chief Executive at Stage 3 of the complaints handling procedure.


If you get a refusal at stage 2, ull prob get one at stage 3.
Stage 4 AKA Local Government Ombudsman, is always interesting, well it gives the council more work! And most of the time youll get a mysterious answer out of the blue with the result you want 2 days before the Local Gov Omb decides.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Dave on May 1st, 2008 at 12:31pm
I have resurrected this thread, originally posted in the Freedom of Information section of the forum, started by Barbara in her inaugural posting. It's been merged with another one on Essex County Council started at the same time.

The Freedom of Information response shown in the sixth post (reply #5) reveals some interesting points which I'll reiterate:


Quote:
4) No votes were taken by Councillors on this issue and the proposal to move to 0845 numbers was not discussed at any member meetings.

and


Quote:
David [another CC] would like to speak to you about the charges for the 0845 numbers that will be used in the Contact Centre.   I have spoken to Jane Hallett, who tells me we will "break even" on calls being received from within Essex as they are charged locally to us and we in turn charge local rates.   However, we only charge local rates for calls originating outside Essex and therefore effectively subsidise these calls as they are charged to us at national rate.   Jane estimates (very generously apparently) that total call costs to ECC, including line rental will be around £20,000 per year.   Hope that makes sense!
David thinks there is an opportunity to generate income on these numbers, to at least break even on call costs, if not make a profit.   He asked me to drop you an email and will catch up with you at some point soon.



To reiterate, it appears that no elected members were consulted on this and that the answer given was that it was charged at "local rate". This was back in 2005, and as we know, from July 2004 national calls cost the same as local ones. So it could be said that a national geographical call is "local rate". Thus the numbers which the 0845s replaced were charged at "local rate" anyway.


Some councillors also raised the question of call costs and it appears that they were deceived by being told it was "local rate":

Minutes of a meeting of the Lifelong Learning and Libraries Policy Development Group held at the County Hall, Chelmsford, on 14 February 2005


Quote:
Jenny Turner took on board the points raised by Members and confirmed that the new contact number would in fact be an 0845 number which would be charged at the local rate.



Minutes of a meeting of the South Essex Area Forum held at Holiday Inn, Basildon on 22 September 2005


Quote:
45. The Essex Contact Centre

The Forum received a joint presentation from Jane Hallett, Customer Services Manager and Margaret Bonner, LSA Programme Manager, Customer Services on the new Essex County Council Contact Centre in Colchester.

The presentation outlined the aims of improving the service and providing plain and simple information, easily accessible places, methods and people who can help. The context of the contact centre was explained. It was reported that 80% of first customer contact was by telephone and that this initiative was part of the response to the E-government agenda. The centre provided a single point of contact, with a reduction in the number of telephone numbers for the Council and aims to address enquiries for the majority of service areas. The implementation process had been phased over the summer and completed on 1 September 2005. It was explained that the centre provided longer opening hours and specially trained staff. The service areas covered by the Contact Centre were listed and statistics for a recent week of calls were provided. The Forum was advised that the aim was to resolve 80% of enquiries on the first or second contact. During the week for which statistics were available, 55% of enquiries were resolved on the first contact. It was explained that currently the telephone lines were redirecting into ContactEssex, however publicity of the numbers was due to take place in the Yellow Pages, BT directories and Essex County Council website. Improvements would be looked at in further phases of development.

During the discussion the following points were raised:
• Assurance was given that dialling the main 0845 telephone number the charge would be at the local rate even if the call is transferred to a direct telephone number.
• Examples of teething problems in getting through were given at the meeting – this would be looked into

The Forum was requested to notify the Contact Centre of any difficulties that people may experience and the Forum was advised that further training for staff will be ongoing.

The Chairman thanked the presenters for their clear presentation.




Perhaps the council is slowly getting the message as its contact page gives a geographical alternative and says:

Quote:
Calls to 0845 numbers are charged at no more than 4p per minute from a BT landline. Call charges from other landline providers or mobile phones may vary. Please check the rate with your service provider.


Other "local rate" references remain as these searches of the website show: 0845 "local rate" | 0845 "local call"

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Heinz on Jul 1st, 2014 at 11:49am
More than 8 years on from the start of this thread and, surprise, surprise, Essex County Council are still ignoring government 'advice' on the subject and are still using 0845 numbers.

Their only admission of their wrongdoing is that they now give their main switchboard number (01245 430 430) on their website (although they embolden 0845 743 0430 as their main number).

As a resident of Essex, I have emailed my (Conservative) MP and asked him to exert pressure on my behalf on his colleagues in the (Conservative controlled) Essex County Council to change their ways.

Any other Essex residents reading this - please do the same and email your MP.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by SilentCallsVictim on Jul 2nd, 2014 at 4:38pm
Readers may be interested to read this item from the fair telecoms campaign blog -

“Public bodies adherence to government guidance”

It encourages circulation of an annotated copy of the HMG Guidance for Customer Service lines.

This can be done using the short url - http://tiny.cc/FT_public_bodies_guidance.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by derrick on Jul 2nd, 2014 at 5:00pm
It is of no use being "guidance" or "advice" as are meaningless and can be easily and safely ignored, as with "codes of practice"!

They should be written into statute and made mandatory!

.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Ian G on Jul 2nd, 2014 at 7:45pm
Although the document title contains the word "Guidance" this was published by the Cabinet Office and therefore carries significant weight. It could effectively be taken as "policy".

Indeed, non-compliance with its contents must be explained in writing to the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd.

The Guidance covers central government departments and their agencies and contractors.

The reach of this Cabinet Office guidance does not directly extend to local government. However, there is a pretty large hint as to what is wanted in the wording of the introduction...

"The guidance is aimed at central government departments, public bodies that fall within their organisational hierarchy and also services provided by external private partners on behalf of the parent department. It may also be helpful for other bodies across the public sector landscape."

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by derrick on Jul 3rd, 2014 at 9:54am

Ian G wrote on Jul 2nd, 2014 at 7:45pm:
Although the document title contains the word "Guidance" this was published by the Cabinet Office and therefore carries significant weight. It could effectively be taken as "policy".

Indeed, non-compliance with its contents must be explained in writing to the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd.

The Guidance covers central government departments and their agencies and contractors.

The reach of this Cabinet Office guidance does not directly extend to local government. However, there is a pretty large hint as to what is wanted in the wording of the introduction...

"The guidance is aimed at central government departments, public bodies that fall within their organisational hierarchy and also services provided by external private partners on behalf of the parent department. It may also be helpful for other bodies across the public sector landscape."



"carries weight", "Guidance", "large hint", "may also be helpful", it means nothing as I previously said to these prolific abusers as in the case of Essex CC who for "more than 8 years from the start of this thread", (quote from reply #20),and are still abusing it and not conforming, it isn't "policy", it carries no weight as most codes/guidance/hints etc don't!

I wonder how many times Essex CC has written to Nick Hurd in the last 8 years? Want to make a guess? I'll start, none!

The only way is make these guides mandatory and stop pussy footing around with "guidance!


.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Ian G on Jul 3rd, 2014 at 10:46am
In the six months since publication, the 084 and 087 lines that have been changed over to new 030 and 034 numbers account for more than 90% of all the expensive calls made to government.

I'd say the guidance has been pretty effective. DWP, Environment Agency, Student Loans Company, Student Awards Agency for Scotland, Solicitors Regulation Authority, Police Service of Northern Ireland, NHS24, Lancashire County Council, Devon County Council, Rochdale Borough Council, Calderdale Council and others have made the switch.

Laggards include Somerset, Hampshire, Essex and a few others.

It will not be long before Ofcom starts making more noise about the "unbundled tariff" system. Once the requirement to declare a Service Charge becomes more widely known, remaining government departments and agencies and the various councils and authorities will have to move at greater speed to fix this issue.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by derrick on Jul 3rd, 2014 at 12:45pm

Ian G wrote on Jul 3rd, 2014 at 10:46am:
In the six months since publication, the 084 and 087 lines that have been changed over to new 030 and 034 numbers account for more than 90% of all the expensive calls made to government.

I'd say the guidance has been pretty effective. DWP, Environment Agency, Student Loans Company, Student Awards Agency for Scotland, Solicitors Regulation Authority, Police Service of Northern Ireland, NHS24, Lancashire County Council, Devon County Council, Rochdale Borough Council, Calderdale Council and others have made the switch.

Laggards include Somerset, Hampshire, Essex and a few others.

It will not be long before Ofcom starts making more noise about the "unbundled tariff" system. Once the requirement to declare a Service Charge becomes more widely known, remaining government departments and agencies and the various councils and authorities will have to move at greater speed to fix this issue.


But you still have the likes of Somerset, Hampshire, Essex and a few others, your examples, totally ignoring the "guidance", and it is my opinion that it is not the "guidance" that has made these change, more like the EU Directive that came into force on June 13th 2014 compelling them to, unlike any "guidance"!

.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Ian G on Jul 3rd, 2014 at 1:00pm

derrick wrote on Jul 3rd, 2014 at 12:45pm:
But you still have the likes of Somerset, Hampshire, Essex and a few others, your examples, totally ignoring the "guidance", and it is my opinion that it is not the "guidance" that has made these change, more like the EU Directive that came into force on June 13th 2014 compelling them to, unlike any "guidance"!

Yes there are "a few"and it is only a few now. These are the last few and that's something for the media to highlight. The more that change, the harder it is for the remainder to hide.

The EU Directive does not compel government departments to change their numbers. The regulations cover only retailers and passenger transport companies.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Heinz on Jul 4th, 2014 at 3:20pm
No reply from my MP (Brooks Newmark) yet (apart from the standard auto-reply email).

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by SilentCallsVictim on Jul 4th, 2014 at 5:18pm

Heinz wrote on Jul 4th, 2014 at 3:20pm:
No reply from my MP (Brooks Newmark) yet (apart from the standard auto-reply email).

I have heard from the Department for Communities and Local Government that it is presently doing nothing to engage with local government in relation to this issue. Apart from any personal contact they may have with councillors, an MP could only write to Eric Pickles (SoS at DCLG) to probably hear the same as I have heard.

We published the annotated version of the Cabinet Office Guidance in the belief that the most effective approach at present would be working directly with local authorities. No matter how much pressure may be applied from Whitehall, each local authority has to make its own decisions about how far it uses the telephone in serving its people and how it funds those services.

Imposing a Service Charge for telephone access and opening up service users to the exploitation by telephone companies that is presently a feature of use of 084 numbers is an approach that may not readily be defended. Once that point is clearly understood, by officials, councillors and the people, it should not take much more for changes to be made. Once the (forthcoming) requirement to declare the Service Charge is recognised, the battle should be over.


Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Barbara on Jul 5th, 2014 at 10:16am
One other option, as I probably mentioned much earlier in this thread when I initiated it as I was then as Essex resident, is to contact each and every councillor directly and personally.   Their email addresses should be available via either the ECC website or upon request, sometimes it is also possible to find out their personal email addresses (I always prefer the later in case the council screens member emails, they can certainly access them).   Not all councillors will take the interest they should (I can bet the one representing the division where we used to live won't even reply!) but if you can recruit even a few to the cause, it could be a catalyst for change.  (At least there is no longer Lord Hanningfield as leader, he was one of the worst supporters of the 0845.)

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by NGMsGhost on Jul 12th, 2014 at 8:49pm
Now that the EU Consumer Rights Directive is implemented in to UK legislation I would suggest making a complaint to any council still using 084/7 numbers for customer service related functions under their formal complaints procedure.

Do not accept any initial response they may give you and continue to escalate your complaint up the chain to deadlock (usually with the Chief Executive). 

Assuming they then refuse to change their number to an 01/02/03 in response to your complaint you and then take the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman and I would be amazed if they do not come up with a ruling in favour of any complainant demanding that the local authority in question now desists from continued use of the 084/7 number in question and replaces it with an 01/02/03 alternative.

The current Complaints, Compliments and Policy document for Essex County Council can be found at www.essex.gov.uk/AnalyticsReports/Complaints_Policy.pdf

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by bigjohn on Sep 9th, 2015 at 4:21am
See what a campaigner  found out as the result of  a Freedom of Information Act request.

http://www.chelmsfordweeklynews.co.uk/news/13627341.County_Hall_0845_number____costs_you_500k_/

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Barbara on Sep 11th, 2015 at 9:08am
Essex County Council are utterly shameless, they don't care one jot about the public (who put the councillors where they are &, through their council tax, pay their vast councillors' allowances) or public opinion.   I tried for about four years, until we moved from Essex, & got nowhere, in spite of FOI requests, everything.  Remember who was their leader, Lord Hanningfield, & his expenses scandal.  Unless & until the government requires councils to comply, ECC will continue to ignore all efforts to persuade them to act with propriety & fairness.

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Ian01 on Oct 15th, 2015 at 1:51pm

Behind the scenes work by the Fair Telecoms Campaign and a local campaigner has finally achieved a result.

Essex County Council will introduce 0345 numbers on 2 November 2015.

The 0845 numbers will announce that a new 0345 number is available and give callers the choice to hang on or hang up and re-dial.

At some later date this will change to an announcement that informs the caller of the new number and immediately ends the call.


Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Heinz on Oct 19th, 2015 at 4:48pm
Welcome news but long overdue, to say the least!

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Ian01 on Nov 7th, 2015 at 6:15pm

The Essex CC website has been updated to show the new 0345 numbers.

See http://www.essex.gov.uk/Pages/Contact-us.aspx

Do let them know if any pages have been missed.


Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by CJT-80 on Nov 10th, 2015 at 11:23am
Excellent News!  :)

I do love the slightly amusing sight that they have clearly just updated the numbers and no text on their site:

General enquiries   
Tel: 0345  743  0430 or 01245 430 430 (if you prefer to dial a geographically-routed number)
  Both numbers should now be shown as being charged at a geographic rate....  ;)

Still at least they have been changed!  :)

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by kasg on Nov 11th, 2015 at 4:23pm

CJT-80 wrote on Nov 10th, 2015 at 11:23am:
Tel: 0345  743  0430 or 01245 430 430 (if you prefer to dial a geographically-routed number)

How about (if you prefer to save us a few pennies but it will cost you the same) :)

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Ian01 on Nov 11th, 2015 at 4:38pm

I don't remember where I saw it, but I seem to recall they are paying 0.5p per minute for incoming calls to their 03 number.

For an organisation with a relatively high volume of calls that is quite reasonable.


Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by CJT-80 on Nov 12th, 2015 at 10:27am

kasg wrote on Nov 11th, 2015 at 4:23pm:

CJT-80 wrote on Nov 10th, 2015 at 11:23am:
Tel: 0345  743  0430 or 01245 430 430 (if you prefer to dial a geographically-routed number)

How about (if you prefer to save us a few pennies but it will cost you the same) :)


Sounds PERFECT to me  ;D ;D

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by bazzerfewi on Nov 12th, 2015 at 12:06pm

bigjohn wrote on Sep 9th, 2015 at 4:21am:
See what a campaigner  found out as the result of  a Freedom of Information Act request.

http://www.chelmsfordweeklynews.co.uk/news/13627341.County_Hall_0845_number____costs_you_500k_/


Surely the council are withholding information or they have had an incorrect contract because all 0845 numbers are revenue sharing numbers between the telco and the client

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by SilentCallsVictim on Nov 12th, 2015 at 12:39pm

bazzerfewi wrote on Nov 12th, 2015 at 12:06pm:
Surely the council are withholding information or they have had an incorrect contract because all 0845 numbers are revenue sharing numbers between the telco and the client

The term "revenue sharing" applies only when money changes hands in direct proportion to the volume of incoming calls - i.e. as a "share" of the "revenue" received through the termination fee. It is permitted on all 084/087/09 numbers, but not on others.

If the user of the number benefits by a reduced (or zero) charge for the service, then the term "revenue sharing" does not strictly apply. The classic example of this is when DWP, many years ago, changed its arrangements so as to avoid "revenue sharing", by simply paying a lower rate in the first place rather than benefiting from a "cashback".

(Is it not wonderful to be able to refer to DWP and 0845 numbers simply as an historic curiosity.)

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by bazzerfewi on Nov 12th, 2015 at 5:45pm
Thanks for the clarification - But it stinks all the same because that means that the DWP had a reduced call rate on the back of the poorest in society. Surely if they are entitled to pay a lower rate thay are still benefit, in essance it is better than a  revenue share because they have received a discount upfront  >:(

Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by Ian01 on Nov 12th, 2015 at 7:42pm

It gets better. In order to be seen to 'not be profiting from the use of an 0845 number', DWP didn't collect the 0.5p per minute revenue share payments they were entitled to. Instead, they just let their provider keep the money. Later they used it to barter a discount for other services.

Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee got to the bottom of things in September 2013.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/house-of-commons-23934512 from the beginning.

This led to the Cabinet Office publishing their Guidance in December 2013 and DWP changing to 0345 numbers in March or April 2014.


Additionally, in December 2013, the Student Loans Company was savaged by Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee over their failure to move away from 084 numbers after it was highlighted at a previous enquiry some 5 months earlier.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/house-of-commons-25339852 starting at about at 1h36m

Those actions, among many others, got us where we are today. Very few public services retain usage of 084 or 087 numbers.


Title: Re: Essex County Council
Post by bazzerfewi on Nov 13th, 2015 at 8:43am
Granted since I joined in 2005 the results have been fantastic in regard to the 08 number change. This site has played a big part in bringing telcos to heel but there still is more to do.

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