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Essex County Council (Read 45,198 times)
NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #15 - 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+...

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&...

and

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

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
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« Last Edit: Mar 7th, 2006 at 4:37pm by N/A »  
 
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bill
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #16 - 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+numbe...

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.
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« Last Edit: Mar 8th, 2006 at 9:40pm by bill »  
 
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #17 - 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.
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #18 - Mar 8th, 2006 at 4:56pm
 
Quote:
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.
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #19 - 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"
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Heinz
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #20 - 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.
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« Last Edit: Jul 1st, 2014 at 11:52am by Heinz »  

After years of ignoring govt. guidelines & RIPPING OFF Council Tax payers using 0845 numbers, Essex County Council changed to 0345 numbers on 2 November 2015
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #21 - Jul 2nd, 2014 at 4:38pm
 
Readers may be interested to read this item from the fair telecoms campaign blog -



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.
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #22 - 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!

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« Last Edit: Jul 2nd, 2014 at 5:03pm by derrick »  
 
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #23 - 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."
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« Last Edit: Jul 2nd, 2014 at 11:40pm by Ian G »  
 
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #24 - 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!


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« Last Edit: Jul 3rd, 2014 at 9:54am by derrick »  
 
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Ian G
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #25 - 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.
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #26 - 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"!

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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #27 - 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.
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #28 - Jul 4th, 2014 at 3:20pm
 
No reply from my MP (Brooks Newmark) yet (apart from the standard auto-reply email).
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« Last Edit: Jul 4th, 2014 at 3:21pm by Heinz »  

After years of ignoring govt. guidelines & RIPPING OFF Council Tax payers using 0845 numbers, Essex County Council changed to 0345 numbers on 2 November 2015
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Re: Essex County Council
Reply #29 - 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.

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