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Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local call" (Read 36,334 times)
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Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local call"
Jan 22nd, 2008 at 2:14am
 
Source: Hastings Observer

http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/newshastings/Council-defends-call-charges.3647...

<<

Council defends call charges

By Richard Morris

Council bosses have come under fire after it was discovered people phoning up to complain are getting charged for the privilege.
A chance Freedom of Information Request made by a member of the public revealed ringing any council number which begins with 0845 will result in a charge - even if it is to complain about poor service.

Departments which use an 0845 number include animal nuisance, benefit information, food hygiene and safety, fraud investigation and health and safety.

Even the council's general inquiries line incurs a cost.

However, Hastings Borough Council has been quick to point out these are not premium rate numbers and the cost is only the same any other local call.

The 0845 numbers were introduced two and a half years ago to help the council handle all its external calls.

Using this system means council staff can re-direct lines when necessary with no disruption to services.

One criticism of the council was that it was making money on the back of the scheme but Council Spokesman Caroline Pattenden denied this. She said: "It is not an extra charge to the public.

"We handle 20,000 calls each month and have had only a handful of queries about this system since it started.

"Our service provider gives us a refund on our overall phone bill, based on the number, duration and time of calls we receive. This discount plays a very minor part in reducing the £50,000 bill we receive each year.

"This saving is ploughed back into reducing our overall telephony costs.

"Where appropriate, we do still advertise direct lines for residents to reach individual officers."

>>
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« Last Edit: Jan 22nd, 2008 at 3:36am by Dave »  
 
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local ca
Reply #1 - Jan 22nd, 2008 at 3:37am
 
http://www.hastings.gov.uk/about/issue29_contact.aspx

Even the homelessness helpline is a 0845 number!!!  Lips Sealed
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local ca
Reply #2 - Apr 16th, 2008 at 12:51pm
 
The people of Hastings have been busy writing to the Hastings Observer about this.

Letters to the editor - 23 November 2007

<<
Phoney plan
SEVERAL months ago Hastings Borough Council abandoned publicising its geographic telephone numbers starting 01424 in favour of numbers starting with 0845 on the pretext of convenience to the public.
It would have been clear at the time to council bosses that the new numbers are not included in inclusive minutes or discount packages that many now enjoy when calling geographic telephone numbers and residents of Hastings who wish to contact the council are therefore having to pay more than is necessary. It might only cost from a BT line max 5p, but it could be free.
Numbers prefixed by 03 have been released by Office of Communications (Ofcom) and they describe the recently released numbers saying: '03 numbers were introduced by Ofcom as an alternative number for organisations, including public sector bodies, who wish to offer their consumers a single, trusted point of contact.
Calls to 03 numbers will cost the same or less than calls to 01 and 02 prefixed numbers and will be included as part of any inclusive minutes or discount package. These rules will apply to calls from any type of line including mobile, BT, other fixed line or payphone.'
Because of the cost savings offered to mobile telephone users as well as fixed lines it is now time that Hastings Borough Council considers the introduction of an 03 number or to advertise their geographic number, and that will remove the current cost to some residents when calling their council using the 0845 prefix.
BOB HART
Hastings
>>


Letters to the editor - 25 January 2008

<<
On the line
Hastings Borough Council spokesperson, Caroline Pattenden, is being disingenuous by claiming that callers to the council using an 0845 number to complain (Jan 11) are not paying an extra charge.
Her claim that the phone company gives a refund on the overall phone bill is technically true, but makes it sound as though this is inadvertent with no adverse effect on the caller.
0845 numbers are chargeable to callers at a variable but lower rate than some premium rate calls, such as 0870. Calls can be costly, particularly from a mobile phone.
The only reason that the council will have contracted for this service is to generate revenue, which is shared between them and their phone company.
The council will not generate revenue if callers ring a 01424 number. These 0845 calls generate revenue because their cost is not included in the inclusive packages, which most people now have, from both landline or mobile operators,.You will always pay extra for 08 calls on any inclusive package.
The council and the phone company perhaps think we will not notice these extra costs, but it is iniquitous that state-run services charge us extra to call them.
We do not have a choice of service provider like borough councils and there is a captive audience.
Hastings borough is certainly not alone in charging this way, but it is another example of paying again for what we already pay for.
Such is the public outcry that Ofcom, the phone regulator, will soon be releasing 03 numbers which will be part of inclusive phone packages, so no extra charges.
This will soon expose those who simply want to charge extra. We shall see how quickly services transfer to these new numbers.
As Caroline Pattenden claims, where appropriate, they do publicise direct lines. All premium rate numbers connect through ordinary geographic numbers, in our case 01424 numbers.
I am sure we shall soon see the borough's switchboard number publicised on its website, rather than only the 0845 number. This must be an appropriate place to reveal the 01424 numbers, unless the council is simply trying to make money from us after all
Brian Rockell
by e-mail
>>

cont...
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local ca
Reply #3 - Apr 16th, 2008 at 12:51pm
 
...cont

<<
Don't use 0845 lines
I REFER to the article on the cost of calls to Hastings Council using 0845 numbers (January 11).
I beg to differ with council spokesman Caroline Pattenden. Unless the caller is signed up to one of BT's packages or if, like me your telephone provider is Cable and Wireless, you pay the full standard charge for such numbers.
At the day-time rate this is 9p for the first minute and 3p for subsequent minutes. Although not a premium charge, that is hardly local rate.
Given the amount of time it often takes to locate someone to answer queries, the cost soon clocks up. If it is true that the cost of calls is no different, why did the council go to the trouble of introducing the 0845 numbers?
Perhaps the council would care to tell us long-suffering taxpayers exactly how much it received last year as a refund from its telephone provider?
Readers might like to note that the current Thomson's Local Directory lists all council numbers as 0845, and if they are unwise enough to use them they will pay the above rate. The present BT telephone directory gives the normal type of number and it is cheaper to use those but beware of any attempt to get you to use 0845.
I recently phoned the recycling department on 781338 to enquire how to dispose of torch batteries. I was told to phone 0845 2741877. When I declined to use that number because of the extra cost I was, without question, transferred to the member of staff dealing with the matter. I would advise others to do as I did.
I am sorry, Caroline Pattenden, but you have been rumbled. Has someone on the council been taking lessons on stealth taxes from a certain Mr G Brown?
M PORTER (MRS)
Ashburnham Road
PS - The council has no facilities for disposing of torch batteries and I was told to put them in with the general rubbish.
>>



Letters to the editor - 1 February 2008
<<
Try justsaynoto0870.com
READING your letters page regarding the high cost of 0870 and 0845 telephone numbers, I wonder if your readers are aware of a perfectly legal website that gives you the geographical (cheaper) numbers of all the main utilities. Gas, electricity, water,
banks - you name it, you'll find the cheaper alternatives on the website.
Just go to saynoto0870.com - everyone's a winner, it's even got Hastings Borough Council listed.
[…]
PATRICIA STEPHENSON
Whittlewood Close,
St. Leonards
>>
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Reply #4 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 10:12pm
 
Ask the Leader - Questions put to the council's leader.

Quote:
Question 015

Q:  I recently had to call the council to speak about Council Tax.  I called the number I had on my old bill and was told that the number had been changed to an "0845" number.  This appears to be a stealth tax on the part of the Council.  Most people nowadays have access to inclusive minutes to landlines, either from their home number or mobile. 0845 numbers are generally not included.  So what would be a "free" call turns into a 5p a minute or so, with a proportion going to the council.  I would imagine that almost 100% of calls to your council tax department are local in any case so there cannot be another reason.
I was on hold for a long time and goodwill towards the council soon evaporates when being told how important your call is and it not being answered whilst being charged.


A:  The Council decided to use 0845 numbers for contact from the public because we are in process of switching from one telephone system to another - a move that gave us a substantial savings in our telephone expenses.  The 0845 numbers allow us to avoid using our internal numbers and so change them when necessary without causing confusion to members of the public.  It also allows us to move numbers from one office to another without impacting upon the public in the event of emergency, as happened this year when our Century House office and then the Town Hall suffered from flooding.
0845 numbers are charged at the local rate wherever the number is dialled from.  The local rate is 3p per minute peak, 1p per minute off-peak and weekends.  The Council gets a rebate from that of 0.6p peak and 0.1p off-peak and weekends.  The local rate is not exorbitant; the income generated, about £200 per month, is used to further reduce telephone expenses.
The telephony providers decide whether they include 0845 in any packages they offer or whether they continue to charge those calls at the local rate.

Posted: 12/06/06



Question 057

Q:  The old 01424 numbers were local numbers anyway and the new 0845 numbers are charged for those of us who pay for free local and national calls. If it is that the council is "farming" out work, then you (or your contractors) should pay for the forwarding of these calls and not us!

A:  The Council decided to use 0845 numbers for contact from the public because we are in process of switching from one telephone system to another - a move that gave us a substantial savings in our telephone expenses. The 0845 numbers allow us to avoid using our internal numbers and so change them when necessary without causing confusion to members of the public. It also allows us to move numbers from one office to another without impacting upon the public in the event of emergency, as happened this year when our Century House office and then the Town Hall suffered from flooding.
0845 numbers are charged at the local rate wherever the number is dialled from. The local rate is 3p per minute peak, 1p per minute off-peak and weekends. The Council gets a rebate from that of 0.6p peak and 0.1p off-peak and weekends. The local rate is not exorbitant; the income generated, about £200 per month, is used to reduce further telephone expenses.
The telephony providers decide whether they include 0845 in any packages they offer or whether they continue to charge those calls at the local rate.

Posted: 11/08/06

These two questions get the same answer. Mr Pragnell admits that the council receives revenue payments of 0.6p "peak" and 0.1p "off-peak".

The suggestion that telephone providers could include them in "any packages" is quite ridiculous. If he is talking about inclusive packages, then no telephony provider will allow that because of the possibility of "artificial inflation of traffic". In such cases, someone could get a 0845 number which provides revenue and call it from an inclusive package, leaving the call on for a long time. This will generate revenue for no cost, which obviously comes from the telcos.

He goes on to say "or whether they continue to charge those calls at the local rate." Quite clearly one's "local rate" is the cost of a local call, which varies from tariff to tariff as a result of the free market in call origination. It is 0 pence per minute for those on inclusive packages. National calls are charged at "local rate" for the vast majority of telephone users.

Hastings Borough Council chooses to define "local rate" at an archaic rate, not inline with that of "local" calls. It's like it doesn't recognise or respect the free market. How ironic is it therefore that it has changed telephone provider in order to save?
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Reply #5 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 10:16pm
 
Quote:
Question 069

Q: I am concerned that when I moved to France at the end of June and left my house in St Leonards I was told by the revenue services that they owed me £233.84 as my account was in credit. I was assured that the money would be sent to me by cheque either to my address in France or at my old address (the post office is forwarding all mail). I am concerned that 2 months later I have not received any such cheque and that I am unable to telephone the revenue services because all numbers are 0845 ones which mean that they are invalid in France. Am I being penalised because I have dared to move out of Hastings? A town that I brought all of my children up in? I am sure that this is not the case but surely one should have a choice to telephone using an ordinary STD number.

A:  'I have now checked with colleagues, and, unfortunately, we had no record of you having left the property.
'I understand that you have now spoken to one of our officers, and a cheque refund is being arranged.
'We have checked with our 'phone service provider, and 0845 numbers do work from many places abroad, albeit with the 00 44 prefix. However, if you do experience problems, you can certainly contact our main switchboard on 00 44 1424 781066, and they will transfer you to the extension you require.'

Posted: 06/09/06

Quote:
Question 109

Q:  Why is your Council flouting the guidance from OFCOM, "Ofcom continues to recommend that public bodies should not use NTS numbers exclusively (ie: without giving equal prominence to a geographic alternative) especially when dealing with people on low incomes or other vulnerable groups."? See http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2006/04/nr_20060419

There is a large number of people on low incomes in Hastings. Many Council departments and even the Council's switchboard only show 0845 numbers on your website and in documents. Recently I tried to call the Council Tax office. The only number I could find on the Council Tax Demand or on your website was an 0845 number. An 01424 number in the Council Tax booklet connected to an announcment telling me to call the 0845 number. When I called the 0845 number I was told I was going to have to queue for 9 minutes. Some mobile phone operators charge 40p/min for calling 0845 numbers. If I had been using such a service I should have had to pay £3-60 before I even spoke to someone.

Please will you ensure that all Council departments and the switchboard show 01424 numbers where any staff can be reached on your website and in all Council documents.


A:  The Council is currently in the middle of a major programme of switching its telephone service provider.

It would have been extremely difficult, and expensive, to transfer the whole system in one 'big bang,' so the change is being phased in over a period of time. The decision to use '0845' numbers was made simply to facilitate this change without impacting upon members of the public, as it is possible to 'switch' the 'proper' number behind the 0845 number seamlessly.

Once the switch to the new provider is completed, we will review our use of 0845 numbers.

We have investigated the cost of calls from various networks, and the charging structure of the various telephone providers is complex, and constantly changing. However, in most cases the cost of calls to an 0845 number is very similar to that to a local exchange and; indeed, in some cases, the 0845 number is actually cheaper than the local number, whilst in others it is more expensive.

You also raise an important point about the lengthy of time it takes to answer the 'phone, and I do accept that at times, people do wait longer than we would like.

It is difficult to get the right balance of resources, but it is something we are aware of, and we are looking at all of our call handling procedures to see how they can be improved.

Posted: 27/11/06
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Reply #6 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 10:38pm
 
Quote:
Question 198

Q:  It is noted that many of the Hastings Council Departments are no longer available by normal phone calls.  Instead, many are now prefixed with "0845".  The emerging system of phone charging for poorer families, is to buy a package of line-rental which includes calls at no extra charge.  THE EXCEPTION TO THIS IS 0845 NUMBERS.
Clearly the consequence is that many citizens find it too expensive to make a call to the Council at this is particularly irksome as it hits the poorest element of society.
I do understand the desire to capitalise on the income from these "premium" rate numbers but wonder why the council has felt unable to publish ordinary, cheaper phone numbers also.


A:  I answered a very similar question on 12th June last year, and explained then that the Council decided to use 0845 numbers for contact from the public because we are in process of switching from one telephone system to another - a move that gave us a substantial savings in our telephone expenses.  The 0845 numbers allow us to avoid using our internal numbers and so change them when necessary without causing confusion to members of the public.  It also allows us to move numbers from one office to another without impacting upon the public in the event of emergency, as happened last year when our Century House office and then the Town Hall suffered from flooding.
I would emphasise that 0845 numbers are not premium rate numbers as such but, rather, calls are charged at the local rate wherever the number is dialled from.  The local rate is 3p per minute peak, 1p per minute off-peak and weekends.  The Council gets a rebate from that of 0.6p peak and 0.1p off-peak and weekends.  The local rate is not exorbitant; the income generated, about £200 per month, is used to further reduce telephone expenses.
The telephony providers decide whether they include 0845 in any packages they offer or whether they continue to charge those calls at the local rate.

Posted: 05/03/07

It's a pity that Hastings Borough Council doesn't give a fraction of the consideration it gives to its own budget to those of its taxpayers who need to phone up.

Why does it choose not to publicise the alternative numbers? Is it because it receives revenue and doesn't want to loose this? Or is it because it is constantly changing its telephone numbers as the responses from the leader suggests? Why keep changing numbers? As Hastings Borough Council is based in, erm, Hastings, then choose where the council moves to, it will be within the 01424 area code.

As I say, there's no excuse for not providing the alternative numbers with a note to say they may change and that the 0845 numbers will always put calls through.
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Reply #7 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 10:54pm
 
Quote:
Question 361

Q:  Several months ago Hastings Borough Council abandoned publicising its geographic telephone numbers starting 01424 in favour of non geographic numbers starting with 0845 on the pretext of convenience to the public when HBC's new telephone system was commissioned.
It would have been clear at the time to Council bosses that the new numbers are not included in inclusive minutes or discount packages that many members of the public now enjoy when calling geographic telephone numbers and residents of Hastings who wish to contact the Council are therefore having to pay more than is necessary.  It might only "cost from a BT line max 5p" but it could be free.
Numbers prefixed by 03 have recently been released by Office of Communications Ofcom and they describe the recently released numbers saying
"Since 03 allocation started in March 2007 Ofcom has allocated over 13 million 03 numbers to more than 80 communications providers who have requested them for their customers.
03 numbers were introduced by Ofcom as an alternative number for organisations, including public sector bodies, who wish to offer their consumers a single, trusted point of contact.
Calls to 03 numbers will cost the same or less than calls to 01 and 02 prefixed numbers and will be included as part of any inclusive minutes or discount package.
These rules will apply to calls from any type of line including mobile, BT, other fixed line or payphone.  Blocks of numbers are allocated to communications providers who in turn allocate numbers to their customers.  For 03, those customers may be service providers from the public sector, charities and voluntary organisations, or commercial bodies."
Because of the cost savings offered to mobile telephone users as well as fixed lines it is now time that Hastings Borough Council considers the introduction of an 03 number or to advertise their geographic number, and that will remove the current cost to some residents when calling their Council using the 0845 prefix.
Will HBC start to advertise a geographic alternative or adopt an 03 prefix code?


A:  We have no current plans to change our telephony arrangements.  I would emphasise once again that the 0845 numbers we use are not to be confused with 0870 numbers, which are charged at a national rate, or the even more expensive 09 premium rate lines.  We advertise our main switchboard number, an 01424 number, on letterheads, etc, and where appropriate elsewhere.
As I mentioned in my earlier response, we use 0845 numbers as they allow us to route calls to different extensions in the Council's telephone network without having to change publicly advertised numbers.
We have investigated the use of 03 numbers and they would carry a significant cost to Hastings Borough Council.  We estimate that changing to 03 numbers would cost around £17,000 per annum, money that we simply have not budgeted for.  We would rather spend the limited budget we have on providing front line services which are important to the people of Hastings.

Posted: 26/11/07

Mr Pragnell's response to a question a year ago, nearly to the day, was that the 0845 number would be reviewed once the change of telephone provider had been carried out. Changing to 03 is not going to happen due to the cost of 03 numbers. So why not use 01424 numbers? Does this new telephone provider not allow for them to be routed to the council's various offices in Hastings at a far cheaper cost than the supposed £17k for 03 numbers?
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Reply #8 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 11:23pm
 
Quote:
Question 407

Q:  In your written answer to a 'Ask the Leader Question No 361' regarding the use of 0845 numbers by Hastings Council, it was stated that the cost to HBC of using one of the new 03 prefix codes would be £17,000.00 per annum.  Can you state whether there is any annual cost to the Council for using an 0845 code where there is a cost to those that use it to call the Council that for many will be more than calling a code commencing 01 02 0r 03?

A:  There is no charge for Hastings Borough Council to use 0845 numbers.
The majority of our customers are better off with 0845 numbers.
Standard call packages and a large number of inclusive call packages (BT Option 1, BT Option 2, TalkTalk Talk1, TalkTalk Talk 2, and Tiscali Option 1) do not include inclusive call minutes to local geographic numbers during office hours and so in these cases calls to our 0845 numbers are no more expensive than geographical equivalents.  Indeed, for BT Together customers, the cost of calling an 0845 number is currently cheaper than a geographical equivalent (at 2p per minute as opposed to 3.25p per minute).
For customers subscribing to BT Option 3, TalkTalk Talk 3 and Tiscali Option 2, 0845 numbers are exempted from the fully inclusive calls package and so incur a charge (as opposed to 01xxx numbers which are included).  However, in these cases it is important to remember that this charge is still broadly comparable to a local rate call.  It should also be noted that it is the telephony providers that choose to exempt 0845 numbers from those packages, and that customers pay BT an additional charge for the service.

In summary:
For calls from a standard BT landline with no 'call package,' calls to 0845 numbers (in office hours) are charged at 3.95p per minute, which is identical to the charge for calling an 01424 number.
For customers on BT Option 1 or BT Option 2 calls to 0845 numbers (in office hours) cost 2p per minute, which is cheaper than the cost of calling an 01424 number which is charged at 3.25p per minute.
For customers on BT Option 3 calls to 0845 numbers (in office hours) cost 2p per minute.  For these customers calls to an 01424 number would be free.
I would also make the point that a number of residents work outside the town, and if they call from, say, London they would pay a far lower rate to our 0845 number than the 01424 equivalent.

Posted: 18/01/08

If the "majority" of callers are better off with 0845 numbers, then perhaps the free market in call origination has not reached Hastings yet and everyone has a landline. Mobile phones are obviously not very prevalent either.

Again, more nonsense that those on inclusive packages who pay nothing (0 pence per minute) for a local geographical call have a different "local rate" for 0845 calls.

It is, according to Mr Pragnell, the telcos' fault that they choose not to make 0845 calls inclusive, thereby leaving themselves open to "artificial inflation of traffic" whereby one may aquire a 0845 number and call it at no extra cost to generate revenue. This obviously comes from the telcos which operate to generate profit rather than charities and they do not have the ability to print their own bank notes.

There is the further possibility that it actually costs the originating telcos more in "wholesale" call charges which allows the revenue in the first place. Are free lunches common in Hastings?

Quote:
Question 470

Q:  Please can you explain why the Council is unable to give geographic telephone numbers.  The majority of council numbers are now given as 0845 - ‘local rate’ numbers.  However many people now have telephone providers who give free calls when dialling geographic numbers but make a charge for calls to 0845 numbers.  Does the Council get a percentage of the 0845 call charge?  If local 01424 numbers were given as an alternative we would at least have a choice.

A:  I have given a detailed explanation on our use of ‘0845’ numbers in my answers to questions 407 and 361.

Posted: 02/04/08


Judging by the number of questions to the leader and letters to the editor of the Hastings Observer, it is quite clear that the citizens of Hastings object to the use of these numbers. Yet the council leader maintains that they are somehow charged at "local rate" and that its new telephony supplier cannot offer a solution on 01424 numbers which can be switched around between offices at the drop of a hat.
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local ca
Reply #9 - Apr 30th, 2008 at 6:16pm
 
I suppose I need to find the energy to the CEO and Cabinet of this benighted council drawing their attention to the excellent example set by Mole Valley District Council as well as the COI Govt Contact Centre Guide and Sir David Varney's recent report.

In fact I suppose an email to all their councillors is the appropriate course of action as not all of them will be cheerleading numpties who simply maintain everything the council does is great.
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - Ask the leader
Reply #10 - Apr 30th, 2008 at 6:58pm
 
BT lowering the cost of 0845 and increasing the cost of geographical calls didnt help us at all.

Dave wrote on Apr 29th, 2008 at 11:23pm:
It is, according to Mr Pragnell, the telcos' fault that they choose not to make 0845 calls inclusive...
Obviously Mr Pragnell has no idea how NTS calls work.  He probably just thinks it's another number that allows them to receive revenue and change the geographical destination number the 0845 (effectively) transfers to.
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - Ask the leader
Reply #11 - Apr 30th, 2008 at 7:26pm
 
bbb_uk wrote on Apr 30th, 2008 at 6:58pm:
BT lowering the cost of 0845 and increasing the cost of geographical calls didnt help us at all.


And clearly that was not an accidental change by BT. Wink Shocked Angry

Time for us all to write to BT Group's new CEO, Mr Ian Livingston, congratulating him on his elevation to the top BT post (from former CEO of BT Retail) but asking for an explanation of why BT is now trying to make 0845 charges look cheaper than 01/02/03 numbers in view of the opinions he previously expressed in The Scotsman newspaper that different charges to these number and exclusion from geographic call packages was bad for the reputation of the telecoms industry.

But it seems other parts of BT are still working desperately to keep 0845 going by making it look cheaper on BT's basic calls package in the daytime and evening, whilst still bizarrely excluding it from BT's more expensive inclusive calling plans (for calls up to 60 minutes) to 01, 02 and 03 numbers.

Email address for Mr Livingston:- ian.livingston@bt.com
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local ca
Reply #12 - Aug 10th, 2008 at 8:34pm
 
Another letter to the editor of the Hastings Observer:

Letters to the editor - 30 May 2008
<<
Phone rip-off
COULD someone explain why I can 'phone my son in California or my daughter in Spain or my sister in Scotland at nil cost but to report non-emptying of my bin to the Town Hall, less than a mile away, I have to pay for the call on their 0845 number? - I don't know how much because they don't say. I'm 82-years-old so perhaps I'm missing something.
MARGARET CASTRO
Hillyglen Close
>>
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local ca
Reply #13 - Aug 10th, 2008 at 8:41pm
 
Source: Sussex Express

http://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/479/Callers-to-Hastings-council-put.4265865.jp

Callers to Hastings council put on hold for over an hour

Published Date: 08 July 2008
By Julia Taylor

<<
Hastings Borough Council has left some residents hanging on the phone for more than an hour before their call is answered, it was revealed this week.

At a meeting of the council cabinet on Monday, councillors discussed the length of time people were put on hold and agreed that things needed to be improved, following a review of services.

The cabinet also agreed that the council stop using 0845 numbers.

According to call-handling statistics for October to December 2007 the maximum call wait for someone ringing the council tax number was one hour 11 minutes, with 157 of the 1,825 callers waiting more than 25 minutes, while the maximum wait on the benefits line at the council was 59 minutes, with 179 of the 1,189 callers waiting more than 25 minutes.

Callers to the twin bin hotline waited a maximum of 44 minutes, and to environmental waste 38 minutes.

Labour Cllr Jay Kramer told the meeting: "It is unacceptable that in some areas of the council members of the public have a wait of 25 minutes.

"We welcome this review."

Chair of the cabinet, conservative Cllr Peter Pragnell said: "I know there are very heavily worked departments, but having to wait more than half an hour is not good."

Author of the review, council officer and head of marketing Kevin Boorman said: "Customer service is key to the council. The amount of time taken to answer calls has improved over the last few months."

The cabinet voted unanimously to back recommendations that management responds to the review, and that its 0845 numbers be phased out and replaced with 01424 numbers in 2009.
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Re: Hastings Borough Council - 0845 is a "local ca
Reply #14 - Aug 10th, 2008 at 8:46pm
 
Source: Sussex Express

http://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/479/Hastings-Tories-blasted-over-sudden.4320262.j...

Hastings Tories blasted over sudden change in council phone number

Published Date: 24 July 2008
By Richard Gladstone

<<
A row has broken out between councillors over the sudden change in the main council phone number.

Opposition members at Wednesday's meeting blasted ruling Tories for displaying 'staggering incompetence' by not informing residents of the change.

They also said people were being left stuck in queues on the phone.

Cllr Godfrey Daniel said: "It's staggering incompetence and disgraceful that the council should change its main telephone number without informing the public.

"What's worse, if you ring the old number you are not automatically transferred to the new number and have to redial.

"This is wasting people's money. Surely they deserve better?"

Cllr Jeremy Birch said residents were waiting up to 25 minutes to get through to someone at the council.

He said the areas where people were waiting a long time were the benefits department and refuse and recycling.

Cllr Birch said £77,000 was saved in administration costs in the environment department but no new staff had been recruited to fill vacant posts.

He said: "Had these posts been filled people would have been there to answer the phones."

Cllr Richard Stevens said: "I tried to ring in the other day to give my apologies about not being able to attend a meeting but it was impossible to be put through to the right people.

"If you are going to change the main council number you have got to reallly put this in banner headlines."

But Cllr Keith Bing dismissed Cllr Birch's claims that people were waiting up to 25 minutes on the phone as 'a load of baloney'.

"I find this criticism an absurdity," he said.

The matter of staffing at the contact centre has been referred back to the cabinet for re-examination.

A council spokesman said: "The change of one telephone provider to a number involves a change of number, and that is exactly why the council introduced 0845 numbers for public use some years ago, because they have been kept the same throughout the process.

"Using 0845 numbers allows the 'real' telephone number to be changed behind the scenes without changing the publicly advertised number.

"Council numbers used to start with 78, most now start with 45, and the main switchboard changed from 781066 to 451066 last week.

"However, the publicly advertised number, 0845 274 1066, has remained unchanged, so anyone using this number will have had no problem getting through.

"The main switchboard was the last busy number to be changed, and no further number changes are planned, so we will now be phasing out the use of 0845 numbers over the coming months."
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