Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire councils drop premium rate telephone payment lines

Hand holding mobile phone Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A call to pay a council bill could cost several pounds from a mobile phone, campaigners said

Five Hampshire councils have vowed to stop using premium rate phone lines, five years after the government advised they were inappropriate.

The authorities in Eastleigh, East Hampshire, Fareham, Havant and Test Valley had 0845 numbers for payments.

The Fair Telecoms campaign group said a call to pay a bill could cost several pounds.

The councils said they were grateful the BBC had raised the issue with them.

'Ridiculous'

The Cabinet Office said in December 2013: "It is inappropriate for callers to pay substantial charges for accessing core public services."

The guidance for public bodies said "vulnerable and low-income groups" could be affected.

The Fair Telecoms campaign said 30 local authorities were still using 0844 or 0845 numbers.

Founder David Hickson said: "It's ridiculous to use premium rate numbers for something that isn't a premium rate service."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Isle of Wight Council said its 0845 number was an "integral part" of a payments system provided by public service contractor Capita

Mr Hickson said access charges were typically 55p a minute from a mobile phone.

"Most of that money isn't even going to the council... it's going to the blasted telephone companies," he said.

Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said the council discontinued its 0845 number when the BBC contacted him on Friday.

In a statement, Eastleigh Borough Council said it was "grateful to be made aware of the issue" and was arranging for its line to be stopped.

East Hampshire and Havant councils said: "We're really concerned about this and thank you for bringing it to our attention. We are urgently looking into this to see if we can change it."

Test Valley Borough Council said it would update its website.

However Isle of Wight Council said its 0845 number was an "integral part" of a payments system provided by public service contractor Capita and would not be reviewed until 2020.

Capita said the decision over which number to use was made by the relevant council, not Capita itself.

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