Freephone number for council is ‘too costly’

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CALLS to set up a freephone number for residents to report faults look set to be dismissed by council officials.

A petition signed by 49 people was presented to Northumberland County Council calling for the local authority to set up an 0800 freephone number to report any issues.

The council installed a new telephone system at the end of April as the existing system was 15 years old and “not fit for purpose” in some instances.

When the new system is fully operational, residents will have the choice of ringing 0845 600 6400 or a local number to report any issues.

But some campaigners have called for an 0800 number to be established instead of residents having to pay.

However, a report to next Tuesday’s county council executive meeting is recommending the petition be rejected as the cost to the council in setting up an 0800 number would be too high at a time when the local authority is trying to save money.

The report states that the cost to the council of providing a freephone number would be 5p per minute per call.

And as the authority receives 400,000 calls a year, the estimated cost to the council would be £160,000 per year.

The report added: “Northumberland County Council is facing significant financial challenges and is expected to make savings of up to £70m in the next three to four years.

“There is a need, therefore, to be mindful of incurring additional financial pressures and keep all costs within the confines of the existing budget provision.”