The end of the line for freephone petition

editorial image

CALLS to set up a freephone number for residents to report faults to Northumberland County Council has been rejected.

A total of 49 people signed a petition calling for the local authority to set up an 0800 freephone number to report any issues rather than using the new 0845 number.

Local resident William Dalton presented the petition to members of the council’s executive at their meeting last week.

He said that only 39 per cent of Northumberland residents were able to go online to log their complaints via the council’s website while there was also the cost involved in going online.

Mr Dalton added: “Why not try an 0800 number for a year?

“If it’s costly then report back, then at least Northumberland County Council has given it a chance and there is no comeback from the public.”

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

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

A report to the executive said that a freephone number would cost the council 5p per minute, per call, with the total cost being estimated at £160,000 a year – at a time when the authority is trying to save money.

Coun Neil Bradbury, executive member for customer relations and culture, said most people had mobile phone so the cost of ringing an 0800 number would be more expensive.

He said: “One area the council has looked to is moving to giving residents an option of ringing a local number.

“I wouldn’t be in favour of trialling a number for a year as it takes time for them to bed in. As soon as people start to use it and remember it, it would be the end of the trial.

“We have listened to people, we are under financial constraints as a council.

“What we have come forward with is probably the best compromise we can offer.”