On the day that Stoke-on-Trent City Council release their updated budget book, with details of which services are going to be cut as part of the cost cutting measures, it appears that they have come up with a new revenue generation scheme. A scheme that will hit some of the cities poorest residents.
From 10 February Stoke-on-Trent City Council & Kier, their housing maintenance partner are going to start using a dedicated new number for tenants to report housing repairs.
The new 0844 number will be available 24 hours a day according to a leaflet handed to Pits n Pots by a council tenant this afternoon.
I have just had this leaflet pushed through my door, telling me that from next week I need to call a 0844 number if I want to report any repairs.
I get local calls for free on my home phone, but now I will have to pay for the call. Last time I rang I was hanging on the phone for over 20 minutes while I tried to report a problem with my bathroom. If I had to pay for the call how much would that call cost me?
This latest ‘tax’ on council tenants comes under the watchful eye of Vanguard the company brought in by John van de Laarschot to oversee the restructuring & improvements to the way the council work.
0844 numbers are classed as ‘non geographic’ meaning that the cost of calling the number is the same from anywhere in the UK. Pits n Pots can’t think of many reasons why anyone outside of the 01782 area code would need to call the repairs line apart from the odd instance when a family member may be calling on behalf of a council tenant.
According to a number of companies who provide 0844 numbers, people who use an 0844 number for business can enjoy revenues of up to 4p a minute depending on the number of calls.
Using the new 0844 number council tenants who use BT as their phone provider will be forced to pay a flat rate of 5p per minute on. So a call of 10 minutes will cost 50p
Virgin Media customers, on the other hand will be forced to pay a 12.24p connection fee and then 7.13p for each minute they are on the call, making a 10 minute call 84p
Council Tenants who rely on a mobile phone on Pay As You Go contracts can expect to pay upwards of 20p on O2 and 40p on Orange a minute.
Based on figures seen by Pits n Pots Stoke-on-Trent City Council contact centre get an estimated 60,000 calls each year for repairs. With an average call taking around 10 minutes which could generate an income of over £24,000pa for the council, an income funded by some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the city.
I checked with the Director about the number when I saw it printed on the leaflets and was assured that it is not a premium rate number but a local call number.
I was not told about any possible rake off of call charges coming back to the council as revenue, I’ll going to the Civic Centre later this afternoon and will be asking some questions about the number and the charges.
Brain also said, residents are able to use phones in any of our buildings and make calls to the contact centre including the new repairs line for free