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Government to review use of costly phone lines

Expensive phone lines cost public £56m last year


Government use of costly phone numbers like 0845 and 0870 will be reviewed, the Public Accounts Committee has been told.  

The use of expensive phone numbers for services like benefit and tax helplines cost the public £56m last year.

‘Inappropriate’ charges

A senior civil servant in the Cabinet Office told MPs it was ‘inappropriate’ for vulnerable people to be hit with high telephone bills for accessing vital public services.

Cabinet Office permanent secretary Richard Heaton said his officials would work on guidance and principles for Whitehall departments to ensure people were not ‘ripped off’.

Mr Heaton said: ‘I’m not a telephony expert, and I don’t have government policy at my fingertips, but my observation is … that for vulnerable citizens accessing public services, it is inappropriate for them to pay a substantial charge.

‘Whether that equates to, in all circumstances free, and what that means in view of the complexity of the market is a different question, but as a matter of principle taxpayers should not pay a double taxation on telephony.’

DWP introduces 0345

As officials met with MPs the Department for Work and Pensions announced it would offer a choice between 0845 and 0345 numbers to enable callers to choose the line which is cheaper for them.

0345 numbers are cheaper or sometimes free from mobile phones while 0845 numbers are national rate from landlines.

Find out how much phone calls cost with our guide.

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