Havant and Fareham councils to review costly phone lines - 5 years after government condemned them

A landline phone. Picture: Pixabay (labelled for reuse)
A landline phone. Picture: Pixabay (labelled for reuse)
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TWO authorities could scrap premium-rate phone lines after criticism from residents facing charges for calls to pay their council tax. 

The potential shake-up at Havant and Fareham borough councils comes five years after government called the 0845 lines ‘inappropriate’. 

Service charges for calls to 084 numbers is between zero and seven pence per minute, not including an additional fee determined by the caller’s carrier.

But despite guidance from Ofcom the two councils have long advertised their 0845 phone lines online without conveying their cost. 

Havant Borough Council has vowed to update its website with the correct information and is considering scrapping the lines. 

Gill Kneller, chief executive of East Hampshire District Council and Havant Borough Council, said: ‘We are currently talking to our providers to find out what options are available to us.

‘Not all contracts between councils and private service providers are the same, so we need to have a clear idea of what's possible before we can sort it out.

‘We are also reviewing and updating the information on our websites to ensure the information is up to date and accurate.’ 

Fareham Borough Council is now displaying the cost of its 0845 line for council tax payments but said it will soon be a thing of the past. 

Executive leader of Fareham Borough Council, Councillor Seán Woodward, said: ‘Fareham Borough Council currently has one 0845 phone number used for council tax payments.

‘We realise that this is a more expensive option for our customers, which is why we are moving to an 03 number as soon as possible.

‘The higher fee associated with using an 0845 number is paid to our service provider and not Fareham Borough Council.’

Portsmouth City Council has an 0800 council tax payment line which is free to call from consumer landlines and mobiles. 

Gosport Borough Council’s line is geographic, beginning with 023, meaning callers face typical landline and mobile charges depending on their plan.

To see Ofcom’s full guide of call costs, go online and visit tinyurl.com/y5lq58qu