Northumberland Labour Group welcome Friday's announcement of the Coalition Governments partial acceptance of Ofcom and Citizens Advice Centre's 2010 report into non-geographic call charges. Under the European Consumer Rights Directive the coalition will consult on the matter and may consider banning the use of 0845 and other premium rate numbers for helplines from June 2013.
Northumberland Labour Group want those plans extended to Council Contact numbers. The Leader of Northumberland Labour Group, Kitty Brewsters Grant Davey said "People in low income households, those now trapped through Government Policy in negative equity mortgages and public sector workers who are in year three of the Coalitions Pay Freeze, have had to think about how to lower their family budgets, many have chosen to ditch monthly line rental charges and rely on mobile networks to harvest their e-mails and phone friends and family".
In 2010 26% of lower income families had become mobile only. With the growth of cheaper supermarket carriers and mistletoe providers such as Giff Gaff, CAB believe that figure is now much higher.
Labour Group are concerned that Northumberland County Council's 0845 premium rate contact number has locked out people who are suffering most through austerity measures and who need the services of Council more than others.
Grant Davey said " Ofcoms 2010 report said £1.9Billion was spent on premium rate calls in the UK with mobile network carriers retaining £900M of it. With mobile network charges averaging 25p per minute for premium rate such as Northumberland County Councils main line and 080 freephone lines such as Jobcentre + attracting premium charges from mobiles, those in the greatest need can't afford to make contact with those who may be able to help them. Areas such as Berwick, Amble, Hadston, the wards of Cramlington Eastfield and West, Hirst ,College and the Newbiggin wards have some of the lowest disposable incomes in Britain, couple that with six of the eight Blyth town wards having massively high deprivation figures, Croft ward has 60% of children in poverty, we need to ensure we don't exacerbate those problems further and return to a geographic contact line as soon as possible."