Keep Telephone Free for Repairs
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Southwark Council is changing the number for housing repairs from an 0800 number, which is free to call, to an 0300 number, which can cost up to 55p per minute to call from mobiles.
They say that this will save around £65,000 a year. Council officers have also expressed that this will encourage more people to use the Council's website to report repairs.
We think that this change is unfair and will hit Southwark's most vulnerable tenants and residents the hardest.
Tenants and residents already pay for the repairs service through rents and service charges, and should not be charged twice to access such an essential council service.
The change will also create difficulty for tenants and residents who do not have access to the internet, such as the elderly and those with health complications. Having to pay to call up the repairs line will create barriers for people on pay as you go tariff who simply cannot afford the costs of waiting to have their call answered.
The average wait time for the call centre in February was was 2 minutes and 40 seconds. If a caller is charged 55p per minute to make the call, they will be paying around £1.50. The longest wait time was for 48 minutes: here the caller would be charged £26.40. This is a cost that residents simply cannot afford.
The SGTO is also concerned about the Council’s drive to push residents into accessing services online more generally. Whilst most tenants and residents may not have any trouble using these online services, we are concerned that many people, particularly vulnerable people, risk being ‘left behind’ through not being able to access them. It is these people who rely on Council services the most who will be hit the hardest, and the change from the 0800 to the 0300 number illustrates this.
Southwark Council: Keep the freephone number for repairs so that tenants are not prohibited from getting essential repairs done!
The Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations (SGTO) is an independent community organisation that supports and campaigns for the rights of tenants and residents in the London Borough of Southwark. You can find out more about our work at www.sgto.org.uk
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