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Monday, 7 June 2010

Fees to access public services by telephone - one of the changes to our way of life?

From: David Hickson - Public Services Campaigner

I quote below (copy posted here) a briefing sent to government ministers on the current practice of HMRC and the DWP agencies charging fees for access to services by telephone. They are amongst many other public sector bodies which do this by using revenue sharing 084 telephone numbers.

I have recently confirmed that HMRC collects these fees deliberately, by denying UK callers the opportunity to use alternative geographic numbers which it publishes for the benefit of overseas callers. I have been advised, by HMRC, that these numbers serve no particular distinct purpose; they provide access to exactly the same services. The only reason for preventing UK callers from using them is to protect the mechanism by which HMRC collects the service fee.

I call on the new ministers to pick up on work done for their predecessors to swiftly confirm that this is going on. I invite them to then make a decision to either:

·        Cease the practice, by switching to geographic (01/02) or 03 numbers. The latter may be used if special features are required on the line, as callers cannot be subjected to a surcharge.

OR ...

·        Acknowledge that paying fees to access public services is one of the changes to our way of life that we must accept. This may be regretted, as the burden of cost will naturally fall on those who need to access public services. These are however hard times and the government is very keen to discourage all use of public services.

I hope that the new government will not wish to continue the practice of Stealth Taxation.

My plea to the government is to let us know where you stand, so that we can debate the issues openly.

We do now know what the present situation is, so the debate can start now. The government can join in whenever it is ready.

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