Council’s £600 bill for speaking clock

COUNCIL staff have rung up a hefty bill for keeping tab of the time.

Employees at North Tyneside Council have racked up a £604.30 bill by ringing the talking clock over a 14-month period – the equivalent of 1,949 minutes or just over 32 hours.

And they also clocked up a bill for £1,010.64 for ringing 118 services from council mobiles between June last year and May 2011.

Figures seen by the News Guardian, show that an estimated £667 was spent by staff ringing directory enquiries from landlines within the council between April 2010 and June this year.

However, it is understood that the council has measures in place to block staff from ringing premium rate and international numbers from council landlines and mobiles.

The figures, released following a Freedom of Information request, come at a time when the council is looking to save money, with measures being put in place to reduce future phone bills.

A North Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We are determined to save money wherever possible.

“That’s why we continually monitor how our telephony services are used, which has already led to a blanket ban on calls to premium and international numbers.

“Our staff are regularly reminded to use an online directory wherever possible, however, if a call to the service is required they can only use a single appointed provider, which we believe offers the lowest cost.

“They are also instructed not to be put automatically through to the selected number, as this increases call costs, but to make a note of it instead.

“In relation to the speaking clock, this is a number that is used by our network engineers when dealing with fault and maintenance issues to check a phone line is working.

“We have recently removed the ability to dial this number from all other staff.”

The talking clock costs 31p a minute to call from a BT landline, and it is a service which is available free online.