South Yorkshire MP’s campaign victory over phone line ‘rip-off’

John Healey, MP
John Healey, MP
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South Yorkshire MP John Healey has won his 18-month campaign to stop the Government using rip-off rate phone lines.

At a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, Department for Work and Pensions permanent secretary Robert Devereux said they would bring in 0345 numbers where they currently have 0845.

The change will make calls cheaper for most people, costing no more than a local landline rate instead of up to 41p a minute.

Cabinet Office permanent secretary Richard Heaton said they had begun working with departments and would bring forward a new approach within a few weeks.

The U-turn is a victory for Mr Healey who has campaigned against the use of 0845 numbers by Government departments and GPs.

Wentworth and Dearne Labour MP Mr Healey’s report, ‘The Telephone Tax’, published in May, revealed nearly two-thirds of Government services have 0845 phone lines, including Disability Living Allowance, Carers Allowance, JobCentres, Pensions Service and the Student Loans Company.

Phone numbers beginning with 08 make money for the organisation using them.

Mr Healey said: “The Government has promised an end to high-cost lines that rip off the most vulnerable and poorest in our country. Now no-one will pay more than if they were calling a local landline.

“This is a victory for all those who are put off from seeking the help they need and are entitled to because they can’t afford to spend a big chunk of their tight budget making the call.

“The Government’s widespread use of 0845 numbers is a telephone tax on millions of hard-pressed people who have to use the lines to contact public agencies.”