Public sector shrugs off telephone code costs

3 Jun 99
Changes to Britain's phone system which could end up costing councils hundreds of thousands of pounds were met this week with a collective shrug of the shoulders from the public sector.

04 June 1999

Despite the potential for billions of new numbers being created in cities in England, Northern Ireland and Wales – the second major change in four years – most authorities seemed indifferent to the costs it will entail. None had seriously considered budgeting for it, nor the confusion which is likely to arise.

Cardiff, Coventry, London, Portsmouth, Southampton and the whole of Northern Ireland have been given new 02 codes, announced on June 1. These will run parallel to the existing ones until April 22 next year, when the latter will cease to exist.

Organisations will be forced to pay out to change phone numbers on stationery, transport and booklets. But government departments and councils did not seem unduly concerned. Neither the Treasury nor the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions could say how much the changes could cost them.

A spokesman for Southampton City Council said: 'The Millennium Bug was much more an item than chasing telephone numbers,' adding that any cost to the council would be met from existing budgets.

Along the coast, Portsmouth City Council said it was 'confident' it would cope with the change. But David Pointon, procurement manager, warned that if the changes 'were not taken on board', it could lead to problems.

In Cardiff, a spokeswoman admitted there 'would be a cost' but added that as there were ten more months until the numbers came fully into operation, preparations could be made in the interim.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Information Office said the eventual cost to 'government would be relatively low'.

Although the public sector had difficulty coming up with a figure, the cost to small businesses was put at around £3,000 a firm. The last change in 1995 was estimated to have cost £500m across the UK.


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