December 7 2013 Latest news:
Andrew Fitchett, Reporter
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Norfolk police officers have racked up nearly £9,000 in charges from calls to directory inquiries and the speaking clock in the last three years.
The force may want to make watches and telephone directories standard issue after officers had to make more than 9,000 calls to the services on landlines and mobiles.
With the cost of a call to a 118 directory number anywhere up to £3 a minute, they have now been told to cut back on the calls by constabulary bosses.
A Freedom of Information request revealed calls to directory inquiries peaked at 3,193 in 2010.
That included 976 calls from office landlines – despite a raft of websites offering the same information for free online.
In the month of August alone, officers splashed out £487 on the service, which provides callers with phone numbers and addresses.
The speaking clock costs 31p a minute, with officers racking up a bill of £54.33 from January 2010 to March of this year.
Calls to the BT service peaked at 208 in a month in June 2010.
In total, 4,781 calls were made to the time-telling service over the three years.
A spokesman for Norfolk police said the calls were generally made by officers stuck in communication blackspots.
She said: “When away from their office or station, officers and staff may need to refer to such services as the speaking clock or directory inquiries to carry out their work.
“In a large, rural county, calling from a mobile phone may be that member of staff’s only way of accessing the information they need. Norfolk Constabulary discourages the use of both services from office locations, where internet access is available for free directory searches.
“Many police vehicles are now fitted with mobile data terminals which allow officers and staff to access policing and other systems away from stations,” she said.
The most recent figures show a reduction in calls to directory inquiries, with 66 made from January to March.
Despite a drop in the number of calls, the rising cost of the service still meant that more than £190 was spent on mobiles – an average of nearly £4 a call.
Calls to the speaking clock showed no signs of stopping and reached 1,339 in 2012.
A spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Alliance said rate payers would be “aghast” at the spending.
“It’s shocking that the police have been so careless with the phone bill; there are plenty of free ways to check numbers or the time.
“Staff at the force must show proper care when spending taxpayers’ money, and not waste valuable time dawdling on the phone waiting for the third pip from the talking clock,” she said.