One number to ring them all

Somerset County Council is making it easier and cheaper for people to get in touch with the launch of a new 0300 number.

From today, the ten separate 0845 numbers have been replaced with a single number for all telephone enquiries – 0300 123 2224.

This means people will no longer need to decide which 0845 number to ring and on average it will be cheaper to call. The 0300 number is charged at the same rate as numbers starting 01 and 02 and calls to it are automatically included with free mobile and landline call packages.

Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “While our website will answer many Council-related questions nowadays, we still received a quarter of a million calls last year and the contact centre Somerset Direct remains a vital way for members of the public to contact us.

“I’m pleased we have been able to simplify this process by providing one easy to remember number for all enquiries – and I’m delighted this will also make it cheaper for people to call.”

The vast majority of the 250,000 calls received last year covered the Council’s business, ranging from libraries to street lights. Some of the most common calls included:

  • Reporting highways issues like potholes or faulty street lights
  • Requests for birth and marriage certificates
  • Applying for blue badges
  • Renewing library books
  • Enrolling on courses with Somerset Skills and Learning
  • Paying invoices
  • Enquiries about parking

There were also a small number of more unusual requests which the authority was unable to help with, other than pointing the customer in the right direction. These included:

  • What size tin is required for the Mary Berry strawberry tart featured on the BBC’s Great British Bake Off?
  • What are the rules and regulations for hosting a mouse race?
  • How high is Mt Kilimanjaro?
  • I’ve eaten an out of date pork pie – what should I do?
  • Can you translate words from Latin into English?
  • Do you have a list of film times for the cinema?

“Our call handlers are well trained and as helpful as possible,” added Cllr Osman. “But they are there to help with enquiries about the support and services that we have to offer.

“So if you’re looking to report a pothole or to find out about school admissions, then 0300 123 2224 is the only number you need. If you have a more general question, then perhaps try phoning a friend instead.”

How much will it cost?

On average it will be cheaper for people to call using the 0300 number. Exact charges depend on landline and mobile phone packages, but calls to 0300 numbers will be charged at the same rate as calls to any number starting with 01 or 02. In addition, anyone with free minutes as part of their landline or mobile call plans will automatically be able to call the 0300 number for free (so long as they are still within their free minutes allocation), which is not always the case when calling an 0845 number.

How will the calls be answered?

Callers will be asked to choose one of four options: ‘Services for Children’, ‘Adult Social Care’, ‘Roads and Transport’ and ‘All other enquiries’. After that the experience will be the same as today, which may include additional options, for example a safeguarding option if the call is to Children or Adults services.

The Contact Centre has a good record of responding to calls quickly and there will be no change to the service provided – the same number of well-trained, experienced staff will continue under the 0300 number.

All other services including support for Type Talk, email and SMS text are unaffected by the change.