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Ealing and Northfield

Questions: Mobile phones

One of the written questions I asked at the last council related to mobile phones. The question was:

Can the portfolio holder quantify the number of mobile phones available for use by council staff and how much was spent on mobile phones in the last financial year. How much money was reimbursed by staff in respect of use of council phones for personal calls in the last financial year?

And the answer was:

  1. There are currently 546 phones in use by employees.
  2. The total cost for mobile phones in the last financial year 2009 – 2010 was as follows: Mobile Calls £235k, Mobile Rental £80k. Total cost £315k. It should be noted these figures include a number of handsets and associated calls have been supplied and are recharged to non-council staff (for example key suppliers e.g. Interserve).
  3. It is assumed no private calls are made on these phones and staff currently do not reimburse the council in respect of personal calls.
  4. In August 2010, The Executive Director of Corporate Resources commissioned an audit and review of all telephony management and costs.

For mobile telephony this review has implemented:

  • Automatic blocking of access to overseas calls, and overseas roaming
  • Blanket blocking of all access to make premium rate calls and premium cost data usage.

The review is also in the process of implementing:

  • Further control over the deployment of mobile phones.
  • Rigorous recovery of mobile phone handsets from staff leaving the Council.
  • A policy and process to stop the non authorized moving of Blackberry SIM cards to personal devices (which has the consequence of incurring increased call and data charges by going outside the corporate rates).
  • A process to enable the council to recover the cost of any private calls incurred.
  • Detailed itemized billing by service area.

It is good to see council officers moving on this. The number of phones does not sound too big but the £48 per month cost does sound rather high – my own mobile costs £40 a month and I run a business, do my council work and personal life within that budget.

It is disappointing to see that there has been no reimbursement of personal calls. It is no doubt time consuming and expensive even to do this but it sends an important message to employees that the phones are strictly work phones and that the council prioritises value for money.

The following message went up on the council’s intranet (for its staff) on Wednesday after my question came out:

Mobile Phones
There will be a temporary stop on requests for new mobile phones (for business use) from 26 October.

An audit is currently underway to match all issued handsets to current members of staff and ensure that the data held by our mobile supplier is correct and up to date.

If you feel your request for a new phone is business critical, please contact xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, email: . You will need to provide a business case that has been approved by your director.

4 replies on “Questions: Mobile phones”

Just a brief comment, Phil,

At the GLA every Assembly Member, and senior GLA Officers, are given a Blackberry to use. With the huge daily volume of emails these really are essential. However the Blackberry also doubles as a phone and every three months I used to receive an itemised listing of all phone calls made during the previous three month period, asked to highlight those that were personal, and return the list to accounts. I then received a bill for my personal calls.

Peter,

Thanks. A useful example. It sounds like a complex process to administer for 546 people rather than 25 assembly members. The council assumes that no personal calls are made. This needs to reinforced with strict guidance and a punitive and exceptional route for reimbursing the council if and when people misbehave.

George,

Councillors get a taxable allowance which is published on the website. They have to pay all expenses out of this – hence my ability to do everything for £40 a month!

Thanks Phil

Phil

I was very familiar with Mr Hulme’s system and for many people. If you cannot afford a complex system then 15% checks with some sort of sanction is certainly an answer.

Why is there already no adequate system in place as you seem to suggest? Council employees cannot be any more perfect than anyone else – can they? What is the matter with the seniors if they do not have extensive controls over tax payer money disbursements? What other areas are there with no or limited control? And the cost of calls which exceed the monthly allowance definitely needs to be investigated on such a high rental as £48.

Is this just another case where some people think they are immune from public scrutiny?

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