Southwark Council confirmed it would keep the housing repairs line free of charge.
The decision came following a successful petition from Southwark Group of Tenant Organisations (SGTO) during a Cabinet Meeting which took place on Tuesday 19 September.
Cris Claridge, chair of the SGTO, explained to cabinet that many tenants and residents were signed up to pay as you go tariffs rather than landlines. The SGTO presented convincing evidence that highlighted the considerable impact that introducing a paid line would have on the most vulnerable Southwark residents. The group also highlighted there was disparity in what a resident would be charged to call the repair line depending on what service provider they were with. The tenant organisation also presented concerns that not all residents had access to the internet and that could present a barrier to people accessing vital repair services.
Southwark Council had been proposing to switch the repairs line to an 0300 local rate number to save the £65,000 annual cost of running the freephone line.
Cllr Fiona Colley, cabinet member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance said: “Our decision to keep the free repairs phone line is another example of Southwark Council listening to its residents. We do need to save money, but STGO presented a really eloquent and well reasoned case to keep the freephone service and the council responded. I am pleased that we have been able to address our tenants’ concerns.
“Southwark Council remains committed to improving and modernising our services. Many residents like to contact us online and we will continue to improve our My Southwark web services. However, in an increasingly digital world we recognise that some of our residents are at risk of being left behind. Keeping our freephone number will ensure that all our tenants can continue to access housing repairs, but we also need to continue helping residents gain the digital skills and confidence they need through things like our free Introduction to IT sessions in libraries and the forthcoming SGTO Digital Tea Party.”
Cris Claridge, Chair of Southwark Group of Tenant Organisations said: “I am thrilled that Southwark Council have decided to keep the repairs line free of charge. Had this charge been introduced the very poorest would have been hit the hardest. In some cases, the amounts charged would have been considerably more than what tenants and residents could afford. This was not something that I or the SGTO were expecting but it is hugely welcome.”
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