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November 9 2011

Plans announced by Ofcom will require local residents to dial 13 numbers to make a local call in the 01273 code area which includes Lewes and Newhaven. These proposals have been strongly criticised by Lewes MP Norman Baker, who has called them 'confusing and unnecessary'.

Half of all the calls made in the country are local and any changes will affect both customers and businesses in the 01273 code area. Ofcom plans to remove the ability to make calls locally without dialling the 01273 area code as a means of making more numbers available. There are 57,000 telephone numbers currently not in use and they suggest these could run out as early as 2015.

But in a meeting with Ofcom officials, Mr Baker was surprised to learn that there were 90 phone companies who have been allocated numbers in Brighton and the surrounding area. It is clear that most do not use anything like the range they have been given and he says this is responsible for the shortage.

He also cited the fact he is allocated more numbers than he needs in his constituency office in Lewes and would be happy to have them freed up. Many telephone numbers lie dormant in this way, and he argued that if companies had to pay a small fee or bid for individual telephone numbers they would use them more efficiently.

Norman says: 'Every time telephone numbers are changed, we are assured that this will be the last time but it never is. Of course telephone numbers are a finite resource but they should be used efficiently and that is not happening at the moment. This is what Ofcom should be sorting out, not making us dial a 13 digit number to order a pizza from down the road. I have asked Ofcom to think again and have put alternatives to them. I will also be contacting the Minister for Communications Ed Vaizey, regarding this matter.'