The Labour MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, Mark Lazarowicz, seems to be rather busy at the moment tabling questions to each department about what 0870 and 0845 numbers they have under their control, and whether alternative geographical numbers exists.
I'm not quite sure why he's chosen to include 0845 in questions as that is a non-geographic guaranteed local rate call number so is not particularly controversial. However, the 0870 prefix is important because it costs consumers a national rate charge to call.
What's interesting in the responses are the departments that claim there are no alternative numbers for some of their 0870 services. This is nonsense. Non-geographical phone numbers are always mapped across the PSTN to geographical ones, so if a department states they don't exist they're either lying, or they're simply unaware of what the mappings actually are.
Take for example, a response from the Transport Minister, Gillian Merron. She stated yesterday that the Driving Standards Agency has four 0870 numbers and that there were no alternative geographical numbers available. This is simply not true.
If you want to book a test with the DSA, the call centre number is 0870 010 1372. However, you could just ring 0161 8557421 and get the menu, or you could call 0161 8557410 and be dropped straight into the queue. For all the other stuff you could call 0115 9012500 and then wait for the operator to transfer you.
So, is Gillian Merron lying, or is it just the fact the she doesn't know? Either way her response is misleading. All you have to do is Say No to 0870, I'm surprised the civil servants that draw up responses didn't use it.