I have two mobile phones – a Blackberry for which I pay O2 £33 per month and get unlimited calls, texts and 1GB of 4G data – and a Sim-only deal from Three which comes with 600 minutes and truly unlimited 4G data for just £15pm.
These are widely available deals sold to lowly members of the public who lack the buying power of large companies and private sector organisations.
They’re also hugely better value than the contracts Transport for London have for their Chief Officers.
Take TfL Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy. He has a contract which costs tax and fare payers £36.50 per month but – according to the FOI team – comes with no inclusive minutes.
The result is that Sir Peter clocked up £525.61 of outgoing calls in February on a bill totalling £674.53 including VAT.
TfL tells me that although their tariffs don’t include bundled minutes, calls to its own landlines and mobiles aren’t charged.
But given that these arrangements have seen Sir Peter incur hundreds of pounds of calls each month, it looks a rather poor tariff compared to my O2 Blackberry which comes with unlimited calls to all mobiles and landlines.
Perhaps in its never-ending quest to secure taxpayer value – apart from when it lets £10m slip through its fingers – TfL might think about popping down to Carphone Warehouse and seeing what the helpful store staff can do to slash those OTT bills?
FOI explanatory notes: “‘Call charge’ will include any call or text made from the UK, except those to TfL mobiles or landlines, ‘VAT exempt call charge’ is any call or text made or received outside the UK and ‘GPRS call charges’ are data charges. Calls to TfL mobiles or landlines are free and therefore do not appear on invoices.
“There are no inclusive minutes in the TfL tariffs so all calls are either free (if they are to TfL mobiles or landlines) or charged. Our Chief Officers are placed on flexible tariffs based on their monthly schedules or needs, which is why there can be variations from month to month.
“If a Chief Officer will be travelling abroad then it may be better to put them on a tariff with monthly roaming as that will offer better value for money.”
Based on the figures released, it would be “better value for money” to buy TfL bosses a second work phone with some bundled minutes than to pay for the calls they make on the current deal.
Update 3rd March: City Hall tells me they don’t share TfL’s mobile contract and spokespeople for both the Mayor and Assembly indicate that their mobile bills are in the region of £50-60 per quarter, while AMs with iPads have mobile data package plus an app for secure access the GLA server at the reasonable cost of £23.50 per month.
A number of City Hall staff tell me they use the bundled minutes on their personal phones when they need to call people back while not at their desk and just use taxpayer-funded Blackberry for emails.
Commenting on TfL’s very expensive contracts, Green Party London Assembly Member Darren Johnson said:
“TfL has a responsibility to get value for money on its mobile phone contracts, particularly at a time of such severe funding pressures and threatened job losses.
“I wonder if Peter Hendy has been as surprised as I am at how much he is paying and if he is now wondering if there are lots of other small, common sense reviews of TfL contracts which need to be carried out.”