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£14,000 of taxpayers' money spent on clock

Over £14,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent on calls to the speaking clock - one-third of it in the last year alone, according to figures released by public bodies.

Calls to the premium-rate line are "a hideous waste of money" at a time of tight budgets and a proliferation of clocks on phones and computers, according to the Conservative Party, which obtained the figures.

Councils are the biggest spenders, making £12,947 of calls since 2008/09, health boards have amassed £1551, and the Scottish Government spent £30.

Total speaking clock call charges have increased sixfold in the last five years from £852.79 in 2008/09 to £5436 in 2012/13, despite the growing availability of accurate digital sources.

North Ayrshire was the biggest spending council (£2206), while NHS Lanarkshire spent the most among health boards.

The Tories have called for the 31 pence-per-call number to be blocked on public-sector phones, amid suggestions staff may be using it as "a distraction tactic when the boss is around".

Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: "The total amount may be small in comparison to overall public budgets, but it's still a hideous waste of money.

"It beggars belief more councils and health boards have not put a block on this.

"If staff are calling 123 as a distraction tactic when the boss is around, that's even more inexcusable."

He added: "This waste of taxpayers' money is the sort of thing that infuriates the public."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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