Council resists BTs plan to remove 29 payphones across Central Bedfordshire

A renewed request by BT to remove 29 payphones from villages and towns in Central Bedfordshire is being firmly resisted by the council as well as residents.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 3:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th December 2020, 3:28 pm
Central Beds Council is resisting BT's request to remove payphones

There were 95 responses received which revealed support for a decision to object to the loss of all 29 phone boxes.

Central Bedfordshire Council warned it expects further inquiries from BT on the need for the payphones in future years.

The company informed the local authority about a proposal to scrap 30 phone boxes in October 2019, according to a report to CBC's executive.

The council followed Ofcom’s guidelines on payphone removal by organising a two-stage consultation exercise, said the report.

"Executive agreed at its meeting in February 2020 to object to 28 of them being removed.

"It approved the removal of one at Henlow and supported one in Sandy, which was in the process of adoption by the town.

"The latest proposals involve the same 28 payphones as before and an extra one located on Vimy Road in Leighton Buzzard," added the report.

"Given the short timescale since the last CBC executive decision, BT approved that we could consult once before making a final decision."

Four payphones reported to BT as not working have been repaired now, an executive meeting heard on Tuesday. (Dec 8th)

Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno told the committee: "This is the third time BT has proposed removal of these phones.

"After our latest consultation, we arrive at this draft decision," he said.

"We need to publish this outcome by December 11. It hasn't been to overview and scrutiny as ward members were contacted directly.

"But there was no added influence from that over the town and parish council responses.

"BT needs to reflect and ensure it doesn't discriminate against individuals, vulnerable people, the elderly or the disadvantaged by removing these particular phones.

"This has resulted in a substantial amount of work for our officers," added councillor Dalgarno, who's the executive member for community services.

"We expect BT to bring further requests forward and we'll continue to work with the company.

"In future, we propose to change the process slightly by delegating any such decisions to the director of place and communities and the portfolio holder."

The executive unanimously approved objecting to 28 payphones being removed and for one to be exempted for adoption by Aspley Guise Parish Council.

Independent Aspley and Woburn councillor John Baker said: "It's not often I find myself agreeing with the parish council because of its continual budget woes and permanent demand for more cash from the taxpayer.

"But I think it's a good proposal to adopt a payphone to provide a defibrillator.

"It'll be a useful contribution to the village and so I find myself supporting this request."

CBC must notify BT and the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport of its decision.