Consultation on BT proposals to close public payphones across Highland

Final Response to BT's 2020 Proposal

Final response by Highland Council to BT's proposed removal of 107 payphones across the Highland region (2020).

Please note this consultation has now closed.

On 29 October 2020, Highland Council agreed a response to BT’s proposal to remove 107 of the 348 public call boxes from across the Highland area. Under Ofcom guidelines, the Local Authority is responsible for co-ordinating a consultation and responding on behalf of the Highland community.

The Council’s response to BT is based upon representations received during two phases of public consultation, the second phase closing on 10 October 2020.

Based upon consultation feedback, the Council has objected to 65 public call boxes being removed and expressed support for a further 3 being ‘adopted’ by the local community.

Highland Council’s response to BT.

The detailed response on each individual public call box can be found in the final Report to Council from 29 October 2020

Councillors emphasised the importance of BT’s Public Call Boxes across Highland, not least in times of emergency. Local call boxes act as a lifeline in remote rural areas with poor, inconsistent, or sometimes no mobile signal, and for communities experiencing greater levels of poverty, where some may not always be able to afford use of a mobile phone.

Extreme disappointment was expressed by Councillors that, not only was such an exercise carried out by BT during a global pandemic but it also comes only 9 months after the conclusion of the previous consultation; 49% of the payphones in the current consultation were previously considered for removal in 2019, at which time clear reasons were given for why they must be retained.  

What happens next

Ofcom states that BT must not bring a proposed removal into effect following written objection to the proposal from the Council.  This is known as the Local Veto. The Leader of Highland Council has written to OfCom, the communications regulator, to seek guidance on the applicable duration of this Local Veto on removal.