Scottish Borders Council

Agenda item

Response to Consultation by British Telecom on Proposed Removal of Payphones in the Scottish Borders

Consider report by Chief Executive.  (Copy to follow.)


There had been circulated copies of a report by the Chief Executive seeking agreement to a response to the consultation by British Telecom on public payphone removals in the Scottish Borders.  The report explained that Scottish Borders Council received details from British Telecom (BT) in July 2019 of a consultation on the proposed removal of 95 payphones in the Scottish Borders.  This was part of a wider consultation taking place across Scotland by BT on public payphone removals. According to BT, a key driver behind the consultation was the decline in the overall use of payphones due to increasing mobile phone coverage and the need to reduce costs. Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, had delegated the responsibility for responding to public payphone removal consultations to Local Authorities.  This involved gathering views from local communities and providing a reasoned response either objecting or agreeing to the removal of payphones.              In developing the Council response on the future of the payphones identified by BT for removal, a set of risk criteria had been developed with Scottish Borders Council’s Emergency Planning service. This was because payphones needed to be seen as a key part of the resilience, emergency and community safety infrastructure of local communities. The criteria for supporting the retention of payphones based on this assessment comprised:


·           The quality of mobile network coverage in terms of access to the main mobile phone networks (based on an assessment of the information on the Ofcom web site).

·           Proximity to main arterial routes i.e. A68/A7/A1/A702/A697/A72

·           Closeness to important nationally recognised walking routes i.e. the Southern Uplands Way, St Cuthbert’s Way, John Buchan Way, Borders Abbey Way and the Berwickshire Coastal Path.

·           Usage for police and emergency service calls i.e. 101/999/111 calls based on information provided by Police Scotland and BT. 

·           Closeness to the coast or a fresh water location which was considered high risk.

·           Usage by local communities (8 and more calls over the past year).

·           Whether the payphone was the final one in a village community.


Each payphone had been assessed against this criteria. The Council had also carried out a consultation with local community councils and their responses had been considered.  The resultant recommendations on whether to retain, remove, or for the community to adopt a payphone, were shown in Appendix 2 to the report.  Based on this assessment 11 payphones had been identified for removal, 2 for adoption and 82 for retention.  Some community councils - particularly in villages where the only payphone had been proposed for removal by BT - had expressed an interest to adopt a payphone but this would mean the telephony would need to be removed.  Also other community councils expressed concerns about the poor maintenance and the need for payphones to be cleaned in a more effective way.  There was a need to discuss with BT whether solutions could be found to these problems particularly through closer working with local communities. 





(a)     the response as set out in Appendix 2 to the report to British Telecom’s consultation on the removal of public payphones; and


(b)     to discuss with BT the possibilities of:


(i)      Providing emergency only phones instead of payphones in communities where there was a very low usage; 

(ii)     Communities being able to adopt payphones and keep emergency only telephony; and

(iii)    Working with communities on ways to clean and maintain payphones in a more effective manner.


Supporting documents:



Scottish Borders Council

Council Headquarters Newtown St. Boswells Melrose TD6 0SA

Tel: 0300 100 1800


For more Contact Details