Greater Manchester Police spent an incredible £16,000 in just under three years on calling the speaking clock and directory enquiry numbers.
It's far from the only force wasting a small fortune on these calls. But what's going on?
SpendingThe figures, revealed in a report in the Daily Mail, showed that the bill was shrinking gradually over the years. Between April 2010 and 2011 it spent £8,000 on directory enquiries, and almost £3,000 on the speaking clock. The following year that figure was down to almost £2,000 for enquiries and £2,500 for the clock, and last year it was £595 for directory enquiries and £442 for the speaking clock.
Chief Officer Lynne Potts told the newspaper that getting hold of phone numbers was part of police investigations, and that before they had such good access to the internet, officers were forced to call 118 numbers. Now this tends to be something they access less in the office and more when they are on the move.
However, you have to ask whether given the number of forces all calling these services, does there come a time when it's easier and cheaper to provide these services themselves?
Why?The force did not comment on why they may have been calling the speaking clock. One explanation may be the need to record exact times when recording crimes. Last year a Devon and Cornwall police spokesman said that "information is provided for evidential purposes and this needs to be precise".
To avoid discussion or argument over times during any subsequent trial, an officer can call the speaking clock and detail the time of the crime and that it was verified with the speaking clock.
This means thousands of pounds are spent by every force every year covering their backs to stop the courts getting someone off on a technicality related to the recording of the time of a crime.
Surely there comes a time when it's worth legislators' outlawing these kids of legal arguments, so that the time of a crime can be recorded without the need for an expensive phone call each and every time.
Not aloneThis isn't the first time that the sums forces have spent on these services has caused an outcry. We reported at the beginning of last year that the Met had made almost 50,000 calls to the speaking clock in the previous year, and spent £95,313 on directory enquiries in 2010/11.
At the time Matthew Sinclair, director of campaign group the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It is incredible that while there is real pressure on their budgets, and the taxpayers who pick up the bill, London police have spent tens of thousands of pounds on directory enquiries and the talking clock."
So do you agree, or should we accept that there's a good reason for these calls? Is arguing over the amount spent on calls as pointless as wondering why a small fortune is being spent on uniforms? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.