The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.
Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 13 March 2007:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question about the estimated cost of each stage of the roll out of the 0800 number for Jobcentre Plus. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
The new 0800 telephone number is only part of a wider package of measures being delivered to improve the process for new and repeat claims to income support, jobseekers allowance and incapacity benefit. The 0800 feature will give the majority of our customers the facility to make a benefit claim in a single call which will be free from landlines.
The new national 0800 number for people making new benefit claims is being rolled out for a one off cost of £1.1m excluding VAT. I cannot provide the cost of running the new service as the telephone charges are the subject of commercial negotiations that we have not yet concluded.