Met Spends £35k On Calls To The Speaking Clock

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 76 months ago
Met Spends £35k On Calls To The Speaking Clock

Seriously. An FOI request (PDF), published in December but attracting a load of stunned faces yesterday, reveals that in 2009-2010 the Met spent £18,401.65 on calling the speaking clock, and another £16,879.30 in 2010-11. For context, the starting salary of a police constable is around £22k-26k plus up to £6.5k London weighting. The force spent half a constable a year on finding out the time.

This provoked a number of reactions in Londonist Towers. Firstly: the speaking clock's still going? Apparently so. Dialling 123 from a BT landline will cost 31p for a recording of someone saying the time and three pips. Second: has nobody in the police ever heard of a watch?

The FOI, evidently anticipating all the WTF-ing, states

It must be remembered however that a huge number of our officers and staff will not have direct access to the internet as they are not office-based. There are clearly evidential and operational reasons for officers and staff requiring the exact time and contact details.

The 'contact details' reference is because the Met also spent a total of £216,813.80 over the same period on calls to directory enquiries.

On the other hand, at least we now know what happens when a policeman wants to know the time.

Photo by victorianlondon from the Londonist Flickr pool

Last Updated 19 January 2012


I guess that its for when they need to "synchronise their watches", and decide to check the time via an authoritative source first.

If so, then they should really have set up an internal phone number with their own speaking clock for their police officers to use. Call it "Met Time" if you like.


Um what exactly is the problem here? The met has a budget of about 2.5 billion.  spending 18k on getting an accurate time for a pc out in the field is hardly breaking the bank.  There are presumably many instances when an officer would have to record the time very accurately.  A solution would be to provide all officers with radio receiving watches that link to the atomic time signal.  I think this would be a lot more expensive than 18k!


Isn't it a little odd that every police force and borough council in the country has a huge bill for calling 123? Even more odd that thousands of members of the public have also?

I've been researching this after my brother received his March (2012) bill from Talk Talk with more than 500 calls to 123(at 50p a time). These calls were made in the early hours of the morning when my brother and his girlfriend were asleep - and, on one occasion, when they were away for the night and the house was empty. No equipment, other than the phone handset and internet router, is attached to the phone line.
During an hour and a quarter in the early hours of 21st March, the number 123 was called 424 times.

Also on the bill are several international calls - all to banks in Latvia, Sri Lanka and the Solomon Islands (all countries renowned for organised crime and money laundering activities).

Anyone with an ounce of sense would suspect something was wrong. But it took a letter to Talk Talk's CEO before an investigation was launched (which is still ongoing).

If anyone has any calls to 123 on their bill that they know they did not make, please report it to:
OFCOM - 0300 123 3333 or 020 7981 3040. Open Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm. (They will take your details and a report, and give you a case Number)ACTION FRAUD - 0300 123 2040 (they will make a report for the police and give you a Crime Reference Number)
Both of these organisations are interested in trends, and if they get enough reports of the 123 fraud (however big or small) they will launch an official investigation.