Barnet Council is working on improving its phone systems and aims to stop people getting unexpectedly cut off during calls.

The council wants to simplify the telephone system – one of several services outsourced to Capita – and ensure people only need to contact it once before their issues are dealt with.

Problems with the phones include ‘closed loops’, in which callers press buttons to select different options but are unable to speak to anyone and eventually get cut off.

At a meeting of the financial performance and contracts committee on Monday (October 28), councillors spoke of the problems they had experienced using the phone systems.

Cllr Arjun Mittra (Labour), East Finchley, said: “I have had serious issues trying to use the telephone system this summer on some real emergency cases.

“I used at least five phones on one day to try and get through. It was an absolute nightmare.

“When I tried to raise this with a senior officer, the reply was, ‘we have not had a complaint’

“I asked the officer to telephone through the system. They did so and realised there was a problem. It seemed as if communication from Capita to the council did not seem to be working.”

Deborah Hinde, the council’s director of commercial and IT services, admitted there had been “some problems with telephony” over the summer that had now been fixed.

She added the council had a “very complex telephony architecture” with “multiple potential points pf failure”, and it aimed to “simplify it and mitigate against any future problems”.

But Ms Hinde suggested it would not be worthwhile to allow people to speak to a telephone operator as their first point of contact.

She said: “If we give that as the option, that is the one people are going to pick.

“We don’t want them selecting that, because it is more efficient and better for them if they go through the options and end up with the service they need to be talking to.

“Having said that, what is not acceptable are closed loops – of which we have identified some in the system – where you get to a point where you have no options left and you just get cut off.

“Ultimately, [speaking to an operator] could be the final option, but it is not in the council’s interest to make that the first option.”

Ms Hinde said officers wanted to ensure people were able to contact the council once, their enquiries would be acknowledged, resolved and they would receive an explanation of how the issue had been dealt with.