06/11/2012 05:20 GMT

Birmingham City Council's Computerised Phone System Baffled By Brummie Accent

An £11m automated phone system at Birmingham City Council has been flummoxed by...the natives.

The computerised service for the rent arrears department has trouble recognising the local Brummie twang of the numbers five, seven and nine, pronounced "feuive", "severn" and "neune", reports The Sun.

To further enhance the feeling of regional victimisation the automated service features a female voice with a Geordie accent.


The phone system cost £11m and replaced 55 human workers at Birmingham City Council

Callers have been hanging up in frustration as calls that should take five minutes become half hour lessons in elocution.

Councillor Mike Leddy, Labour group chief whip, told SWNS: "I am a proud Brummie and most people can understand me when I am talking to them.

"But I was trying for half-an-hour to deal with an issue for a resident.

"It just didn’t recognise my voice, it kept saying ‘can you please repeat'.

“I gave up and ended up calling the strategic director to sort it out.

The system was introduced last year to replace 55 call centre jobs that were cut.

British regional accents have long been a source of frustration and innovation for technology firms.

Brummie, Scottish and Geordie accents baffled the voice recognition software on Mercedes 1999 S Class cars. As a result, the car maker drafted in heavily accented soldiers to help perfect the system.

Apple's much-vaunted 'Siri' iPhone system has stiff competition from a rival British app called 'Evi', which claims to be better at recognising UK accents. The iPhone version is particularly stumped by Scottish accents.

Until automated systems catch up there are also a range of accent translators.