Croydon Council has admitted that it has been running a sub-standard public contact service for years.
The council has announced that it is abandoning the requirement for residents to sign-up for its deeply flawed My Account system, which until this month it insisted that members of the public must use to report any missed bin collections by Veolia.
What the council itself describes as a “simple task” will now be possible in one area of the council’s clunky website.
The council has wasted millions of pounds in its efforts to keep residents at arm’s length and avoid any direct contact with Council Tax-payers by moving their reporting function online, using My Account and the expensive and needlessly commissioned Croydon CrapApp, which has never had a reporting category for missed bin collections (handy for contractors Veolia when it comes to manipulating their performances stats).
This was all done mainly in the drive for “efficiency”, to reduce the number of staff working on the council’s phone lines and save a few bob.
The latest changes, announced last week, were put in train well before the May local elections, although that has not stopped Jason Perry, Croydon’s part-time Mayor, from trying to claim credit for the upgrade.
Perry (catchphrase: “I’m listening”) has meanwhile done nothing to extend the operating hours of his own office – where the phones are answered just four hours of each working day – or to increase the operating hours and call centre operators of the council’s contact centre.
The council announcement said, “Online waste services such as checking bin collection days or reporting a missed collection, as well as other useful information, are now directly available in one place through the Croydon Council website.”
The council describes these as “improvements”.
They mean that “residents will no longer need to log in to My Account to complete these simple tasks”.
The council says that residents can now do the following all on the council website:
- check your bin collection days and download your bin collection calendar
- report missed bin collections
- report damaged or missing bins or request an additional recycling container/bin removal
- request assisted bin collections
Perhaps unusually for Croydon Council’s website, these services are clearly flagged up close to the top of the site’s main page and easy to navigate, with a clickable link taking site users to the area they require.
None of which, of course, attends to the issue of those people – often the least well-off, and many in the borough’s elderly groups – who don’t have easy access to laptops or tablets, smartphones or superfast broadband, and so have no means of accessing these services.
“The council’s contact centre remains available for residents who have difficulty accessing online services or who require further support,” the council says; the contact centre is closed all weekend, and has been operating reduced service hours for several years, even before covid.
My Account will continue to be used, the council says, to request or renew garden waste service – an area of contention from many who have been paying extra but not receiving the promised service – and to order or amend a bulky waste collection.
The council says that these services “will be moved to the main webpages later this summer, at which point residents will be able to request these services through the website and manage any changes through links in their confirmation emails”.
And they say, “As part of its ongoing drive to improve customer service and ensure all residents are treated with respect, the council is also investing in upgrading its telephone systems and reviewing its online support, to make it quicker and easier for residents to get in touch.”
And as for the Tory Mayor: “It’s important that we make core council services accessible for our residents and I’m pleased that we have already seen an increase in residents taking advantage of these online services,” said Perry, who has done nothing to extend the hours of service of the council’s contact centre.
“I’m determined to keep improving our customer services,” he said.
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Yet to see any evidence of customer service at any level. Or the compliance of the Nolan Principles in my case . Council tax department has never ever even had the professional courtesy to reply t any of my emails .Nolan principles are :1. The Seven Principles of Public Life
The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and in the health, education, social and care services. All public office-holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources. The principles also apply to all those in other sectors delivering public services.
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Holders of public office should be truthful.
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
Sadly having had to have an inordinate amount of contacts with the Council I could say this is my experience and be able to substantiate that with a wealth of evidence also.
But that is not the whole story.
There have been many that were helpful and worked as best they can within the environment they are in. They care about not only their work but us as well. It is difficult for them doing a thankless job with the fear of being sacked or made redundant (Without the Negrini payoff and without the Negroni leaving do). The are also working with in some cases 75% less staff and not allowed to answer calls even when they want to.
So Yes – the outcomes are not always compliant with the Nolan Principles (or in fact any ethic at all) but this is not the fault of those in Customer services or many of the departments.
Many times we never really know which is which but as always the Executive Body is where the buck stops.
So the next time we wait for an hour or four waiting for Customer services to answer – think – the person who is going to answer your call has probably has that time filled with other irate frustrated residents on every call. Take a deep breath and be polite – you may be surprised at the response.
Still impossible to access green waste via Veolia though.
I’ve just tried this, and it’s now infinitely faster than before. Well done to whoever was brought in to ‘effect’ this change!
Perry comes across like the radio psychiatrist Frasier with his I’m listening. He is beginning to get laughs (the wrong sort) like the long running show (the right sort), and just like Frasier, claims credit from others activities. That is where the similarity ends unfortunately.
Croydon’s Conservatives put up a Facsimile of an 80s Double glazing salesman and Croydon got the Facsimile with not an original thought puttering about in the noggin.
(Whomever did the task on expelling Pelling has a lot to answer for, flickers across the mind)
I believe there was a team looking at the My Account and report it stuff. it was they that did the hard graft and evidenced the need for change which is how it should be done.
I would also suggest it was (wait for it) one of the Executive team who issued the ok to go ahead. Maybe presented prelim findings to their peers and got approval overall to go ahead. So whomever that Executive was, She/Him/He/Her/They (and so forth) and the teams working on that are the real hero’s of that change.
There probably were a number of options that could have been considered and would have improved the situation – I suspect though that many of those would be impractical at this stage. Perhaps the one we got was the best in the circumstance. At least until their is a decent integrated system that caters to all requirements within reason.
I would ask that the team and executive person responsible get a big pat on the back and if possible second them to tackle a few more of those ”perfectly legal” sordid protocols. If that be Ms Kerswell then take the congratulations as well earned at last.
Mr Perry please accept this Surrey Street Raspberry . (please insert mental image of a raspberry)
Whatever the position with reporting missed collections which is often a fruitless exercise, Veolia are simply abysmal at what they do. Constantly week in week out right now I try to dispose of my rubbish and/or recycling in the communal bins for our flats only to find the existing recycling/rubbish from the previous week full up and not collected meaning I’m having to hold on to my recycling until the bins are actually emptied(!) Either that or simply put all my recycling into my landfill black bag as a frustrated last resort: Landfill is probably where all the recycling I carefully sort into the recycling bins ends up in any case!