EXCLUSIVE: If you go to all the time and trouble to try to help the council clean up the borough of fly-tips, graffiti or dumped cars, the chances are that officials will simply ignore your report. By STEVEN DOWNES
Croydon’s new Mayor, Jason Perry, might like to claim he’s listening, but the council over which he now presides is deliberately ignoring messages from hundreds of concerned residents.
The council is refusing to accept any reports of fly-tipping, graffiti, potholes and all the rest of the issues that blight the borough’s public spaces which members of the public might choose to log using FixMyStreet.
FixMyStreet is among the most-used smartphone apps for reporting issues to local authorities in the country. More than half-a-million reports were logged with councils in the past year. Two dozen local authorities have adopted the free software for their residents to use, as well as large public bodies such as Transport for London, National Highways and the Peabody Trust.
FixMyStreet was developed as opensource software, free-to-use, by MySociety, the not-for-profit group that pioneers the use of online technologies to empower people to take greater civic participation.
“We help people be active citizens with technology, research and data that individuals, journalists, and civil society can use, openly and for free,” a MySociety spokesperson told Inside Croydon.
But Croydon Council prefers to use a “re-skinned” version of the Love Clean Streets app.
This app has been developed by a Sussex-based private company, Blackburn IT Services Ltd.
It is a notable improvement on Croydon’s first efforts, the Crap App, which used as much as £500,000 of tax-payers’ cash without ever going through a proper competitive tendering process.
But the Don’t Mess With Croydon app which has replaced it is notable for continuing with the quirk of its predecessor, by failing to include any reporting category for when rubbish contractors Veolia fail to carry out the fortnightly bins collection.
Missed collections have been missing from Croydon Council’s preferred apps for a decade now – which strongly suggests the omission is entirely deliberate on the part of the council.
FixMyStreets, however, does have a properly functioning reporting category for missed bin collections.
Croydon is one of fewer than 30 local authorities that utilise the paid-for Blackburn technology. And now Croydon Council has become one of just 2per cent of councils around the country who refuse to take reports from FixMyStreet.
Inside Croydon investigations have discovered that, for most of this year, reports submitted by civic-minded residents to the council using FixMyStreet have effectively been ignored, with the submitter receiving a bureaucratic response inviting them to make their report again, but this time using Love Clean Streets.
Often, the council’s emailed response to the FixMyStreets report is sent more than 48 hours after the original report has been submitted. This can mean that any re-submitted complaint will be considered to be “out of time” by the council, who will then ignore it.
There’s never been any official, public announcement from the council that it will refuse to accept reports submitted through channels such as FixMyStreet. Just a drip-drip of officious emailed notes that state that, despite the time and trouble the resident has gone through to perform their civic duty, they are going to be ignored.
“It’s as if there’s someone in an office in Fisher’s Folly, with their fingers in their ears, shouting out, ‘We’re not listening and we don’t care!’ over and over again,” according to one astonished council figure who spoke to Inside Croydon this morning.
Part-time Perry’s Conservative colleague councillors have been alerted to this apparently arbitrary rejection of residents’ attempts to clean-up the borough. But the councillors have done nothing about it.
“As I understand it, the council are no longer taking reports via FixMyStreet,” Town Hall new boy Simon Fox responded to a Waddon resident last month.
“Instead they have advised to use the Love Clean Streets app. When you send a report via this app it generates a report number at the council which is apparently easier for the council to manage.”
According to data available from FixMyStreets, in August there were 116 reports submitted to Croydon Council using their app.
According to Love Clean Streets, there were no reports submitted to Croydon in August using the council’s preferred app. Which is probably just what the council officials prefer.
As a Katharine Street source said today, “There’s an old saying, ‘If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it’. Council executives have clearly taken the view that if they ignore residents’ complaints, then the complaints just don’t exist.
“And it looks very much like the borough’s part-time Mayor is letting them get away with it.”
MySociety told Inside Croydon, “We’re sad to hear that Croydon Council is unofficially discouraging residents to report problems via FixMyStreet.
“FixMyStreet is an independent website, built by the charity mySociety and designed to work in tandem with council offerings. Many residents prefer FixMyStreet because it’s easy to find and they don’t need to know who reports should go to, which can be particularly tricky in London where more than 30 different borough councils and multiple public authorities take responsibility for fixing local problems.
“Reports sent through FixMyStreet go into the same council email inboxes as reports sent through by any other means. Councils can also use FixMyStreet as their own reporting service by adopting FixMyStreet Pro, which is the fully branded, integrated and hosted version, to have reports enter directly into their systems, saving them time and money.”
Meanwhile, Croydon Council opts to use software from a small private company that fails to manage to log the reports on its public-facing web page.
Read more: ‘The Godfather’ who paid mate £787 per day has left council
Read more: Only 1% missed collections – thanks to the Crap App
Read more: Council kills off the crap app – after wasting up to £500,000
Read more: Company behind council’s crap app faces winding up order
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