Croydon blocks reports logged via popular smartphone app

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

Got something to report: Fix My Street is free and easy to use. Croydon Council ignores it

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.

Keeping up App-earances: the council’s preferred smartphone tool

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.

Inside Croydon exposed that the app development work was handed to a mate of a senior council executive.

The Crap App was eventually put out of its misery in 2018.

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.

‘No reports found’: according to the publicly-available data on the Love Clean Streets website, there was not a single report logged with Croydon using their app through the whole of August

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.”

Not listening: part-time Mayor Jason Perry

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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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Business, Croydon Council, Environment, Fly tipping, Mayor Jason Perry, Refuse collection, Simon Fox, Veolia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Croydon blocks reports logged via popular smartphone app

  1. Ria Patel says:

    This is ridiculous. During my Councillor induction I was encouraged to use Fix My Streets – I have been wondering why all my flytipping reports have been closed with no action taken!

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Ria – first off congratulations on your well earned win with Esther for the Greens.
      I gave up wondering what why and how some years ago and decided to investigate instead. What I found was shocking but a flavor of the fiasco could be summed up in 10 points like this.
      Croydon Council does not function because.
      1. Successive CEOs made cuts and redundancies not fully aware of the tasks and process involvement those people actually had.
      2. This led to a disjoint in provision of services as the people who may have been involved in processes were no longer there.
      3.No one filled these gaps and Executives not knowing failed to rejoin the processes. (Example no person to take notes so no Council meetings)
      4. The employee’s that are left have poorly cobbled together systems that again do not function effectively anymore.
      4a) what is being done is purely down to department managers and overworked staff using all their experience to try to make it work all the time with the fear of Compulsory Redundancy hanging over their heads.
      5. The Executive are fully aware of the situation but are unable to get a grip on it as the fiasco is so monumental and they are skilled enough to deal with it so therefore ignore what they are incapable off doing to focus on what they are capable of doing or have been suitably advised by Mr McArdle and Co to do.
      6. The Mayor has now got some real serious complex and thankless work to do that requires an experienced leader in Public Administration and Management. (You can determine if he meets that criteria.)
      7. The IT system itself is not fit for the purpose it is being used for as there is no one about to receive and act on the outputs – it also has quite a lot of snags and does not do what it says on the tin. (There is a good team trying to fix this but it is a small team dealing with an avalanche of snags and it is not in the Executives interests to have reporting fixed as yet)
      8. No resident is being listened to unless they have influence or a lawyer on speed dial. To listen and respond to reports or complaints would tie up very Council worker, manager, and executive for 50 hours a week into the next decade with the majority of complaints being found to be valid and engendered by Council failures.
      9 Although there are good sections and bad in general staff moral and motivation as a whole no longer exists as it should. Many feel they are blamed for others failures and inadequacies. Allegedly, bullying discrimination and abuse of position is rife in a number of departments but that it a HR and legal matter.
      10. Finally there is no money and Mr Isles attempts to squeeze some in the manner he is appearing to do, is alienating many of the population from supporting the local economies or even caring anymore for the Community.

      It is not all doom and gloom – This Borough is a cosmopolitan and reasonable integrated community among long time residents. It can have a bright future especially with the talented young people coming through the Borough. It has lots of issues but it has lots of residents who want to support their community and work for it. They require a Council and Councillors, NHS, and Emergency Services that can actively support them and they trust. When that is in place this borough will grow into a real Beacon of the South.

  2. Lewis White says:

    I have reported many fly tips –and even more general litter and rubbish on highway verges– to the Council via Fix my street.

    I have no real clue as to whether most of them were cleared, because there is no record system to show the progress –such a map showing the report locations and date of report , and Council “Report Log number” –and whether the report has been actioned, and completed. And no report back to the member of the public who spent their time in reporting it.

    In my view, all reports should be logged and given a unque number which the person reporting the incident should be given by email.

    The report should then be mapped, and the status shown in red type on the map until dealt with–then the report should be changed to Green , the date of clearance noted on the map, and–really important– it should remain on the map for 6 months as a public record.

    Oh- and the person who reported it should be informed.

    Does the Council’s system allow for all of the above?. I don’t think so.

  3. Ian Kierens says:

    I will stand up for the Veolia team in my area. There are bags marked as fly tipped we are aware and they are collected by that team, But they also are proactive themselves and also take obvious stuff that is fly tipped also. However they are inundated with rubbish as fly tipping especially in roads that have HMOs and multiple landlords with multiple residents in one house. A tenant leaves and all the clearance ends up on the street or dumped at the end of adjoining ones.
    Even when these people are videoed and it is reported to Croydon Council they take no action. Be careful about pursuing those reports as If and when they do come out you may find that the reporters detail is passed to the perpetrators.

  4. Fix my Street?

    Nah!

    Fiddle my Stats with Love Clean Streets.

  5. Don White says:

    When I reported repeated failures to collect I received the following from Croydon Council:-
    “Your comments about collections [sic] of household waste have been noted and we would urge you to report any missed collections to the council [*] so these can we followed up with Veolia, our waste collection contractors. To report, please visit https//www.croydon .gov..uk/rubbish-and-recycling/bins/rubbish-bins/report-rubbish-collection-problem. Alternatively, if you do not have access to the internet, you can report by calling the contact center on 0208 726 6200.”
    *which was what I thought I was already doing

    All rather confusing, really
    Don’t mention the App!

  6. Ed says:

    They did get at least one report via Love Clean Streets from me – after rejecting it on FixMyStreet, so Love Clean Streets are wrong to say they didn’t have any. It may just be that the council closes them immediately so they don’t show up.

    I’m a Bromley resident but near Croydon and I have to say that Bromley are great about handling reports via FixMyStreet – you get regular updates and the issues get resolved quickly. Croydon are useless, I’ve reported a number of flytips in the past and it can take weeks or months for a response – which is perhaps partly why it’s such an issue in Croydon.

    I’ve reported to a lot of different councils via FixMyStreet on my travels and Bromley are the best at handling things, Lewisham are ok, Croydon are useless.

  7. Lewis White says:

    A sad commentary on Croydon’s responsiveness in comparision with Bromley or Lewisham . Regular updates and issues getting resolved quickly? Sounds just what we need here over the border in Croydon.

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