You will recall that I posted yesterday on my trial and tribulations on trying to make a call to Thurrock Council to enquire about a mysterious local road closure, this is what I said in an email to the Councillor responsible for Highways;
While you may not be directly responsible for the telephone system or it's operators you may like to enquire, on my behalf, as to why Thurrock residents are ignored and treated to such an abomination of a service. Is it an unspoken directive from the ruling party in power that if residents can't get through and make enquiries/ complaint then we (the Council) can't register those enquiries/ complaints? It then stands to reason that they will not form part of any figures for comparison on official statistics on such enquiries/ complaints being made, or is it that I am again being far to cynical? Or is it just a question of:
a) poor performance by operators,
b) not enough operators to deal with the quantity of calls
c) not enough departmental employees to deal with the quantity of calls
d) lack of interest by council employees dealing with members of the public's enquiries/ complaints*
*The last one is based on the fact that when I did get through on the 652 652 number the FIRST time I selected option 3 for Highways. I waited 11 minutes and eventually the call was answered by, it sounded like Tracey, but when I asked the woman to repeat her name (I do like to make a note of the name of the person I am speaking to) the call was cut off!
I called again ignoring all the options and after 7 minutes the call was answered by an operator. I explained that I had previously called, that I had selected option 3 for highways, that eventually the call was answered and that when I asked for confirmation of the name of the person I was speaking to, the call was disconnected! The operator apologised and stated that she would put me through, that she understood all departments were experiencing heavy call volumes (See, b), c) and d) above !) but that she would remain on the line until my call was answered.
You've guessed what's coming now haven't you? Yes, I waited in silence for almost 5 minutes and then I heard the click, signalling that the call had been disconnected. Just what on earth is going on in Grays that makes the Council and it's staff so unhelpful to it's residents?Now this is what happened today when I happened to phone Basildon District Council, who are a few miles along the road:
I wanted to Speak to Environmental Health, guess what;
The call was answered on the first ring, I asked for the dept and the lady operator thanked me for calling, put me through and lo and behold, the call was picked up immediately by a nice helpful young chap, who thanked me for calling after listening to what I had to say, informing me that an EHO would get back to me tomorrow!
It might only be a few miles along the road, but they are galaxies apart in their response to callers – Thurrock could do well to emulate this approach, Oh! And BTW I did make enquiries and found that the operators and other staff were employees of the Council and not some faceless company earning millions?Is it, that Thurrock are Labour controlled and have outsourced, it seems, all of their resources to a Faceless International Company who go by the name of Vertex and who get over £400 million pounds of Thurrock taxpayers money for providing such an appalling service and who are providing (presumably previously direct employees of the Council)such an appalling service to callers to Thurrock Council, while the Conservative controlled Council in Basildon still employs staff directly?
On the question of Vertex, my blog is reproduced by a local web based paper and yesterdays blog was picked up by them and this is what the editor said in response to my comments on Thurrock employees:
EdMay 29, 2012 - 9:55 pmI doubt you spoke to any Thurrock Council employee – probably one of the Vertex employees?I have to confess I was ignorant of this companies existence until I saw this and popped over to their web site, you can visit it here . Now before you visit, if you are from Thurrock and have ever tried to call the Council, I don't want you laughing at them (otherwise you will cry) when you look at the site, because under the heading of: Public & Citizen Services it states, Making it easier for citizens to interact with government.
In 2005 Vertex won a £427 million contract to run the following council services:-
•Business accounting and financial services
•Engineering and transportation
•ICT and e-Government
•Procurement and property services
So the person answering the phone will be a Vertex employee and the repairs to the bridge will be handled via Vertex who will probably sub contract the work out.
Well, there you have it fellow Thurrock residents VERTEX are making it easier for us to interact with our local Government, what do you think, are they?
I should also say that there is a link on the same page to a 'Thurrock Council Case Study' I assumed that I was going to be directed to a page telling me how wonderful Vertex are and what a magnificent job they are doing in 'our' service, for the paltry sum in excess of £400 million pounds that they are getting, but alas we get 'PAGE NOT FOUND' I wonder why that is?