Sunday, September 11, 2016

“Don’t Call Us, Go To Our Website”
– This is Redbridge

Have you tried calling the Redbridge Council switchboard number lately? Well, after a recorded lecture that everything you need is on the website you then get some music chosen by a tone deaf person followed by frequent interruptions to tell you that “all our operators are busy and will be with you shortly”. This seems to be a new definition of “shortly”.

I should have known better. Back in May I had an email with a Press Release that I didn’t take much notice of, I get a lot of emails and sometimes the important ones fall through the net. It was about the new online registrars services that Redbridge now offer to residents – you can now book online appointments to register births, deaths and marriages and also order your certificates online. Not something we do very often, but hey the next bit was the key …
Digital focus
We are working hard to change the way we deliver services and to become a more digitally focused Council. This means ensuring more services are online for residents to access, improving their experience and saving money. 
As part of our Customer Access Programme we have spent time looking at how and why residents contact the Council. Customers are at the heart of how we redesign services, as we want to make sure they get the best possible experience.
Online registrars appointments and ordering certificates have been made available after residents told us they wanted to be able to do these things online.
We have identified the top 10 services which are contacted most by residents which include Council Tax, Housing Benefits, Rubbish and Recycling, Parking Services and Housing Needs and Advice, and looked at how these could be improved. Over the coming months, we will place more of these services online to ensure residents continue to receive a quicker and more efficient service.
We know that not everyone will have internet access or be comfortable with dealing with us online, so residents who don’t have access to computers can still call or visit the Registrars service. Residents can also access free internet from all our libraries.
Transforming our online offer
Cllr Kam Rai, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources said, “As more and more residents choose the internet to do business with us, we are working hard to transform our online offer to make things much simpler.
“We already have a good online offer with residents being able to pay their Council Tax, report local environmental issues, sign up for e-billing, check what benefits they are entitled to, pay parking fines and rent and apply for a Council house.
“The new Registrars services are the first in a number of fresh new online services that we will be bringing to our website over the coming months. Making it easier to access our services online is not only good for our residents but also saves the Council money.
“Of course, some people may not have access to a computer or will need to see someone in person and they can continue to call or visit the Registrars service”.
Since then we have had the “New and Improved Online Cleansing services offer”: where you can now book a Free Bulky Waste collection on-line plus an upgraded user experience for reporting missed collections and ordering new recycling boxes. Croydon council are way ahead on this but they DO answer the phone and tell you that the only way to book, and pay, is online, which is not good if you happen to be 92 years old and have never used a computer.

Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability, John Howard, is listening:
“I’m delighted to introduce these improvements. We know they are things that residents want and we have listened to your feedback and acted. More and more people want to be able to access services online and these changes are going to help them do just that”
Behind the scenes The Council is also working hard on improvements to make it easier for residents to report fly tipping online. More news on that will follow in the coming weeks.
And the new “Online Blue Badge Services” for the demographic most likely not to have Internet access…. But don’t worry the Cabinet member for Health & Social Care, Mark Santos, is also listening:
"We know that not everyone will have internet access or have someone that can help them to deal with us online, we also know the importance of supporting our most vulnerable residents, so our Blue Badge team have worked with the library teams and frontline staff in our [Appointment only, assuming you can get through on the phone] One Stop Shop, to ensure that those who need assistance with completing online applications receive any help and support they need.”
Here’s Joni Mitchell - "You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone"

Redbridge Sustainability Forum
Area Committees
One stop Shop
Human contact

In the pipeline:
King George A&E
The National Health Service
Oakfield Playing Fields
The Green Belt


  1. However ..... I called the Enforcement Team about a dog that barks all day and all night and I was answered very promptly and found the young lady extremely helpful. But I did have to go online to get the number!

    1. Yes the direct lines are OK, for the moment ...

  2. Thank you Barkingside 21 for highlighting this. I wonder what the 'big guns' in all organisations who promote their on-line service as the only way would think if someone suggested that you could only use a particular service (or apply for it) if you had brown hair, or wore glasses??? The Council is not the only culprit, that grand body of people known as TFL operate the 60+ Oyster card in the same way...
    Yes, they do have a help line number and it is answered fairly promptly but when you ask what happens to people who have NO computer, they then direct you to go to your nearest library and get the people there to help you.
    Having been told by TfL that the ONLY way to get a 60+ Oyster card was to go on-line, I did apply, only for the last section (the payment) to be 'deferred' and could I take the verification documents to the local Post Office!!!
    The chap in the Post Office was extremely helpful but understandably was rather frustrated as they (the Post Office) are being used as the means of last resort.
    On a serious note, democracy costs, we may not like that it costs and consultations may not get a large response (or not the one you want or expect) but that's life and more importantly, that's being fair and trying to establish a level playing field. Vanessa