Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One White Line

It was December last year when, on my `Street Surgery', a very nice young mother asked me if I could do anything to discourage cars from blocking her drive. I said I would see what I could do and, with a very wide smile, left feeling pretty confident I could help.

It turned out I could. Without even dipping into my £10k Locality Budget, I was assured that this young lady could have a white line painted outside her property no-problemo. All we needed was a dry day and a lining team in the area.

Then the snow came and we had two months or so of rotten weather. She was fine with that and pleased that I had emailed to tell her. Two more months passed..still no line. Now she isn't so pleased. She's still being nice about it but, if I were her, I am not sure I would be.

I contact the Council. Apparently there hasn't been a team in the area on any of the recent dry days. I tell them that it is now April and this is making both me and the Council look crap, in the ways that the public think we are crap: slow, incapable of doing the simplest things etc. I offer again to pay a contractor to do it privately. No need they insist, it will be done. When I ask? Within the next couple of week. Guaranteed? We can't guarantee anything but Craig, we are your side here.

I like the Council man a lot, possibly too much even. I email the young lady and tell her that if it isn't done by the end of April I will personally pay for it to happen. As nice as ever, she says she doesn't believe me but will hold with me.

And that she's been stuck in her house for two days because somebody has left their car in front of her there anything I can do to help?


Rob Fountain said...

I'm starting this comment knowing I'm not sure I agree with what I'm going to say, but shucks, let's put it out there...

Is there perhaps benefit here in promoting the lady's right to make a formal complaint of her own about the lack of the white line?

Whilst your intervention is clearly well intended and there may be good reason why she needs someone to act for her, I wonder if going outside existing complaints procedures muddies the water here.

Not only would the victory in getting the white line painted become hers to win, rather than yours, but by entering into established processes for complaints there would be clear escalation when the job is not done on time.

By championing the issue through the seeming short cut of your relationship with the Council man you've taken on the personal burden for delivery, you've made escalation you offering to dip in your pocket, and should it come to that the line may be there, but nothing in process terms has improved.

I know the speed of response of a complaints process may feel too slow for the lady concerned and certainly for you. But a process that sets timescales on a response and a place to move to for continued dissatisfaction, leading ultimately to an Ombudsman who does have power to enforce action by a Council... well guiding someone through that may be more empowering than promising things that are not directly in your control to deliver.

As I say, I'm not totally convinced by putting forward an argument that promotes more trust in local government, but hey it's out there now!

Craig Dearden-Phillips said...

Hi Rob, You've anticipated what I think has to be the next move if this damn line isn't there by the end of April. The White Line I think perfectly encapsulates all that we are up against in terms of public services reform. Interestingly the local council blames the county council in part for this, as though that is of any concern whatsoever to the resident. Wincesome stuff.

Rob 'Arris said...

I know i am not supposed to say or do this (!) but i would advise "bouncing" the car out of the way and leaving a pleasant note on it requesting that its not parked there again! Unless she doesnt have a dropped kerb in front of her house (ie not an official driveway) i am amazed somebody would leave their car there for anything more than a few minutes. Staggering. Good luck Craig!!