Letting off steam about public services…

Sometimes I just blog to get things off my chest.  You are excused reading this if you don’t want to, this one’s really for my benefit.  If you stick with it there may be a moral at the end.

So, here we go.

Last week I tweeted light-heartedly about how ridiculous it was to need three forms of ID to get Tower Hamlets council to condescend to sell me a  parking permit for outside my house.  Especially as, despite having my council tax bill with me as ID, the computer insisted that my house wasn’t a residential property so wasn’t eligible for resident’s parking (so can I have the tax back?)   Leave it a couple of days, I was told, come back at the end of the week.  We’ll have found your house by then and we’ll sell you what you want.

Went back on Saturday because the form downloaded from TH’s website told me they were open all morning – to find the office locked and a closed until Monday sign swinging in the door.

Went back today.  Computer has found my house.  Sadly none of the three forms of ID I have with me (including the utility bill and the council tax bill they ask for), have my first name as well as surname and address  on them, and the things that do – library card (issued by TH council) bank cards – they won’t accept as valid forms of ID.

So they won’t let me apply to buy a parking permit.

And I swept out in high dudgeon.

And the moral of the story is

  • Life would be easier if we had one form of ID accepted as standard proof everywhere.  Thanks to the mis-handling of ID cards by the last government this is unlikely to happen in my lifetime (which may be considerably shortened by the hike I experience in my blood pressure every time I need a parking permit.)
  •  Customer service matters. Tower Hamlet’s council does a good job on the big stuff.  If asked as I left the office this morning, however, I would unhesitatingly have voted for it to be overthrown in a bloodless coup (can you vote for a coup?) on the grounds of  extreme jobsworthy-ness.   Doesn’t matter how efficient the back office functions of a business are; if the points at which customers come into contact with it don’t work then the business is undermined.  This is great customer service.  Repeatedly telling a frustrated customer that you won’t sell her something because she hasn’t brought her passport with her, is not.

According to their complaints procedure, TH welcomes complaints from residents aged 5 upwards because it helps them improve their service.  But of course I won’t complain.  This is not the kind of thing people complain about. It isn’t a major injustice, it doesn’t affect my children’s schooling or the care of elderly relatives, it’s just another minor irritant to be dealt with so that my sister can park when she visits.

Thank you for listening.  That feels much better.


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