Without due care and attention

Readers will no doubt be aware of my recent posts here about the state of the roads locally. Of prime concern has been the flooding at Anchor Bridge in Brownhills, but also the condition of storm drains and potholes generally. To that end, I’ve been pressing Walsall Council for an answers.

So far, I’ve been largely unimpressed with the shambling, noncommittal answers. A few days ago, Walsall Council excelled themselves, and I’m beginning to wonder why I bother…

I notice that in the last few days, this new cavity has opened up on Anchor Bridge. Couldn’t possibly be the result of a collapsing drain, could it?

Last Wednesday, 27th June 2012, I finally received an answer to some of the questions I’d raised with Walsall Council’s press office previously. The email I received was sent by press officer Steve Sharma, who was also the chap fielded to deal with the whole recycling leaflet debacle, on which there will be more later in the week.

I bear Steve no ill will, and although I realise answering the tedious whinges of the local online community isn’t quite the career highlight he probably expected in training, I do at the very least expect the person answering my queries to be familiar with them, or at the very minimum have read the background. I know this stuff isn’t the much vaunted derring-do of the fearless and heroic press officer, but it is the day-to-day stuff that goes to form the overall impression of whether the organisation you’re dealing with actually gives a shit, frankly.

Here’s the email from Steve, in which I’ve interspersed my responses.

ENQUIRY from Bob – Brownhillsbob blog – logged on 18/06/12 13:35 – deadline – 18/06/12 00:00

1. What is the current situation with the Anchor Bridge drain that keeps blocking in Brownhills at Knaves Court? There was a statement to say that this was Severn Trent’s fault and the council would monitor. What’s the current situation as the pools are still there? Why can’t it just be fixed with the bill passed onto Severn Trent?

2. There are potholes around the High St / Chester Rd island from Ogley Rd to the mine to the Brownhills Miner island.

3. Drains have been blocked since a complaint was logged in January along the Ring Road. This is between the Littleton Street junction and Bridgeman Street, in moderately heavy rain they block and puddles form.

4. Only half the sewers in sandhills were unblocked when a vehicle visited last week. Can they be sorted? http://brownhillsbob.tumblr.com/post/21980066476/april-27th-prompted-by-what-i-dont-know-but

RESPONSE

1-This has been established that the problem is in the public sewer and therefore STW. There is no provision to recharge STW.

I asked what the current situation was. We know you’ve passed the buck to Severn Trent Water, and both myself and the residents of Brownhills would have liked a response as to what Walsall Council were doing to enforce rectification of the problem. Since there’s anecdotal evidence of this problem going back long before the bollards at Knaves Court were erected, I’m highly sceptical that Walsall Council blaming them for the drain blockage is accurate. In a previous communication from Glyn Oliver, it was asserted that you were ‘monitoring’ the situation, and I asked for a contact at Severn Trent so myself and readers could chase this up. None of those points have been answered.

Restating what you already said does not help, and rather gives the impression that you think we’re a bit simple.

2 – The inspector will investigate the potholes

Thank you. Some of them – particularly on the Miner Island and at the top of Silver Street have been there so long they’ve developed their own weather systems. You can see a selection in the video below, and we have the new addition of the one above. You’d better send the inspector out with a rope and climbing gear, in case he falls into one.

3 – The location is incorrect. please report correct location.

I beg your pardon? The location of the blocked drains on the Ring Road is ‘incorrect’? Which part of this post from last January is in anyway inspecific? I include the helpful, print-out-and-hand-to-a-worker map again for you here:

The exact location of the blocked gullies, as posted in January. They still haven’t been touched. Click to enlarge.

Further to that aid-memoire, I also posted a video in the ‘Street Life’ post, which raised the topic again, in May. Short of employing a small army of readers to stand above each one firing off distress flares, I fail to see how I could be more precise.

4 – Sandhills gullies have been cleaned. There appears to be a problem with the public sewer which is STW. It has been reported to them.

No, no, no. When the gully cleaner came along, it cleared out the gullies it could. At the time, 40% were left full of silt, presumably because the cleaner couldn’t deal with them. Now over half of them are full to the grid with sand and road detritus. As I mentioned in my Tumblr post, it was better, but still needed the remainder returning to functionality. I can’t see how you can possibly diagnose a problem ith inter-gully culverts when the gullies themselves are full of sand and require hand digging.

Getting drains cleared in Walsall seems to be only marginally easier than getting blood from masonry. Routine cleaning seems to have gone by the wayside, and repeated requests seem to have to be made to get minimal action. What is it about this operation that’s so abhorrent to the contractors? When are the people responsible for these services going to realise that the huge quantities of surface water that result from bad storm drainage are a great hazard to cyclists, small cars and motorcyclists, and lead to premature failure of the road surface? Is someone going to have to get seriously hurt before this is taken seriously?

I sincerely hope not.

For further information please contact: Steve Sharma on 01922 650824

sharmasteve at walsall dot gov dot uk

If you’re having as much trouble with these responses as I am, please feel free to contact Steve using the details above. I’m absolutely astounded.

This entry was posted in Bad Science, Brownhills stuff, cycling, Environment, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, It makes me mad!, Just plain daft, Local media, Local politics, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Council and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Without due care and attention

  1. warren parry says:

    Don’t let go Bob, they are on the back foot and so they should be. Members of the public take the trouble to report these things, then receive condescending reply’s.
    By the way have you noticed the huge crater at the bottom of the chemy hill? if a motorcycle or scooter hit that one they are coming off! Its been growing since late last year, though i’m not sure who has responsibility for that particular area?
    message sent to Steve.

  2. Peter says:

    Bob. In answer to your very first question / thought. No, they don’t give a shit!
    Why they don’t give a shit is anyones guess, I’d put my money on a lack of pride in a job, they can’t be bothered to do things properly, I suspect a trait that goes through Walsall Council from top to Bottom on most subjects. The only thing they seem to be good at doing is standing idly by whilst Walsall Town Centre dies a slow, painful and embarrasing death. No doubt they’ll blame someone else of course, sorry that’s two things they are good at.

  3. kate Goodall says:

    Peter, I work for Walsall Council and am proud to do so. I work hard and take pride in what I do; serving the residents and businesses of Walsall. To the sound-track of the world’s smallest violin, I’m one of a great many council officers who’ve voluntarily turned out this weekend to support the progress of the Olympic Torch through the borough. And no, I won’t be paid overtime. Yep, some of us do it for love.

    If you have concerns you’d like to discuss, why not contact us instead of writing off a work force of some 6,000 so blithely? I assure you we’re real people. . Some of us may be your neighbours, friends or even family. If you have any on-going issues about drains, potholes, dog mess, bins, parks, leisure centres, libraries or other stuff on the street, my direct dial number is 01922 654619. I’m happy to meet face to face if that would be better for you?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    • Hi Kate.

      With the greatest respect – and you know of my high regard for you personally – it would be harder for such impressions to form if we didn’t have to repeatedly mither to get simple things done.

      I personally have been complaining about the state of storm drains in Shire Oak alone for nearly three years now. Every 6 months, someone comes out, spray marks the ones that are blocked ‘hand dig’ and nothing happens. It’s been quite clear that for some time, the contractors don’t want to be bothering with that stuff. Storm drains throughout Walsall are in a parlous state, and the difference when you cross the border is very noticeable.

      I know Walsall Council to be largely made up of very nice people who are human, hard working and stop to stroke passing dogs. Yet, despite this, actually getting the private company tasked with doing the stuff at the shitty end to fix things seems to be the difficulty.

      Apart from that, giving it glib answers like ‘Incorrect location’ to a six month old complaint, when I’ve taken great pains to provide location info on more than one occasion just makes me wonder.

      Sometimes I think that as a body, Walsall Council needs to experience the often dumbfounding responses that ordinary folk receive when dealing with certain quarters.

      Best wishes

      Bob

    • Peter says:

      Hi Kate. Thanks for your post. I did try not to personalise my comments but instead criticise the council at a “corporate” level. The subject matter being discussed specifically here is centered around trying to get water down a hole, and Walsall Council have failed over many years to do it!. The response to Bob’s 4 questions beggars belief, the responses were inaccurate, lazy and plain wrong, how difficult can it be to get rainwater to go down a hole? If someone wanted to do the job properly of making sure drains were “fit for purpose” then it would be done, the fact that is hasn’t been done suggests one or more of the 6000 people the Taxpayer employs to run the council aren’t doing their job properly.
      I, and I hope so does everyone else who reads your posting, appreciates your bravery in sticking your head above the parapet and tackling it head on.
      I would like to take you up on your offer and I’ll give you a call during the week.

    • stymaster says:

      I know, to varying degrees, several council emplyees (including your good self), and I know for a fact that those of you I know are hard working professionals. However, there’s something wrong institutionally, and having worked in similarly afflicted ‘organisations’ it’s hard to put your finger on the problem. It tends to make it even harder on the hardworking individuals, who tend to be banging their heads against a metaphorical brick wall at least some of the time.

      It should be easy and sinple to solve problems, but it oftem isn’t *[shrug]*

  4. kate Goodall says:

    Hi Peter. Thanks for responding and I look forward to hearing from you 🙂 I should mention though that I only become human after 10am- #fact

  5. Marco says:

    Kate

    I am going to email you info with issues I have that totally legitimise Bob’s view of the situation. Sick to the teeth. Honestly. We all know its not you.

    Marco

  6. warren parry says:

    Hi Bob, thought i might put you in on the response i had, along with the message i sent to Steve.
    Looks like the only way forward is for a meeting of minds!

    Good morning Steve,

    i have read with some sadness your thoughts on who is responsible for the condition of the roads in Brownhills.

    I have also read your responses to Brownhills Bobs posts, which i think are woeful. You really should have researched in a little more depth the points Bob has made over the last year. He is fully justified in being upset by your responses.

    I live very close to the flood area near the Anchor bridge, and i can say for sure its a major embarrassment that it can not be rectified.

    RESPONSE,
    .

    Dear Warren

    Thank you for your email.

    Each query BB has logged with us, I have passed on to the relevant officer and directorate. Their responses and comment are issued back directly to BB.

    I am sorry you both feel the way that you do.

    Perhaps it may be an idea for BB (and yourself) to arrange a meeting with officers here to discuss concerns and possibly find a way of working together to redress issues and matters. We certainly value the feedback and concern of residents.

    While I work for the Communications Team, to engineer such a meeting, you may be best contacting the Chief Executive directly as he could facilitate such a thing.

    Best regards

    Steve

  7. warren parry says:

    The hole near the Anchor bridge was patched up today.

  8. Dan Slee says:

    I’ve not followed this thread for a few days but it’s interesting how it has panned out (usual disclaimer: I’m a Walsall Council press and pr officer very proud to be so, Stoke City supporter ditto, human being, ditto.)

    I’m entirely with Kate Goodall’s comment. Blithe attacks on the whole of local government – or picking out individuals – does no-one any favours and simply won’t move forward anything.

    Those who do pick up Kate’s offer and pick up the phone will find a hard working officer who does care.

    For my money, what seems at the heart of this is communication. Both into the council and from the council. There’s no magic wand answers and I don’t work in the field of transport but I’ll see if I can have a chat to Kate tomorrow to see what her thoughts are and if we can collectively help…

    • Dan

      Sorry, but that’s just lukewarm, Dan.

      If a council officer responds to my enquiry – after I’ve taken time and trouble to do posts, even make a video highlighting a problem, then I expect a reasonable response.

      And that’s leaving aside the other two outstanding issues, in neither of which was the question read, understood or clearly even considered important.

      Instead, six months later, I get ‘Wrong location’. Now I’m expected to take time out, phone the council, have meetings, faff around because internal communications at the organisation you work for are so broken. If we were to hold a meeting, could I invoice WMBC for the time? Since I’d clearly be rectifying a management issue, I’d expect a management consultant’s hourly rate.

      Several times in the last couple of years, I’ve entered Walsall Council consultations or talking shops and spent valuable time, in which I’ve been assured my opinion counts. Not one has brought positive change. I’m at the stage now where I advertise such stuff here with a very heavy heart, as I know I’m effectively encouraging people to waste their time.

      We pay council tax and expect reasonable service. Trying to turn this into something about individual officers is just lame – Steve responded to my enquiry and I’ll call him out on it, because frankly, the answers Steve gave are remarkably poor.

      To add to the irony, I’m invited to phone, have meetings – in an email not even sent to me, but to a reader who’s had the decency to post it up here. There’s one of your comms issues, right there.

      It’s well known amongst councillors and people familiar with the council that virtually the only way to get stuff done with roads is to contact Kate, which is unfair on her. She does work incredibly hard and seems to be carrying an entire department. I have a huge amount of respect for the lady and feel rather embarrassed taking problems to her which should be adequately processed by the system, but if not taken directly to Kate, are simply prevaricated over at best or forgotten at worst.

      Potholes are WMBC’s responsibility, as are gullies. I understand very well that sewerage is not. Water cannot enter sewers, however, if the gullies are full of silt and never cleared. Further, if gullies are allowed to silt up, that in turn will silt up the sewers, and I’d be very surprised if ST didn’t seek recourse for that. Drain cleaning seems to have almost totally ceased in Walsall and I’d like to know why.

      The fact that these are safety issues seems to be completely lost.

      I appreciate your responding here out of hours and I bear you no ill will whatsoever – but I’m at my wit’s end. It’s not as if I make a continual stream of complaints.

      With the best will in the world

      Bob

  9. Pingback: Filling a hole « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  10. Pingback: Anchor Bridge flooding: Halfway there « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.