Filling a hole

Sorry, an awful photograph taken in a hurry tonight. The pothole highlighted in the previous post, source possibly a sunken drain, is now fixed. Thanks to Howmuch? and Warren Parry for the heads up, and also Walsall Council for quick action on that one.

The saga of road repairs and drains rumbles on. Reader Warren Parry, who wrote to Steve Sharma following my last post, had a rather interesting response, which Warren was kind enough to post in the comments to my last post. I’ll post it again here, for clarity.

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

So, there you have it. After all the faffing about writing complaints, making maps, posts and videos, if we want proper answers to road issues, we have to arrange meetings with the chief executive. This is all the more remarkable as the mail wasn’t sent to me, and I’m only aware of it as Warren was kind enough to post it up.

In some dismay, I highlighted the item on Twitter this evening, and invited a response from the press office at Walsall. Press Officer Dan Slee, in his own time, kindly responded in the comments section.

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…

 This also left me feeling somewhat nonplussed. I’ve responded as follows:

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

I hate to invoke the ‘I pay council tax’ cliche, but here I feel it’s appropriate. It’s getting to the point where folk just don’t bother reporting issues anymore, because it’s so damned hard in a lot of cases to get any action. As residents of the borough, we have a right to expect decent standards or road maintenance, and I think it’s reasonable to expect responses to sensible questions when stuff isn’t fixed. Nobody is being victimised here, but I’ll be buggered if I’m going to jump through anymore hoops.

It wouldn’t be so bad, if the approach was consistent, but it isn’t. The pothole existing since last weekend on Anchor Bridge was filled immediately, yet repeated requests for the rest of the High Street cavities seem to go unheeded.

I’m very grateful to Warren and Dan for getting involved. However, I think that if the communications people want to reduce the ire and antipathy that exists to their authority, one of the best ways is to communicate effectively. Something seems to have gone very wrong in that respect.

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4 Responses to Filling a hole

  1. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Thank you for your tenacity in this disgraceful episode. I stand by the comments I made months ago. “An ongoing failure to monitor and to supervise”
    I hope that local councillors, and others, have been closely following this issue and that a thorough, (public?) top to toe investigation of policy and practice will lead to the improvement that is patently necessary. and overdue.

    with kind regards

    David

  2. Peter says:

    “Blithe attacks on the whole of local government – or picking out individuals – does no-one any favours and simply won’t move forward anything”. This was the response of Dan Slee the Press Officer for Walsall Council. Well I’ve had a thought, if whoever is responsible for making sure the drains and gullies were “fit for purpose” did the job properly then guess what? This conversation wouldn’t be happening. Steve responded by saying that if you want effective action on getting the situation of blocked drains resolved contact the Chief Executive! It has been pointed out that 6000 people work for Walsall Council but only the Cheif Executive can help? On a couple of comments it has been said that people are very hard working and proud to be representing, working within, working for, living in Walsall etc etc, but where is the pride in this particular area? Cleaning of drains isn’t happening as it should, plain and simple, where is the pride?

  3. stymaster says:

    Sorry Dan, but the council deserves an attack. The roads are crumbling, the drains are blocked. You say picking out individuals gets us nowhere, then say that people will get a good response from Kate? We know that already, but it shouldn’t be neccesary. This should not depend on Kate pushing things, or indeed you telling us about it.

  4. pedro says:

    Some things never change…

    Lichfield Mercury Friday 15 January 1915…

    Dear Sir,

    I am directed by the Trustees of the Norton Canes School to call your attention to the state of the road at the junction of Gorsey Lane and School Lane, Little Wyrley, which has recently been under water, thereby preventing the children living in that district from attending school. I am requested by the Trustees to ask your Council to immediately have the road attended to and put in proper state of repair.

    I am further instructed by the Trustees to call your Council”s attention to the state of the conveniences at the Boy’s School at Norton Canes, which should be emptied regularly and properly once every week. This has not been done, and consequently a disgusting state of affairs have from time to time arisen. I should be glad if you would be kind enough to give instructions for this state of affairs to be remedied in the future,

    Yours faithfully

    LITCHFIELD MEEK
    (Baker and Meek)
    145 Lichfield Street, Walsall

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