Take a squint at a lamppost and you’ll often see a little sticker encouraging people to report any fault with it to the local council by ringing a phone number. It’s a sensible idea. Get residents to report in problems, which saves council time on checking and speeds up repairs.
But how has Haringey Council, the fourth most complained about council in the whole country gone about this? Haringey has gone for an 0500 number which is free from landlines but costs extra to call from a mobile phone. It can’t count against your free minutes and doesn’t even get charged at a normal rate. It gets a higher charge.
The result? One in three people who ring the council are getting charged extra for the privilege of taking their time to be helpful and good citizens.
(If one in three sounds familiar, that’ll be because it’s becoming the Haringey ratio, for it was one in three phone calls from residents that Haringey Council failed to answer and also one in three potholes that Haringey Council has failed to repair on time.)
As Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Richard Wilson says:
Haringey Council should be thanking residents for reporting broken lights, not billing them.
Only Labour-run Haringey Council would expect residents to report broken street lights on their landline. Unsurprisingly, people tend to be outside when they spot a street light is out and using a mobile makes sense. Haringey Council needs to join the 21st century.
It is ridiculous that the Labour-run council is charging residents who have taken the time and the trouble to report broken street lights.
Residents pay the fifth highest council tax in London they should not be charged even more by the Labour council for being civically minded and reporting problems.
Perhaps the reason for charging is to make up for this problem, built up over several years: