29: Going Mobile

Today’s Hootsmon carries a piece that seems an attempt to find evil where none exists, by accusing council workers of being “on the gravy train with a council phone”.. East Lothian tops the table by having 38% of employees with council mobiles.

It does not mention that every council desk has a phone (nor that every school pupil above the age of seven has a mobile), nor—most especially—why ELC thinks mobiles represent good value for money. Firstly, many council workers (bin lorries, road crews, repair vans, etc) have no desk; many more are often in the field (planners; inspectors, social workers, housing officers, wardens, etc) and so a mobile is the only way to stay in touch. Secondly, ELC has greatly improved its customer service response by a combination of call centre, web site and mobile phones. More people now get faster answers than when someone was either chained to a desk or unobtainable.

But thirdly—and most importantly—ELC has invested in a GPS-based dispatch system which allows travel (typically property repair vans but also many others listed) to be routed efficiently between jobs. ELC may only have 1/5th of Edinburgh’s or 1/10th of Glasgow’s budget but it covers a bigger area than either. It is estimated that over £1.5m can be saved from the property budget in reduced travel (saving both fuel and time), more efficiency (fewer people handling the same calls) and faster service. This is possible only with mobile phones: the £400k cost cited is paid for almost four times over.

The Hootsmon would not be economically viable if it gave up digital and went back to hot lead printing. Why does it want local authorities back in their ‘dark ages’ equivalent? ELC is leading councils in efficiency; why not report this as such?

About davidsberry

Local councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Stood for the Scottish Parliament 2011; lost by 151 votes.
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