No Laptops for Housing

At a recent Community and Housing meeting, I was cross to learn that progress was behind schedule when rolling out a computerised means of council tenants reporting faults which, when up and running should make big savings and speed up the maintenance service. When visiting Canton, the Housing and Maintenance HQ some weeks ago, we saw a system that seemed to be working well and I was impressed. Tenants are issued with a computerised manual to make reporting a fault much easier to identify so that the fault can be fully logged and agreed without the need to send work people to identify the problem before a repair can be effected. The reason for the delay to this project was not made clear and we also learned of slippage on a system designed to track the whereabouts of all council transport. Again, the reason for the delay was vague! This scheme also has the potential to make big savings and so any delay in introducing it is regrettable. Flintshire has been awarded a measly 2.7% increase, effectively a cut: and the lowest increase in North East Wales, the sooner senior management press hard to bring in money saving schemes on time and on budget, the better for us all. The by-line in this week’s Flintshire Leader – “COUNCIL PLAN TO SPEND £100,000 ON NEW LAPTOPS” is wrong and damaging to this Authority. I was appalled when I read the article as I had attended the Community and Housing Scrutiny Meeting when the item came before us. Who ever covered the event for the Press must be incompetent or extremely mischievous as no one agreed with the scheme. I am sure I followed the lead of Cllr Clive Carver who did suggest sending out data on CD ROM. (The reporter managed to get that bit right)! Knowing that this suggestion would go down like a lead balloon with Leader readers, I am sure I told colleagues just that and we should not accept the laptop offer as it was wasteful in these difficult times. (My fear of some unhelpful, anti council headline manifested itself in the front page of the 24th October Chester Chronicle. “£100,000 laptop war of words” headline described a ‘blistering attack on the proposal’ by Carl Sergeant, AM and who could have blamed him for grabbing the wonderful chance to make political capital! When I spoke against the scheme at the meeting, I should have drawn upon my Welsh Assembly experience of passing the responsibility of printing out papers to members. As I did not want to be seen as always banging on about my previous experience in Cardiff and being viewed as big head, I kept quiet. In my book, ‘Leeks from the Back Benches’, (covering my time as a first session Assembly member), I described the stress and time consumption involved living with the concept of a paperless office. The printers were slow and with agendas arriving close to meetings; the hassle of down-loading huge wodges of documents was a real headache partially as broadband hardly existed in those days. Although printing out papers by local members would never be as horrible as the problems of printing out committee papers to a far flung constituency; namely Delyn years ago, my view would still be – best to avoid the exercise in the first place. It seems that the Executive had not approved the free laptop scheme initially and the Scrutiny committee endorsed this decision. Thus, I cannot think of any reason why the article should be so disingenuous and maliciously slanted to put the new Coalition in a bad light. I think readers should be told and the paper should now be subject of a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. The Coalition is already dealing with years of inertia and indecisiveness by the former Administration who have ducked hard decisions for years, it seems. We do not need a local “rag” with some sort of “rubbish the new bosses in Country Hall” agenda. Come on Flintshire Standard. Journalists are probably held in as low esteem as politicians so give us a break, report the unbiased truth and improve your status with some of us at least. Advice required please. Several of my industrious and clearly more organised Tory colleagues have distributed newsletters recently and even hold surgeries. Newsletters are well regarded by constituents as they provide a useful means of communication and indicates what your elected member is doing for you. I have no problem in writing one; it’s the distribution that overwhelms me. Elwoe is a huge ward and the time and energy needed to post one though every door is just daunting, even setting aside my increasingly dodgy arthritic knees. Does anyone have a suggestion please? Is there anyone out there would post a few though local letterboxes. I am doing my job; representing you and addressing your concerns. Surgeries! Again an important tool of keeping in touch with local needs and concerns. Problem: where to hold them and how often? The Level Road centre could be an option but I have not explored how one gets access to it! My new goal is to offer my time/visit on a Sunday. I am happy to meet at any chosen venue, St David’s Hotel, etc. I know that there are many concerns in this area and I would feel very despondent if I was not giving the means of getting in touch with me. My blog is designed to show what I am doing and all fed back is most welcome. Best Wishes, Alison Halford.

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