Left Foot Forward buy whatever nonsense council PRs send their way

August 30, 2011 5:08 PM

Yesterday the Manchester Evening News reported that binmen are to be given iPads by Bury Council. The council claim that the iPads will "help improve collection rates, customer service and boost recycling." It will achieve that objective by allowing binmen to do things like keep tabs on who is recycling and report back missing bins. Along with a local MP, TPA Campaign Manager Robert Oxley attacked this absurd waste of money. Bizarrely, Daniel Elton at Left Foot Forward has taken an obviously weak council press release responding to the story at face value and attacked us for our comment. 

The first thing to note is that the council weren't cooperating when the journalists were working on this story. Even the cost of the scheme had to be estimated by the reporters using the retail price. They only looked at the cost of the iPads themselves and not the other costs of this new scheme.  That limited our ability to find out more, so to attack us as not being "really interested" in finding out more and saving taxpayers' money is nothing but a lazy smear.

Bury Council's defence in the Manchester Evening News that they need an iPad to monitor recycling and then send notes to those not doing their bit is obviously weak. They claim to need iPads because pen and paper notes "can get lost in cabs or get wet". That means they are saying, apparently with a straight face, that an expensive tablet computer - a premium product even with the range of devices that do the same kind of job (portable computers connected to the Internet come a lot cheaper) - is the answer to taking notes in an environment where things can be soaked or misplaced. And that's before we get on to the fact that we don't really think hassling people over whether or not they recycle should be a priority in the first place.

They then tell Left Foot Forward that:

This system should ensure that the number of missed collections is reduced to an absolute minimum, because any problems are reported in immediately to our Customer Contact Centre [rather than afterwards, meaning that houses would need to be revisited]. We collect from 83,000 houses each week.


In the last financial year, we received 4,228 reports of missed bins – we estimate that it would cost £40 to revisit each house, equivalent to nearly £170,000 a year, so this new system should make hefty savings.




[caption id="attachment_40047" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Cheaper than an iPad"][/caption]

So we have about a dozen pretty simple reports that need to be made each day. And they need to take place immediately. Surely someone had a solution to that kind of problem before the iPad?

What about a text?  Or a phone call?  Or, if you really need a tablet, a cheaper tablet?

In the end, the iPad is an expensive product that people buy because it is cool. That is a legitimate enough way to spend your own money, but is a gimmicky and wasteful approach to providing public services. Binmen don't need iPads and buying them isn't a sensible way of spending taxpayers' money.Yesterday the Manchester Evening News reported that binmen are to be given iPads by Bury Council. The council claim that the iPads will "help improve collection rates, customer service and boost recycling." It will achieve that objective by allowing binmen to do things like keep tabs on who is recycling and report back missing bins. Along with a local MP, TPA Campaign Manager Robert Oxley attacked this absurd waste of money. Bizarrely, Daniel Elton at Left Foot Forward has taken an obviously weak council press release responding to the story at face value and attacked us for our comment. 

The first thing to note is that the council weren't cooperating when the journalists were working on this story. Even the cost of the scheme had to be estimated by the reporters using the retail price. They only looked at the cost of the iPads themselves and not the other costs of this new scheme.  That limited our ability to find out more, so to attack us as not being "really interested" in finding out more and saving taxpayers' money is nothing but a lazy smear.

Bury Council's defence in the Manchester Evening News that they need an iPad to monitor recycling and then send notes to those not doing their bit is obviously weak. They claim to need iPads because pen and paper notes "can get lost in cabs or get wet". That means they are saying, apparently with a straight face, that an expensive tablet computer - a premium product even with the range of devices that do the same kind of job (portable computers connected to the Internet come a lot cheaper) - is the answer to taking notes in an environment where things can be soaked or misplaced. And that's before we get on to the fact that we don't really think hassling people over whether or not they recycle should be a priority in the first place.

They then tell Left Foot Forward that:

This system should ensure that the number of missed collections is reduced to an absolute minimum, because any problems are reported in immediately to our Customer Contact Centre [rather than afterwards, meaning that houses would need to be revisited]. We collect from 83,000 houses each week.


In the last financial year, we received 4,228 reports of missed bins – we estimate that it would cost £40 to revisit each house, equivalent to nearly £170,000 a year, so this new system should make hefty savings.




[caption id="attachment_40047" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Cheaper than an iPad"][/caption]

So we have about a dozen pretty simple reports that need to be made each day. And they need to take place immediately. Surely someone had a solution to that kind of problem before the iPad?

What about a text?  Or a phone call?  Or, if you really need a tablet, a cheaper tablet?

In the end, the iPad is an expensive product that people buy because it is cool. That is a legitimate enough way to spend your own money, but is a gimmicky and wasteful approach to providing public services. Binmen don't need iPads and buying them isn't a sensible way of spending taxpayers' money.

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