Well the long-awaited and massively over budget Birmingham City Council website was launched this week and went down like an absolute lead balloon with local experts who believe that, once again, taxpayers have been fiddled out of £2.8million for a completely substandard facility.
Back at the beginning of August the WMTPA were asked what we thought about the fact the original estimate for the website (back in 2005!!) was £580,000 – still a hefty sum, but little did we know at that stage that the project would not only be costly, but extremely controversial as far as it’s effectiveness is concerned.
Clive Reeves, PR director at Ward Lovett, said:
“This looks like a project that’s been controlled by a committee made up of people who don’t quite know what they’re looking for, what’s achievable, or even what they really want.
“I’d like to be shocked by the new website, but I’m afraid disappointed indifference is all I can muster. I’m wondering how much more council tax payers’ money it will take to put it right.” (Birmingham Post)
This wasn’t even the worst of the criticism, according to the Post:
Jake Grimley, managing director of Birmingham web designers Made Media, described the website as an “abomination”.
Mr Grimley added: “The website is absolutely littered with beginner’s mistakes. And content from the old website appears to just have been cut and pasted in with no quality checking whatsoever.”
Of course, the council were quick to bat-off such remarks, claiming that the site was designed to be suitable for users, not the ‘twitterati’, by which we can only assume they mean ‘this is a site for people who haven’t a clue, not people who might know how a website is supposed to be built or look’. Only a local government officer could brazenly claim that a £2.8m provision wasn’t supposed to impress industry experts…
And as if Glynn Evans – the officer in question – couldn’t get any more audacious, when it was pointed out to him that website users (suspiciously) couldn’t find a direct link to council agendas or lists of meetings, he simply remarked that residents aren’t particularly interested in council meetings!
Glynn obviously likes sweeping generalisations, but he should really make allowances for the fact that it’s our right to have easy access to such documents – especially on a supposedly ‘all singing, all dancing’ website we’ve paid for. And it’s not for him to judge whether such information is of interest – most people couldn’t care less about the ingredients on the back of food packets but they’d soon have something to say if there weren’t any or they found it impossible to discover what their meal contained. Sometimes there’s comfort in knowing that there are easily negotiable channels that lead us to reliable information, if ever we should need it.
Glynn’s parting shot was another corker, as he hands-up admitted that the website isn’t world class. Hang on, a £2.8m website that has taken literally years to construct isn’t world class? How much does a world class one cost then? Billions?! And if we’re to believe all the boastful publicity we’ve paid to have papered around this city, and the protestations of Cllr Mike Whitby, isn’t Birmingham a world class city? "A Global City with a Local Heart"?
Well if it is, according to this feedback, it’s a global city with a pretty crummy website…