When Cheshire was controversially split into two unitary authorities three months ago, we were told this would bring significant benefits to the county's residents through more efficient local government. One local council tax payer has sent Audlem Online a tale that doesn't fill us with confidence that these assurances are being met. The resident has asked not to be named:
I had occasion two weeks ago to phone the Planning department of the new Cheshire East Council to query whether planning permission was needed for some work currently being carried on a nearby property, knowing (having checked on the Council website) that no planning application had been submitted. I was quickly put through to the correct extension, but understandably I was told to write or email, as matters relating to other properties could not be discussed with us when no application was in the public domain.
So I emailed, using the email address given on the Council's website. This is firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com. Having had no acknowledgement after five days, I wrote again. Still nothing after another week. So I rang on Friday, to be told that this email address went to the main office, and the mail would be forwarded to the correct department every so often, but there could be a considerable delay. I was told that I should have emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com, which would have got through immediately, and I would have been sent an automated acknowledgement. Of course, this email address is not publicised on the website, so how was I supposed to know I'd been stupid and addressed my email incorrectly?
I then politely asked how quickly my email would be attended to, bearing in mind the two week delay (occasioned in my view solely by the Council's inadequacy). I was told that it would depend on importance, and the workload of the staff. In other words, who knows or cares! I got the impression that it was impudent of me to ask.
Perhaps I am mistaken, but I thought that the whole purpose of local councils was to serve the public in their area. We are the customers, and the sole purpose of the Council should be to provide services to us. The council is not there for its own purposes, but for us only. It's about time that the person I spoke to remembered that. His job depends on me paying my council tax. It pays his wages, and service to me and the other 359,000 people in Cheshire East is of primary importance. When will this ethic permeate down from the Council's Chief Executive?
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