“Access to Services”

Tomorrow night the Rochford District Cabinet meets at 7:30 at the Civic Suite Rayleigh.

One of the items on the agenda is over 80 pages long. It’s about ‘Access to Services”. The government wants to ensure that councils make it easy for the public to use council services. In particular, it wants councils to think about ‘hard to reach ‘ groups – identify these people and make sure they cater for them.

So the council commissioned a research company to do a survey. They also arranged for four focus group sessions, to see how the public rates the access they currently have. The council then used a firm of consultants to produce a report on how to improve things. This report – item 8 on the agenda – has just gone on to the council website.

The research company has found that:

  • the focus groups were very positive about how easy it was to contact the district council., particularly by phone or website.
  • 62% preferred to contact the council by phone, 16% by email, 13% in writing , 6% in person, 4% by the council website
  • the public were also positive about how the council provides information – ‘many people said they read at least parts of Rochford Matters’.’
  • the focus groups would like to see council office hours changed to 0900 -0600 [we think they mean 0900-1800] , with staggered lunch hours , plus opening Saturday mornings and one evening a week.
  • The consultants had some fairly useful stats on Rochford Residents:

  • Population in 2001 : 78,489 (14,572 under 15 years; 1,522 over 84 years)
  • Estimated Pop in 2007 : 79,400 (14,400 under 15 years ; 1,800 over 84 years)
  • Predicted Pop in 2029 : 86,000 (14,000 under 15 years; 3,800 over 84 years)
  • If you divide people up into 5-year age bands, the commonest group in the district at the moment are the 50-54 year olds, followed by the 35 to 39 year olds.
  • Our district has a very low non-white population, we are 98.3% white, 1.7% non-white
  • Official unemployment is below 1%
  • Perhaps surprisingly, we have an unusually high proportion of people who work from or very near to home (24%). The average for England is 14%.
  • 15.8% of those surveyed in our district said they had a long-term limiting illness
  • 3.1% of those people of working age were permanently sick or disabled.
  • The consultants estimated that there could be about 11,700 people in our district with hearing loss – this seems to be the largest ‘hard-to-reach’ group.
  • So waht’s the District Council going to do now?

    There are six proposalsl for immediate action. None of them are revolitionary, but they do include:

  • experimenting with text messaging to contact young people, the hearing impaired, people reporting anti-social behaviour and possibly in connection with paying parking fines.
  • looking at working with other organisations to develope services in Hullbridge, Hockle and Great Wakering
  • expanding customer services at the Rayleigh office
  • I would like to see RDC put graffiti removal higher on the list, nothing makes an area look more run down than the mindless scribblings of our local yoof. Leaving graffiti sends the wrong message out and it should be removed asap. Why does it take 1 YEAR to remove it from play areas, maybe divert money from the publicity budget ( £142,000 wasted last year ).

    Take a leaf out of Rudy Giuliani’s book ( former mayor of New York ) who instigated a policy of fixing problems as soon as they occured, this stopped the area sliding downwards. I am not in anyway suggesting Rochford is like New York but the concept is the same.

    I have no idea what the idea of texting young people is all about – what are you going to tell them ?