Opinion

Adventures in the futile world of online council information

By Nik Butler

When not sitting down to write an article I am the guy you call because technology is not working the way you were promised it would.

I am fortunate enough to be one of those people undeterred by the presence of a web address or Twitter account.

I count myself fully able to negotiate the most esoteric of call-hold queues to locate support or information. But I continue to marvel at my utter lack of comprehension of the Horsham District Council website, horsham.gov.uk.

It sits somewhere between the concept of telephone directory and news portal and, despite the council’s best intentions, fails at doing either.

My recent foray into locating the contact details for the local street wardens was another example of the almost Sisyphean task of extracting information.

There are no listings for street wardens in the A-Z index. W provides a link to “wardens”, but here it stops at Ashington or Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding.

Using the integrated search bar on the site, which in turn rehashes Google search, offers me job listings for the role of civil enforcement officers (district warden) and I still have no contact number.

I decide to ask someone by calling the council switchboard and am put through to “housing”. This is apparently the department most likely to respond to queries about street wardens and civil enforcement officers.

Given the current propensity to reduce the spending on services, I can only assume that the maze of twisty tunnels and passages that is the website will continue in its entropic fall towards chaos.

When I look to the Government Digital Service (http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk), a website prefaced by our own Francis Maude MP, I see a statement that contradicts all experiences: “Digital services so good that people prefer to use them.”

I do wonder if the left arm is aware of the creative restrictions of the right.

Meanwhile, the collective, crowd-sourced mind of the Horsham Facebook group (facebook.com/horsham.uk) grows to an almost 10,000-strong presence. It provides an experience that I feel many would prefer.

Twitter:@Loudmouthman

Online: Loudmouthman.com

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