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My attempts learn about the Pleasurama project have lead me into a dialogue with Thanet District Council about their website and the way they pass on correspondence to councillors. Click on the links above to read the correspondence.

Follow up
forward this to all of the councillors
20/10/2006 14:13:50 GMT Standard Time
Michael Child
Reply To:

I sent this out to all of the councillors email addresses I could find on Friday  20/10/06 at 2.27 pm

Dear Mr Samuel please could you forward this to all of the councillors for me.

As this is a matter that concerns every councillor individually I could write to them individually at his or her home address and explain to him or her that I suspect council officers are not always passing on correspondence sent to them via email.

Obviously it would be cheaper for me and better for the environment to send all 56 letters to the council offices however if council officers are prepared to censor their electronic mail, might they not always pass on their paper mail?

It may be an uncomfortable situation for some members of the council to have me telling them that the way TDC handles councillors websites and email addresses within the councils own website is unacceptably bad, however it is now 10 days since I asked for that information to be passed on to all of the councillors and I still haven't had an answer to my question has it been passed on?

I have however for the time being decided to start by going through the councils own complaints procedure and if that fails referring the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman.

I will now explain the problems as clearly as I can.

1 Within the TDC website each councillor now has their own website, although this sounds like a commendable idea, in practice what is published seems to have been designed to make each councillor look stupid and computer illiterate. While I understand that many people in the UK, especially those with social problems and learning difficulties have computer literacy problems, even in those cases where I know the councillor involved has good IT skills and has obviously tried to make their website look presentable; the result is still a horrible mess.

For those with no computer skills it may be likened to the following.

Suppose TDC were to produce a glossy book about the council, and suppose you are councillor Grey; you find your name in the index and realise that you are described on page 33; so you look at page 33, well page 33 is a mess some information about you is correct some is missing and some is wrong; at the bottom page 33 it says lots more information about councillor Grey, that he has written about himself, is on page 34, but when you turn over the page, page 34 is missing and there is a short note on page 35 saying no one is allowed to read page 34.

2 As every councillor now has a website it would be expected, rather in the way one expects a car to have a steering wheel, that there would be some way of contacting the owner of the website via ones computer. Email address or contact forms are the norm. In other words someone has built you a house without a letterbox and it looks silly.

3 For security reasons elected members should always send emails concerning council business with a thanet.gov.uk email address as it is important that the public are sure that the email has really come from them. This is Mike Harrison's email address as an example cllrboggs@hotmail.com I am sure you agree that it could be anyone involved in a scams address. This type of thing is so patently open to abuse and a terrible temptation to anyone wishing to make the council look foolish.

4 Like all important organisations a return email confirming the recipient has in fact received the email should be sent automatically. When the council does send out a confirmation I doesn't say who received it so I you email 2 councillors but only one confirmation arrives you don't know which one you have contacted.

If you look at the correspondence on http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/ you can see how hard it is for a member of the public to be certain who, if anyone, in the council they have contacted; in some cases even when they have received a reply.

5 The maze of 56 separate websites, one for each councillor means that it is very difficult to spot mistakes and omissions as I noticed that the councils IT department had only made some of the corrections I was promised they would make last week I have started to copy the basic information from each councillors website to one page at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/councillors.htm if you would all look at it and tell me about any errors I will endeavour to get them put right on the TDC site. Some of the mistakes are obviously mistakes like Dennis Hart's email address havingfun@tesco.et  unless of course he is using the extra terrestrial branch of Tescos if so I cant reach it from aol.

I am sure that you will agree with me that this is about serious important matters that are relevant to all councillors and I hope that you will pass it on to them. As I am still not certain that my previous email was passed on I will also forward it to all the council email addresses I have.

It would also be helpful if any councillor receiving it could let me know by email.

Kind regards Michael Child.