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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.
Taking the member out of the portal
Subject: Re: The Member Portal Date: 01/11/2006 19:28:20 GMT Standard Time From: Paul.Moore@thanet.gov.uk
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Dear Mr Child,
Thanks for your note.
Just a few points that I'd like to make in response.
1. I'm sorry if you find my letters 'economical with the truth' - as
billed on your website. I was seeking to give you a prompt response and
asasure you that we are taking the matters seriously. I can't guarentee
to address them all overnight, as they are not all within my gift for
the other reasons I explain. If that appears economical, then I am
genuinely sorry. It is certainly not untruthful.
2. We are looking into posting just a seperate list of councillors
contact details. I can see that this migh well be useful to local
organisations or individuals. It would be more effective and efficient
to do this than to support separate list on different sites. So
hopefully there won't be a need to duplicate the Council's own
information soon. Creating separate databases can only store up problems
in the longer term. My colleagues will look at this.
3. Ultimately many of the issues you raise are about Councillors' own
preferences and practice. They have a diverse range of work practice
and time commitments, hence it is not for me to require them to behave
in a particular way.
4. With regard to response from Members, I think that the fact that
you are printing their responses on your blog may not help. Presumably
you do advise them that you are doing so...?
5. The letter that I sent you was intended as an added courtesy - it
contained an error in the title. Clearly it should have said 'Mr' and
not 'Councillor'. A simple error on my part for which I apologise -
nothing more surrealist than that.
I take on board your comments about names - perhaps Councillors'
Hope that helps
Corporate Director & Monitoring Officer
Thanet District Council
Dear Mr Moore
On 10/10/06 when as a result of my correspondence with Richard Samuel the Member Portal was updated, by this I mean some of the councillors email addresses were added. Since then I have received a number of emails from you and other council officers assuring me that more improvements to the TDC website have been made. As far as I can see nothing has actually been done.
I have now given you a further 2 weeks in the hope that something would happen both with respect to what you describe as the member portal. I counted 200 links on it that don’t take you anywhere just now, before giving up. I one again searched in vain for what Nicholas Hughes Calls the Pleasurama Site on www.thanet.gov.uk that he hopes I will find useful.
Frankly I would prefer it if you could sort this nonsense out by just doing your job rather than me going through the complaints procedure and the LGO but as I have already pointed out I will not just let the matter drop.
I have replied to your points below.
1 Back in September of 2004 when I made some attempt to contact the councillors Sharon Humber Member Services Manager sent me a list of councillors email addresses that includes the following entry PEPPIATT, William D firstname.lastname@example.org in your email of 26/10/2006 published on the page titled “Economical with the truth” you state that The “Members who already have an @thanet.gov.uk e-mail address have had this address added to their pages.” This is just an example.
2 Since the list is there likely to stay there and your meaning of soon unclear, perhaps it would be better accurate that inaccurate, so you may wish to reconsider and send me an up to date list.
3 I am only asking you to make it possible for them to implement the most basic of internet security. Something I have been trying to do now for over 2 years. You must appreciate that until all of the councillors are known by members of the public to have a @thanet.gov.uk e-mail address, should they wish to use it, it is not possible for us to tell if they are being reckless with security of their own volition or being forced into that position by you. It would seem that while there is any doubt in councillor’s minds that they will receive email sent to them via thanet.gov.uk they don’t have much of a choice in the matter.
4 I have been publishing councillor’s emails for over 2 years, I am sure they are aware that with public office comes publicity. As I only asked them to do the minimum of confirming that they had received my email sent to them via you and none of them have I am frankly at a loss for words. I feel that it is very important that the fact that all 56 of them do not respond in any way to their correspondence be published publicly so we can draw our own conclusions. I suppose it is possible that none of them were interested in the issues that I raised or that none of them understood my email.
5 Point taken, we all make mistakes, however you may wish to consider the environmental implications of sending out a paper copy of something that you have already sent by email.
With reference to names it did occur to me that you and your colleges were just naïve. In our business when at one of her book launches, Enid Blyton when berated for writing the phrase: “Big Ears went out on his bicycle and felt a little queer,” she genuinely couldn’t see anything incongruous about it.
Once again this correspondence will be published on http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/ you maybe relived to know this part of the website only had 68 hits yesterday.
I do hope you will finally consider actually doing something so that we can draw a line under the whole issue.
Kind regards Michael Child.