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back to article Dagenham council: Only language our tenants understand is SMS

Barking and Dagenham council has launched a free text message service which allows housing tenants and leaseholders to get information about their council related affairs more easily, without having to use the local authority's contact centre. Residents can send a message to the council and they will receive a reply with their …

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Really free?

Or will the phone companies still charge you for sending and receiving text messages?

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Short code abuse

Well the simple answer is, quite likely to be charged and probably above the standard rate if the number to text is a short code. Unlikely to be charged to receive the response, but that could change as the worldwide economic disaster siphons more cash out of the councils' budgets.

The problem is that providing a full number to send a text to means many more errors in entering said number, hence the popularity of short codes but they are excluded from bundled allowances on just about all PAYG and contract tariffs.

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Costs

It may still be cheaper for the council to provide a free text service than to send letters, especially given the cost of posting a letter now. Of course, if too many people make too much use of it then it'll get expensive, but a sensible council would negotiate a good bulk rate in advance.

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in the UK you dont get charged for receiving text messages, and most payment plans have provision for x amount of free messages to send

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Coffee/keyboard

Ha!

"...but a sensible council would negotiate a good bulk rate in advance."

Oh, my, I haven't had such a good laugh in a while...

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FAIL

Skills needed

While you are laughing think of this. Council IT departments are being asked to add the specific skill set of negotiation for SMS packages to their workload. We want them to do more (lazy barstewards) to get value for money. But then we come up with a brilliant wheeze of using technology to solve this.

We want to pay councils less -- after all I don't want to waste my hard-earned cash on profligate councils, I want to waste it on stupid over-priced gadgets such as iPhones. It is my right to waste my own money, not be forced to let someone else to waste it.

I for one, who has worked in IT for over 25 years (in both public and private sectors), would struggle with such requests.

The IT world is stuffed full of those who want to find easy ways to rid people of money. And using legal contracts is oh, so easy.

But if you, Asiren, think it is easy not to get sucked in, prey tell the rest of us how to do it.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Short code abuse

You also cannot spoof the SMS sender ID to a shortcode like you can to a traditional long number (well, any SMS gateway I've seen won't support short code numbers as destinations)

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WTF?

Oh tosh

Firstly, I'd be surprised if this was a case of using technology to lighten the work load, and not a case of "lets keep the scruffy person as far away from us as possible."

B: The person negotiating the price would most likely not be from the IT department, but from the finance/HR department. The reason why I spit coffee all over my keyboard is that it was claimed that the council will be able "to negotiate a good bulk rate in advance." When it's not your money, negotiations tend not to be as hard as usual. When your pay isn't related to your negotiation performance, the effort is even less.

B.2: Councils negotiating bulk rates are more likely to go for the "10% off and a new iPhone for all the council (to be able to send the texts, natch)" than "20% off first x texts, and 15% off the rest." Not exactly "value for money" for the taxpayer, is it.

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About 5 years too late

Even chavs have smart phones these days. Why not put mobile friendly website up that lets them check this stuff and put a prominent message on the call centre system to tell them to go use it.

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Anonymous Coward

Barking and Dagenham council has launched a free text message service

Free? In what way exactly? I'd imagine that this service is paid for by local council tax payers, so whilst it's "free" to the chavs who spent all their dole money down the local bookies and wetherspoons, I'd doubt it's free to those who own or rent their own property and pay taxes.

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I would hope that the level of automation in the system would make it cheaper on a per enquiry basis than staffing people to answer the phones or sending via snail mail. But it's a council, so probably not.

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JDX
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re:Even chavs have smart phones these days

Only the young ones. Older ones are totally web-illiterate just as they are regular illiterate.

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Windows

My daughter's a chav...

...and she threw her Blackberry into the canal (sans SIM, and bling, natch) and got an iPhone 4s.

Maybe I wasn't a good parent after all...

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Anonymous Coward

Ah.

I guess you can't always make sure everything goes right, eh..

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Facepalm

Coming next....

...evictions via Twitter.

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Paris Hilton

why not.....

just get the Chavs to text in to vote for who gets evicted. Innit blud?

Then some tattooed non entity could announce the results live on ITV

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Privacy Issues?

This gives the Council a unique opportunity to correlate real names with otherwise "anonymous" PAYG customers which does raise some serious privacy concerns. Given the economics of social housing, it stands to reason that many of the Council's tennants are likely to have PAYG phones due to credit issues preventing them from obtaining monthly contracts and with the abuse of RIPA in the past by local authorities, I am concerned this data will be used for purposes unrelated to those published by the Council.

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Anonymous Coward

Barking

& Dagenham must have some very tech savvy OAP tenants. How unusual!

Much interested to find out how the B&D OAP's are so very much more tech savvy than the the rest of the nations OAP's.

Is that the sound of a council jumping on a Band Wagon?

What's next in the exciting world of B&D....refuse pick up via Twitter? Swimming lessons via Carrier pigeon? Some council services just need a 'wetware interface scenario' endof.

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FAIL

New Year Hangover?

I did RTFA and:

i) the link is to an earlier article on CSC and the NHS (over-hasty cut'n'pasting?), and

ii) there's nothing to justify the sub-title's implication that the council is now subjecting its residents to illiterate txtspk.

Churnalism at its sloppiest.

BTW, HNY.

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Pint

This helps how?

If sending them a letter printed on red paper with FINAL REMINDER written on it does nothing to stir them into action, how is an SMS message going to help? If you can't/won't pay your rent, an SMS ain't going to change your mind.

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Much better than....

Surrey, which seems fervently ANTI anything which doesn't go via their own website and/or contact centre.

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Tsk, shameful really.

Some people will do anything to get an exchange server no?

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Coffee/keyboard

>Free? In what way exactly? I'd imagine that this service is paid for by local council tax payers, so >whilst it's "free" to the chavs who spent all their dole money down the local bookies and >wetherspoons, I'd doubt it's free to those who own or rent their own property and pay taxes.

Seems El Reg is slowly going up in the world, now Daily Mail journos are astroturfing here :)

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Bronze badge

Now then, I have to take issue against a common and understandable bout of misinformation.

Every council house you see returns something like £80 in rent each week whether benefit paid or otherwise.

So a 20,000 council runs housing estate returns about £1.6 million per week in rents. Yep - you got that misinformation on true dude 1.6 million spondooliz per week for modest 20,000 homes at 80 molukaz a week.

That makes for (20,000 x 80 = 200,000 x 8 = 1600,000 no?) 1.6 million times 50 weeks (can't be bothered with the twiddly bits) = 1,600,000 x 50 = 16,000,000 x 5 = 80,000,000 a year no?

Double plus, every council estate you have ever seen is a managed resource with the council (your council?) taking a sizeable management fee. This holds true even if said council estate is being managed into a sink estate.

Truth is the spend on employees from rents received is probably magnitudes better than that spent on said properties.

Why do you think Whitehall wishes to hide social housing account so very, very well and hope it is misrepresented equally so very, very well?

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The headline is a little misleading compared to the actual content of the article, non?

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Ha.

Yuppies have gold pantie liners.

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