Thursday, September 24, 2009

TC report cards

Many of you have probably already read these articles on town councils and their new ranking system. As some of you have mentioned in the past, it is quite worrying.

There are a few things that are cause for concern. Firstly, cleanliness is assessed in terms of how many average complaints there are per block. Again, it doesn't seem from the report that this takes into account whether the complaint is from the same person or from various people. So technically, you could have a block where 99% of the block is happy with the level of cleanliness, but the block could get a bad grade because one person complains repeatedly. This leads to what a few of you have mentioned in the past - the possible knee jerk reaction in response to complaints about cats.

Of course TCs are going to want to be extra responsive - and if there is a complaint, are they more likely to work with residents or trap and remove cats? As we all know, removing cats doesn't help because most of these cats are not community cats, but someone's household cat let out to wander. Again because the root cause of the problem isn't solved - the problem will reoccur when the same irresponsible residents just gets another cat and lets it out to wander.

At the same time, will TCs feel they need to solve the problem even 'quicker' lest they get another complaint from the same resident about the same issue? Will they exert more pressure on caregivers? The only hope I have is that TCs start to realise after getting repeat complaints from the same resident that it's driving their complaint numbers up and that they may be more willing to come to a more permanent solution by consulting with caregivers.

Secondly, I had thought this exercise was going to be about transparency. The main concern that everyone had was when people realised that town council funds were being put in investments which were losing money. While I appreciate that financial information is available online, surely the idea is that residents should be able to access any relevant information about TCs both easily and for free. For example, when I last checked, many TCs still did not publish their bylaws online. In order to get them, you need to buy the bylaws. In addition, while in theory you are supposed to be able to buy them at the TC counter, the TCs I spoke to didn't have them.

Instead of assessing TCs on the basis of arrears collected, there must be a better system of determining transparency. Certainly if a TC has problems collecting arrears in a large number of cases, there is probably an issue there. On the other hand, what if there are residents who are unable to pay as was mentioned by Ms Grace Fu herself?

One of the issues I think we've talked about often is service standards - and again, I don't see that being addressed. This should include guidelines referring to how long it will take for a TC officer to get back to you - ie within the day? Never? It was very disappointing that this was not addressed. The GEMS programme already at work in other sectors might be a model.

Another thing that concerns me is that this seems that unfortunately again this is going to be a complaint driven report card. What if people are happy with their estates? Is there no criteria that can measure it? I am sure that people are more likely to criticise than praise in general - but there should be some room for people to praise a TC when it deserves the accolades.

Whatever is said about the TCs not being compared with each other, it is inevitable that people will do the ranking themselves as they're all being measured on the same scale. It's sort of like school rankings and the inevitable craziness that used to occur when schools were ranked. No TC will want to be at the bottom of the list and I worry what methods they will use to achieve this.

Finally, while there is talk residents and TCs deciding on the standards and how much they are willing to pay for it, I don't see how this will happen in practise. Most people will naturally want the cleanest estate for the cheapest possible price. Some residents are willing to pay more for a cleaner estate as one of the people quoted in the article mentioned. On the other hand, other residents as another person mentioned, do not want to pay more but want to be more personally involved in keeping the estate clean. I don't see how the TC report card is going to help resolve this in any way.


Anonymous said...

The best assessment of the efficiency of the TC of a particular housing estate is to walk around (unannounced of course) to check on the maintenance of the area. Employ independent bodies not related to TC or HBD to set same standard of cleanliness over all housing estates.

The number of complaints may not actually show how well/badly the area is managed; it reflects on the actions of the residents in response to the envirnoment. Residents who complain may have lower tolerance, higher expectations and more time on their hands. In all probability, they may NOT reflect the opinion of the majority of the residents.

Our road has not been swept or I have not seen a cleaner in years. No one has complained. That does not mean that standard of care is good or high.

animalfamily said...

i had a suspicion the recent spate of culling by previously cooperative TCs is because of this. Preparing a counter proposal to MND.

Dawn said...

Anonymous - a third party audit is a good suggestion.

animalfamily - good luck!