25 February 2015

Visitor Vouchers do not expire

Yesterday Mr Mustard and his co-director were puzzled by the ridiculously difficult processes which exist at Barking & Dagenham and Barnet councils when it comes to the simple task of buying visitor vouchers.

In the Barking case the prospective purchaser is 88 years old and has never touched a computer keyboard and although pretty with it she is happy with her life as it is and doesn't need a new challenge. Of course, she needs vouchers if she isn't going to be isolated by having no visitors. Barking have CPZs which are nowhere near the town centre but whose hours extend late into the evening for no obvious reason (@publicnaylor the Chief Executive has been contacted about it but did not respond although he is probably busy having just started in Barking).

This is what the website says

so having clicked on the link for Visitor Vouchers you would expect to be taken to a form to complete with your address and credit card details. Not so. You get a pdf form which opens, which you have to print out (which rather assumes everyone has a printer at home) complete and then post to the council with a cheque. Many people no longer have cheque books. You can go to the one-stop shop in the library to do this but they won't process the form and give you the Vouchers, they will merely print out the form for you to complete and pass it on. Councils are restricting choice to one method which they find the most convenient rather than providing a number of methods to suit their many residents, young and old. The tail should not wag the dog.

Might Mr Mustard mention at this stage that Barking & Dagenham Council has many services which are run by a joint venture with old friends Agilisys who are neither agile or systematic if this process (one presumes it is provided by them as it is IT) is the yardstick. Mr Mustard thought that one of the justifications for such a venture was the supposedly cutting edge technology they provide. 

Transformation can leave you worse off than before
About as sharp as a beachball.

Then on to Barnet, where permit renewals are done by Crapita.

Visitor vouchers can be purchased on line (and by phone). The bit that caught Mr Mustard's eye was the requirement to set an expiry date 3 year's hence. Being Mr Mustard he tried to bend the system and get future dated vouchers, that failed with a maximum 7 days forward dating being allowed. He then tried to short date his vouchers and was allowed to steal a year of validity from himself, viz:

Mr Mustard knew this was not council policy, as he and others had been over this particular matter with councillors and parking management, so he tweeted the Chief Executive but the tweet seems to have gone into a black hole. He also contacted parking management who responded that Crapita's system has to have an expiry date. The expiry date of their contract can't come soon enough.

So the council sign up for 10 years with Crapita because ruling councillors think they are the answer to all their prayers and we get clunky software foisted upon us, probably because they have already written it for another council which does use expiry dates, and is not tailored to our specific needs. Mr Mustard will henceforth refer to software from capita as Crapware. Doubtless Crapita will argue that you can just ignore the expiry date, it isn't printed on the front of the vouchers and no harm is done but it sows doubt in the mind of the person, probably causes people to order fewer vouchers more often so they don't get stuck with ones which have "expired" (except they haven't) causes phone calls to the call centre and makes think people think that Barnet Council are an incompetent bunch of t*ssers which doubtless ruling councillors would prefer not to be the case (add own joke here).

Councillors need to actually experience what residents do in order to find out for themselves how Crapita things are. They won't because they won't want to know the answer. Crapita could probably press the nuclear button and councillors would say that lessons have been learned and it won't happen again going forward. They would lose too much face to admit what a disaster the outsourcing is.

Buy how ever many visitor vouchers you need and don't worry residents, they do not expire, whatever the council website tells you to the contrary.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Councils are the modern "Robber Barons" aren't they ? The taxpaying citizen is treated as a surf to be bullied, harassed, and exploited, so the description fits perfectly.

  2. It concerns me your constant reference to 'crapita'. As you may know it is Capita not Crapita. Do you not have faith in our tory council's outsourcing scheme? If not, shame on you! Can I suggest a little more respect should be given to our hard working democratically elected councillors and the outsourcers? Now let me see if I can find a parking space without having to use that damm phone.


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.