Social media trainer's concern over Lancaster City Council's telephone policy

Lancaster City Council is discriminating against those who don't use the internet and excluding many elderly people in the process, according to a social media expert.

Wednesday, 25th January 2017, 7:00 am
Lancaster City Council is encouraging people to use their online services instead ofthe telephone.

Guardian columnist and social media trainer Jane Binnion raised the concern after discovering problems her elderly mother’s friends had experienced trying to contacting people.

She said the city council had made it difficult for people without access to the internet to sign up for a green recycling bin.

Jane said: “The flyer that went to all houses inviting people to opt in to pay for their green bin only had online information. There was no telephone number.

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“I tweeted asking for a number and they told me they didn’t publish a number because they are encouraging people to pay online.

“How do we encourage someone that isn’t online to pay online?

“Should they just get broadband so they can pay for their green bin?

“It is well known that our district is one that has a high ‘digi-excluded’ population. But that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy their garden.

“The city council tweeter went on to say that they will give the number to anyone that asks. Is it me or is that a classic Catch 22? If you ask we will give you the number, but we won’t give you the number so that you can ask.”

Jane said this was “further excluding” elderly community members from participating.

However, the city council say online transactions are far cheaper than over the telephone.

Coun Brendan Hughes, cabinet member with responsibility for environmental services, said: “Processing transactions online is quicker and cheaper, helping to save the taxpayer money overall. For comparison, processing an online transaction costs around 15p compared to £2.83 to process a transaction over the telephone.

“By only publishing the website address our intention was to encourage people to pay online, rather than the more costly option of doing it over the telephone.

“However, we do recognise that online is not an option for everyone. Our main switchboard number, which is widely publicised and included in phone directories, directs customers to our team taking telephone payments.

“Since the launch of the garden waste subscription service we have processed more than 3,800 telephone payments (compared to 11,000 online), which suggests this has not been a major issue.”