Return to Henley Cross – Greenwich Council v common sense

It dawned on me a little while back that I’d got into a habit of moaning about Greenwich Council without trying to do anything positive about it. Indeed, someone told me that one of the ruling Labour group on the council had said I was just “inventing” problems that didn’t really exist. But was I? And to be fair, I’d got into a habit of moaning in public because I’d found dealing with Greenwich Council such a spirit-grinding experience it was easier not to bother. But with a new year approaching, I decided to turn over a new leaf and once I’d published the post about Kidbrooke’s Henley Cross bus interchange being dangerously under-lit, I let the council know.

I used because it means I could file a public report with photo. Which I did, in the wee small hours of Sunday morning (that’s how I roll at weekends, you see).

One of the lights at Henley Cross has broken – together with the broken light at the bus stop, and the general poor condition of the interchange, it makes it a sad and intimidating place to wait for a bus.

I had to wait until Wednesday at 8pm for a reply. Just to refresh your memory, here’s a photo of this lonely little corner next to Kidbrooke railway station.

The reply:

Thank you for your e-mail dated 13th December 2009.

In response to your e-mail regarding a street light not working in Henleys Cross,before I can pass this information over to our street light department, can you please advise what number Henleys Cross the light in question is located

[name deleted]
On behalf of Greenwich Council Contact Centre

Errr…. there aren’t any numbers. There are no houses on Henleys Cross. You can see in the photograph! You can see on the map where it is! It’s not hard!

Except, if you work for Greenwich Council, it probably is. I’ve had this trouble before, where I’ve sent weblinks to photographs to illustrate problems and they’ve been completely ignored. Bascially, if you complain by e-mail to the council, it goes to a “contact centre” who take 3 days to get back to you. So if it’s something like fly-tipping you’re reporting, you’d be better off using a carrier pigeon, or using a quill, ink, finest vellum, and then dispatching a messenger on foot to take it to the town hall. New technology? No use for it, guv.

And it would appear the “contact centre” have no access to the internet. So rather than checking for the complaint in question, or cross-checking complaints with maps, the contact centre sends you another e-mail. Which they’ll then take three days to reply to. Meaning it could take a week just to get someone on the case.

I’ve actually had a better response grumbling to the council’s Twitter feed, but that’s a minority sport and you’re dependent on the press team noticing it. And they’re probably sick of me complaining. But when things like this happen, is it any wonder I have such a low opinion of Greenwich Council’s ability to sort out the most basic problem?

So how about the council making sure its contact centre is a bit more effective? How about giving them access to the internet so they can do their jobs properly? It’s not that hard, is it? It’s not as eye-catching an improvement as employment of street wardens in high-profile areas, but could actually help the council do its job properly.

After all, in the case of Henley Cross, it’s only the safety of its residents at sake, isn’t it?


  1. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but the couple of times I’ve reported flytipping by emailthey’ve been very responsive, both in terms of communicating and clearing up the rubbish. they were also very responsive when I reported the abusive grafitti that applied on a neighbour’s door.

    But you’re right that Henley’s Cross is a disgrace, and that particular response is pretty poor.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. I’ve had better luck with phoning them up. I contacted them about a flickering light outside my house and lo and behold they turned up with a crane last night to sort it out.

    It’s just a shame I phoned them almost two months ago!

  3. A very torturous way to try and solve problems indeed! The number should be on a strip of plastic stuck to the lighting column itself. I had a similar problem a few months ago trying to report a problem to Lewisham Council with lights along a footpath (which has no name).

  4. I’ve had different experiences.

    I’ve not had to email the council’s contact centre regarding street lighting, but I’ve twice sent emails regarding waste collection. The first time was when I reported some fly-tipping and the second was when my blue-top wheelie bin went missing in mysterious circumstances.

    In both instances they replied the next day (I’d sent the emails in the evening) despite the warning about not replying for three days. The fly-tipped rubbish had disappeared by the day after. My wheelie bin was replaced after six days, although they had warned me that it might take 2-3 weeks.

    Each time I emailed to say thanks after the problem was sorted, and got a cheery “you’re welcome!” response.

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