Archive for Consumer

Still onto BT: Roger that!

I blogged yesterday about my problem getting my BT broadband sorted out. How hard can it be to switch the account holder of an otherwise unchanged broadband service on the same line? My former employer is, understandably, keen that they should no longer pay for my home broadband, and I’m equally keen to get this sorted out.

Yesterday I got a call from BT customer services offering to upgrade me to BT Infinity. I was assured that my broadband was in my name, that the upgrade could go ahead and we even booked an appointment for an engineer visit (apparently a new socket plate is needed) next week. My fear that the account had not yet been sorted (because I’d not been told so before) was laughed off.

Ha ha.

Today I got another call from BT apologising that they would be unable to fulfil the order since, surprise surprise, my broadband is not a residential account but still in the name of my old firm. Which is what that firm and I have been trying to tell BT, and get changed, for weeks now.

I was given another number to call to sort this out, retold the tale to a series of trying-to-be helpful people (in between tranches of holding music), none of whom, it turned out, were in the right team to deal with my issue. Finally Roger Howard in Customer Options advised me a) that the best thing was simply to switch the existing account from my firm to me and b) that he was enacting this now.

Hallelujah! Let’s see if it now happens. Could be the first time we’re glad to get the phone bill.

PS to those advising me to switch to another provider… I have had tales of dreadful customer service and/or poor connection speeds from other providers. I don’t want to give any more money to Mr Murdoch. The BT broadband itself is good. It’s just the handling that’s a nightmare. Although BT please note: if there is this much hassle involved in staying with you, don’t be surprised if people switch.

Comments (3)

On hold for BT

I have had fun and games a few times with BT over the years.

When I went wireless there was the non-arrival of the home hub when promised. And the delay in activating the account.

Then there was the joy of the 90-minute helpdesk call that a simple line test could have avoided.

Before that, I had problems back in 2006 when my previous employer stopped paying for my broadband. Although the phone line and broadband provider were unchanged – simply a change of billing address – I found out after I had been cut off that we could not simply transfer the billing. A change of MAC code had to be made, even though BT was still the provider.

Now I’m in the same position, as I’m taking on the broadband account from my previous employer. I’m taking the opportunity to upgrade to BT Infinity at the same time. Both my old firm and I have been trying to sort this out for weeks. I am assured that the hub will arrive a week tomorrow, that the new service will be live that day, and that the billing will be seamlessly switched to my account at the end of the month. 

When I explained about the problems I’d had before, associated with having to change the MAC code, the (very friendly) chap on the line clearly thought I was an idiot. He cheerfully assured me several times that there was no problem as the line is unchanged, the provider is unchanged, it’s just a change of billing address. We have been here before.

Watch this space….

Comments (1)

What future for housing democracy under Labour?

Disappointing news that the Labour Council has rejected LibDem proposals to consider balloting tenants on the future of council housing management in Islington.

I should declare an interest as Homes for Islington (HFI), Islington’s ALMO, is my freeholder. As a leaseholder, I’ve had a generally good experience of them. The few pieces of work they’ve done on our relatively-modern property (repainting railings, upgrading communal aerial) have been carried out efficiently. The railings in particular were a good job well done, going from a rather peaky eau-de-nil to a glossy black, with minimum hassle.

However I also know of too many cases where the sheer size of HFI has left a small issue festering into a major grievance, because it was not dealt with promptly in the first place. As well as major concerns over the cost of major works, and the frustration leaseholders feel when presented with huge, mandatory bills.

No-one wants to go back to the state that Islington council housing had reached by the late 1990s. When I was first a councillor, Labour presided over squalid estates where postmen feared to tread. Tenants were desperate for a change and voted whenever they could to transfer out to housing associations. Money was wasted and there was no accountability.

The ALMO was supposed to achieve the best mix between getting the perceived better management of housing associations, while retaining secure council tenancy and rents. Most pertinently, it was the only option at the time for getting vital Decent Homes money out of the Labour government.

Now that’s been done, is there a case for taking the service back in-house when the ALMO ends? The arms-length structure has led to perceived buck-passing between HFI and the Council, made worse in the many council-owned street properties where Partners for Islington – the company contracted to deliver long-term management of decent homes works on period properties – is also involved.

If Labour are truly going to look at all the options, it seems strange to rule the in-house one out. And wrong not to let residents have their say. The LibDem council held a consultative ballot before bringing the ALMO in. Labour’s attitude to housing still seems to be “you may live in it, but we know best”.

I’d look at every option, but whoever the landlord is, my preference would be devolving more money and power to tenants & residents by setting up TMOs, housing co-ops and other forms of self-management, within a community housing framework.

The best-run, safest and most attractive estates in Islington are those with the most empowered residents. Not those who see their T&RA as a stick to beat the freeholder, but those who get stuck in and help run their estates themselves. You get better accountability, better value-for-money and residents who feel pride, not frustration, when they look around their neighbourhood.

For this to work the freeholder must devolve enough money and support to make the estate self-management viable, and there must be clear, simple and consistent demarcations of responsibilities between the different tiers. But it can be done, as shown by estates like the Half-Moon tenants’ co-op in Barnsbury.

This afternoon I’m joining the St. Mary’s Path Estate Tenants’ Association, and their landlord Islington & Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA), to celebrate the great work they’ve done in providing positive activities for residents of the estate and the wider community, through having just such a good partnership.

Islington Labour please note.

Comments (1)

One freeze we’d welcome

It’s council budget time again in Islington.

Islington’s Lib Dems first took control of Islington Council 10 years ago following the Hillrise by-election, where the level of council tax was a crucial issue. Under Labour, Islington had the highest council tax in the country and some of the worst services.

The LibDems pledged to cut the council tax and then to keep it below the London average, while improving services: a promise they’ve kept ever since.

Last year, controversially, Labour councillors took advantage of the hospitalisation of Lib Dem Cllr Donna Boffa to force through a council tax rise, rather than the freeze that LibDems wanted.

Islington residents who might have forgotten life under Labour will have taken note that on the one day in a decade when they had a majority, Labour put up our taxes.

This year Liberal Democrat councillors will be proposing a council tax freeze again, and it looks as if they’ve got Labour to concede. We’ll find out at the Council meeting next Thursday.

Labour not putting taxes up? It must be election year….

Leave a Comment

Down the tubes

North Londoners are facing some big public transport challenges over the coming months.

First the London Overground is being shut completely through Islington for upgrading from 20 February 2010 until 31 May 2010, with weekend closures for longer. That’s bad enough but just about bearable on its own. But now the Northern Line is facing regular closures too.

Incidentally, quite apart from messing up all those existing journeys, this makes a real mockery of the idea that it’s in any way easy for Islington residents to get to the Royal Free instead of Whittington. At least we have a direct, 24 hour bus to A&E at the Whittington, even if the trains aren’t running.

Tubelines are the surviving partners in Gordon Brown’s big idea for financing tube improvements, the Public Private Partnership or PPP. Like the other PFI deals, it was set up as a fixed-price, longterm contract, that would ‘outsource risk’ to the private sector by setting financial penalties if the job wasn’t done to time and on cost. So how has that worked in practice?

Metronet found they couldn’t deliver as agreed, so first asked for more money and more time – and then walked away from the job. Tubelines, still with us, are relatively-speaking, the good guys. They’ve completed their projects so far by playing a more cautious game: but that involves charging more money over a longer timescale than many commentators think is necessary. Londoners are literally paying the price, in taxes, in fare rises and in disruption. So much for outsourcing the risk.

These are points my feisty female colleagues Susan Kramer, Lynne Featherstone and Caroline Pidgeon have also made. Who says transport is a male issue? And who still thinks the PPP was a good idea?

Comments (2)

TV Times….

Richard was watching Match of the Day this morning, when our TV died. (I blame the fact that they were just saying something nice about Spurs.)

I am now watching a rather small and tinny Andrew Marr on the PC.

There may not be any TV in the Gospel accounts of the Nativity, but Christmas without a TV is not exactly what we had planned. So Rich has already leapt into action and ordered a new TV online. John Lewis to the rescue, we hope.

Leave a Comment

Christmas recycling in Islington

Some useful info from Islington Council’s recycling team:

Refuse and Recycling collections during Christmas and New Year

With Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Fridays, residents who normally have collections on a Friday will have their materials collected on Sunday 27 December and Saturday 2 January instead. The Council website has the full list of scheduled changes.

Christmas tree recycling

If you live in a street property you can simply leave your Christmas tree at the edge of your property along with your normal green waste from Monday 4 January. If you live on an estate please contact your Area Housing Office for more information on how to recycle your Christmas tree.

There will also be four bring sites for Christmas trees at parks in Islington between 2 and 17 January:
* Kings Square in EC1
* Rosemary Gardens in Canonbury
* Elthorne Park near Archway
* Barnard Park in Barnsbury

You can also take green waste, including Christmas trees, to the Household Reuse and Recycling Centre at Hornsey Street.

Extra recycling bags

Apparently the Council are also delivering a pack of 10 clear recycling sacks for extra recycling to the properties which get the green box service. I’ve not seen these yet but will look forward to them. Especially as I’m hoping to do a bit of a tidy up and clearout between Christmas and New Year!

Comments (3)

Older Posts »
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.