Carrier Pigeon better than council website

Wednesday June 9th 2021


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Sending a carrier pigeon would be easier than trying to book anything online on Midlothian Council’s website, one of its councillors has said.

Councillor Kelly Parry said the current system for the public booking to take part in classes and other events was a ‘nightmare’.

And she pointed to neighbouring local authority Edinburgh City Council’s site as an example of how easy it should be.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the council’s performance review committee, Ms Parry said: “Trying to use the website to book a swimming class is an absolute nightmare.

“You have to jump through hoops , you’d almost be better to release a carrier pigeon to book something.

“We have to prioritise that part of our website, when you look at Edinburgh’s website it is so slick and easy to use.”

The committee was discussing an annual performance report from its corporate solutions service looking at the services provided during the last year.

Among the headline figures for services were more than £866,000 given out through food and key essential fund applications to support struggling families, 477,000 meals and packed lunches to nurseries, schools and hubs and 3,349 crisis grants awarded.

The council also provided £24.4m in support to local businesses since the first lockdown in March last year and 4,500 Chromebooks were issued to support remote learning.

A key element of Covid recovery identified in the report was a move to ‘digital first’ with the emphasis on access to wi-fi.

The report revealed a move by customer services towards digital services as essential as the county’s population continues to grow.

It said: “As one of the fastest growing areas in Scotland, the council cannot support more customers using the current resources, systems and processes.

“This means that the adoption of digital and automated processes will be key to continuing to provide a seamless customer journey, satisfying enquiries at the first point of contact and meeting
increased demand.”

But while the report described the current website as “a well-managed public facing website with SOCITM awarding our site four stars”, Councillor Parry urged officers to make more improvements.

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Gary Fairley, chief officer, said the council was striving to make using the site as easy as buying something on Amazon.

He told the councillor: “I appreciate concerns around the way we provide online services. That is why we have taken to opportunity to invest in a new platform which will move us forward.

“We need to deliver services more like Amazon rather than, as you describe, a carrier pigeon.

“Our ambition is there as we will have to find a new home for the pigeons.”

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