Getting Stuff (Finally) Done

My local council are, to be polite, utterly fucking useless. Their skills in organisation, communication, professionalism and competence appear to be absolutely zero – in fact, most of the time I doubt they could even spell any of those words, let alone be good at them.

But, after literally years of nagging, they’ve finally done two of the jobs I’ve been nagging them about.

First, we start with The Bridge

Six years ago (I’ve probably written about it before, but can’t be arsed currently to check) we had a mains water line burst near the village – a burst that was so powerful, it destroyed the bridge wall that the pipe was next to. Now, it’s not a main road per se (i.e. it’s not an A-road or motorway) but it is one of the two main roads from my village to Milton Keynes and the motorway. So it’s not short of a fair bit of traffic.

Initially, Anglian Water put up some cones/barriers and traffic lights so that the road was usable (kinda/sorta) but reduced to one lane, on the side that wasn’t missing half a bridge wall. That situation remained for about six months (with regular failures of the traffic lights) until I asked Anglian Water what was actually happening, and had they forgotten about the bloody thing.  Turned out, they had forgotten. And there began the saga of getting it fixed.

Anglian moved things about, put in a temporary fence and barrier, opened the road up, and tried to get a repair done. (Which was fraught with its own issues around who actually owned the fucking thing, who was responsible for what, etc. etc.) The council insisted it should be done by their Highways department, who would do the work properly, and all that happy crap. So after eighteen months, Anglian handed the entire clusterfuck over to Central Bedfordshire Council, as requested, and washed their hands of the problem.

For four years I’ve been asking when it’s going to happen, what’s occurring, and so on. It’s outlasted four admin assistants, and two managers. And every time they’ve said “Oh, it’s all scheduled, we’ll hopefully have it done in about three months time“. I do realise there’ve been a lot of hassles – again, with who owns the bridge and the land underneath it, who’ll be stumping up the money, how it’ll all work and so on.  But it’s been four years where it would’ve been all too possible for someone to come off the road, through the fence, and end up twenty-odd feet down underneath it.  After every decent storm we’ve had, I’ve had to contact the council and suggest that they might want to come and put the fence back up, along with the holders/barrier that’ve fallen over.

But about a month ago, signs went up around the bridge saying that work was going to start, and take about eight weeks. And it actually started, and has been progressing nicely.  (Not that anyone from the council has thought to send a message saying “Hey, just to catch you up, it’s all happening”. That would be expecting far too much from them!

Second – the other bridge.

Back at the start of the pandemic, in the next village to mine, someone went on a graffiti spree, writing/spraying stuff on all the village’s road signs and so on. Nothing monumentally offensive, just stupid shit that no-one needs to see. And in fairness, Central Bedfordshire’s Highways department cleaned most of it off comparatively quickly. (I think it only took them a fortnight to get rid of the stuff that was nasty about Central Beds Council, and then about another two months to get rid of the less offensive but stupid stuff)

And then when Captain Tom hysteria was at its peak (Captain Tom was from the village I live in, so it was all relevant locally) they sprayed a big message about him on one of the other local bridges. You can see some of it below, or go to Google Streetview here for the full experience

Yes, it lasted long enough that it even made it onto Google Streetview.

That’s taken two and a half years to get rid of, but finally got cleaned off last month.  Of course, others who’ve seen how long it takes Central Beds to sort these things, have also taken to graffiti’ing local walls and so on. Fine, it may be an influx of new people, but before the first lot happened (and that person has since moved away) we never saw any happening. Now though, I can easily think of eight or nine sites that have been hit.

Again, allegedly there were problems for the council in gaining permissions/clearances to clean that bridge – it goes over a railway line, and they were saying they couldn’t clean/wash the bridge while things might be running underneath, although that sounds like bullshit. The cleaning job when it finally happened didn’t go over the top of the bridge wall at all, so nothing would’ve been affected.  But there we go.

Purely personally, I suspect that if that graffiti had said “Central Beds council are useless bastards” it would’ve only been there a couple of weeks. But because it was about Captain Tom, I wonder if they thought it would be worse to get rid of it than to leave it.  I don’t know.

Anyway. Both jobs have (finally) been done, and it’s really nice that I won’t have to nag the useless bastards any more.  But things like this shouldn’t take that long to get sorted.  If it had been me in charge of either project I’d have got the work done, and *then* chased whoever needed to pay for it, including court stuff if necessary.  But the general public don’t need to see those delays, regardless of the cause – we just want to see stuff that’s been broken get fixed.

I don’t know what the answers are on all this – but government (both local and national) at the moment just seems like one giant clusterfuck of ineffectiveness and general incompetence. And surely there must be better ways than what we’ve currently got?

Utilities 7 – Water Meters

[For the rest of the story, you can click here]

On Saturday, I was due to get my two water meters replaced with “Smart” meters by Anglian Water. Supposedly these transmit data, and mean they can be ‘read’ from the street, rather than needing access to the house in order to read them.  It also replaces/removes the ‘outreader’ displays, which were supposed to do the same thing (or at least would if they hadn’t been installed by a moron) and which in my case were utterly screwed from the start.

Thankfully, the actual installation went OK – or at least seems to have done. The engineer turned up when he’d said he would, the work got done, he left, and there’ve been no water leaks since.

Of course, that doesn’t cover whether Anglian Water will actually manage to correctly swap the meters on my account, close the previous meters with the correct readings, or be able to read the meters correctly in future.

As I’ve recently had my half-year bill, that means this could still go on, as my next bill isn’t due ’til Feb/March 2014…

(And yes, BW, I have taken timestamped photos of the meters on installation, and also have a note in my little book about time/date/reading, just in case)


Utilities Part 5 – More Metering

[You can read previous bits of this here, if you care]

This morning, Anglian Water are supposed to be (finally) fitting my two ‘smart’ meters.  They’re due sometime between 8am and 1pm.

Whether they’ll turn up – and indeed whether they’ll get it right this time – as yet remains to be seen…

Utilities Part Four – Smart Meters Again

So yes, Saturday’s “installation of smart meters” with Anglian Water turned out to be an utter, total cock-up.  About the best bit of the process was that they turned up here first thing, rather than leaving me ’til last thing in the day.  Other than that, it was a total clusterfuck.

Despite no less than four calls between myself and Anglian, all of which saying “We’ll be installing the smart meters”, what they apparently actually meant was “We’ll be doing a visit to check that everything’s ready for when we install the meters”. In other words, all it involved was checking that what I’d said was right about the meters not reading the same as the outreaders (nice that they’re so trusting) and that the stop-cocks all work. And that was it.

Fair to say, I was pretty pissed-off.  Not at the guy who came round – it wasn’t his fault that his colleagues are incompetent tossbags – but definitely at . It’s been listed now as a formal complaint, and I’m waiting to see what they’ve got so say about it all.  Regardless, I see some more compensation in my near future…

Utilities Part Three – Smart Meters

Today, as per the post from yesterday, Anglian Water are supposed to be here fitting new ‘smart’ water meters.

I’ve no idea when they’re coming – the timescale I’ve been given is “Saturday” – nor what will need to be done when they arrive. Nor even how long the work is likely to take.  I will be clearing the areas around both meters, to make sure they’ve got easy access, but other than that, *shrug*, no idea what the plan will be.

As such, my Saturday is looking to be somewhat random. They could be here at 8, done by 9, and I’ll have the day to myself.  Alternatively, they could get here at 4, be here til 6, and my day’s kippered.

Fortunately, I’m pretty laid back about it all, and not going to get stressed one way or the other. But it does strike me as a pretty shit way of doing business…

Utilities Part Two – Anglian Water

Following on from yesterday’s post about nPower’s abysmal customer service, I’ve also been dealing with Anglian Water for far too long since moving in to the new place.

It’s not been anything quite as drastic as the farce with nPower – at least Anglian got my name right from day one. It’s just they’ve never managed to get my bills right.

Part of the problem is the metering setup. For some godforsaken reason, my house (and the others in my section) all have two meters: one for the main property, one for the separate outbuilding. This seems to cause them no end of confusion – my first meter reading, they managed to put the same reading in for both meters which overcharged me on one by some sixty units!  Since then, despite no end of times telling them the outbuilding one only has a washing machine in it (and is thus epically low on usage) every damn bill or reading needs to be done twice, because they don’t believe the first one.  (Personally I’m not keen on what this also says about their attitude to their own meter-reading people, but we’ll leave that for now)

Compounding this has been an ongoing issue with their ‘outreaders’ – little grey boxes that (supposedly) connect to the main meter, and mean the meters can be read without the person needing to access my property.  Except that

  1. Some twat decided that they should both be situated within the courtyard bit between house and outbuilding. Yes, the bit with no access from the outside, without going through the damn house.  #slow_handclap right there.
  2. At no point have the outboxes read the same as the actual meters.

I’ve had Anglian out twice to have the outreaders recalibrated to the meters now, so one would hope they were working. But no…

Back in July I had a meter-reading done. It was one of the days I wasn’t working, so that was fortuitous. And then I expected a bill – it normally comes in August. Nothing.  So I called them this week to find out what was happening – the last thing I want on my record right now is a “late payment” flag, particularly for a utility company.

Only they hadn’t sent a bill. As usual, the outhouse’s meter reading had tripped all their flags, so they needed to check the reading. (Done by a person, don’t forget)  I said I’d do a reading that evening, and then they could sort it out. I also said I’d do both the outreader and the meter itself.

Lo and behold, the outreaders are under-reading by about ten percent. The meter on the house says 98, the outreader says 88. The one on the outbuilding says 22, the meter says 25.  Yep, they’re still buggered then.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind their readings under-reporting by 10% – except I also don’t want hassle at some future date when someone reads the meter instead of the outreader, and suddenly I’m getting hit (again) for 50 units more than I expected.

They’re now coming out on Saturday to fit two ‘smart meters’, replacing the existing meter and outreaders. Supposedly these ones upload straight to a website, so I can monitor the usage and see if there’s a problem.  Considering the issues so far with them, you can be damn sure I’ll be keeping an eye on those reading for the rest of the year!