Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money

The Taxpayers’ Alliance’s lack of research beggars belief; it couldn’t be that the TPA are just a bunch of ideological zealots?

It was a classic Taxpayers’ Alliance story. The headline “Binmen get iPads to save on paper” ran across this morning’s Metro front page. The article detailed how supposedly-profiligate Bury Council was spending £9,000 on the Apple tablets so bin lorries could log details of collections.

The TPA weighed in:

“It beggars belief that a council making huge savings can find this money to splash out on iPads.

“Residents want bin services that are reliable and efficient, not council staff monitoring what they’re throwing out.”

The Daily Mail even lifted the “beggars belief” line for its own headline, topping off a fine day’s work for the TPA.

What actually beggars belief is the so-called alliance failed to do its research properly before commenting on something it knew very little about.

The initiative will actually save Bury Council money, the iPads just being a new form of efficiency-through-mechanisation. A spokesman for the council told Left Foot Forward the changes have the capacity to save the council more than £150,000 per year.

He added:

“This system should ensure that the number of missed collections is reduced to an absolute minimum, because any problems are reported in immediately to our Customer Contact Centre [rather than afterwards, meaning that houses would need to be revisited]. We collect from 83,000 houses each week.

“In the last financial year, we received 4,228 reports of missed bins – we estimate that it would cost £40 to revisit each house, equivalent to nearly £170,000 a year, so this new system should make hefty savings.

“Bury Council is consistently ranked as one of the country’s most cost-effective and efficient councils, and this initiative has been developed in-house in order to keep down costs.”

Honestly, one might jump to the conclusion that the TPA were not really interested in value for money for taxpayers, but on an ideological adventure to undermine public services and the public sector – in this case Bury Council’s directly-provided bin collection services.

92 Responses to “Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money”

  1. Robert

    How much does an Ipod cost , and what the cost of a bin man, bloody hell thats expensive, £32,000 to £18,000 depending on the training. I have not seen an Ipod costing that much, who the hell cares anyway.

  2. Mehdi Hasan

    @ns_mehdihasan @pollytoynbee @wdjstraw @psbook Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/IvsO7wl

  3. Allister Hayman

    @ns_mehdihasan @pollytoynbee @wdjstraw @psbook Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/IvsO7wl

  4. Joe Hesketh

    @ns_mehdihasan @pollytoynbee @wdjstraw @psbook Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/IvsO7wl

  5. scandalousbill

    Daniel Elton,

    You say:

    “What actually beggars belief is the so-called alliance failed to do its research properly before commenting on something it knew very little about.”

    Actually with the TPA, that would be business as usual

  6. Rob Ballington

    @ns_mehdihasan @pollytoynbee @wdjstraw @psbook Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/IvsO7wl

  7. Andrew Ford

    Brilliant… Taxpayers’ Alliance attack council that invested in technology to save money – http://t.co/hZIw7j1

  8. nonny mouse

    Cost of iPad 500 (need 3G to stay connected)
    Cost of insurance/relacements 200 (guesstimate 40%?)
    Cost of 3G service ~200?
    Cost of software/training 20
    Cost per truck: around 1000
    Total cost of fleet of 20 trucks: around 20K

    Cost of asking drivers to use their own phones: 0
    Cost of pen/paper: 1
    Total cost of fleet of 20 trucks: 20

    The iPad solition costs around 20K more than the phone/pen&paper solution and does the same job.

    20K might just cover the cost of an extra bin-man, although is probably closer to half a bin man.

    >>who the hell cares anyway.

    The guy who lost his job through cuts.

  9. Junaid Alvi

    @ns_mehdihasan @pollytoynbee @wdjstraw @psbook Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/IvsO7wl

  10. Luke

    Brilliant… Taxpayers’ Alliance attack council that invested in technology to save money – http://t.co/hZIw7j1

  11. Richard

    “Or even phone into the office using a hands free to allow an office based worker to type the data into an existing desktop.”

    And now work out the annual costs of, God forbid,creating one or several full-time jobs.

  12. Richard

    “Cost of asking drivers to use their own phones: 0”

    And why should the binman be expected to fork out of his own salary for your satisfaction? Next you’ll be expecting policemen and firemen to pay to keep your streets safe and your house from burning down.

  13. Richard

    “Not something you want when you are hauling tons of dirty rubbish.”

    It’s in the cab, not in the bleeding crusher. Do engage your brain before your keypad.

  14. nonny mouse

    >>It’s in the cab, not in the bleeding crusher. Do engage your brain before your keypad.

    You do know that iPads are touch screens, right? They get dirty, they stop working.

    The reason quoted in the sun is that paper gets wet or lost. Most people who own electronics know that water and electronics are a worse match than water and paper, and having an expensive electronic device in the cab just makes for a nice target for your common or garden thief.

    The iPad would need bolting to the dashboard at even more expense.

  15. nonny mouse

    >>And why should the binman be expected to fork out of his own salary for your satisfaction?

    No, I’m asking that he use something he already carries (everybody has a mobile phone these days) in order to help save jobs. Failing that, you can buy/lease some really cheap phones with texting ability.

    Saving money is not just about cutting the deficit, it is about protecting as many jobs as we can. Maybe you don’t care about saving jobs, but I do.

  16. splem

    @13

    >>No, I’m asking that he use something he already carries (everybody has a mobile phone these days) in order to help save jobs. Failing that, you can buy/lease some really cheap phones with texting ability.

    But data entered on an ipad will be instantly tabulated and spreadsheeted. If you just called the numbers in over the phone, you’d need someone to write them up manually, saving no money.

    The instant tabulation lets them deal with problems on the spot, saving labour, and as everyone pointed, salaries are the real expense, not one off equipment purchases. Annual salary = tens of thousands, ipad = not.

    But this proves the TPA’s ideological state hating puritanism. BBC directors are “fatcats”if they earn more than the average wage – never mind if they earned it. What’s the head of ITV paid for a much inferior service? Is it… vastly more with stock options too? Capitalist waste versus socialist efficiency.

    We’ve seen the same with PFI, and Lansley’s privatisation will make it worse. New Labour gave us all those suits because they wanted to run the NHS like a business. Now think how much those “overpaid admins” are going to get when their jobs are privatised and they get stock options.

  17. Steve Bishop

    They do need to check their route for missed rubbish. However they choose to do it, The Metro, Daily Heil and the TPA are three lots of poisen rubbish that they could and should have dumped.

  18. Sandwell Green Party

    Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/D4LnAD0 by @DanielElton @OtherTPA

  19. Craig of Dirty

    @ns_mehdihasan @pollytoynbee @wdjstraw @psbook Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/IvsO7wl

  20. Joe McCaffrey

    The scheme is inteneded to save money, though I would be very sceptical about whether it will save even half of what they claim, but that does not mean that the Ipads are saving money. The scheme does not require Ipads to work, it could be adapted to use any number of cheaper technology – whether any of the competing tablets that would be just as suitable for the task and are much cheaper, or even cheaper a system based on telephone calls to their administration office.

  21. Vin Hitchiner

    @ns_mehdihasan @pollytoynbee @wdjstraw @psbook Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/IvsO7wl

  22. Dave Citizen

    Trust the TPA to focus on ipads as part of a service to society rather than ipad compatible yaughts and Rollers as presents for tax avoiders. They’re all raving mad you know!

  23. Gabriella Jones

    Crazy Taxpayers' Alliance attack on council that's *saving* money: The headline “Binmen get iPads to save on pap… http://t.co/HPWSl3c

  24. Warren EDWARDES

    Just because The Daily Heil and the TPA says something doesn’t mean they are wrong – in this instance. I’m all for automation. But iPads are too sensitive and delicate and expensive for the job. There are lots of rugged handheld devices. But better still call in using a bluetooth headset to an operator on a computer – perhaps even in Bangalore.

  25. Paul Brewer

    Brilliant… Taxpayers’ Alliance attack council that invested in technology to save money – http://t.co/hZIw7j1

  26. Mr. Sensible

    I don’t think the so called Taxpayers’ Alliance know what they are talking about.

  27. Left Foot Forward buy whatever nonsense council PRs send their way | Pirate Scroll

    […] Forward has taken an obviously weak council press release responding t' th' story at face value and attacked us fer our […]

  28. Shine Consulting

    Research before media comment is good!RT @leftfootfwd: Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money http://t.co/h5imffo

  29. Alan McKechan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Crazy Taxpayers’ Alliance attack on council that’s *saving* money: http://t.co/VPWXWez by @danielelton @OtherTPA

  30. Guido Fawkes

    My favourite bit of this is “the so-called alliance” from the supposedly “forward” blog.

  31. Gary Flood

    Brilliant… Taxpayers’ Alliance attack council that invested in technology to save money – http://t.co/hZIw7j1

  32. lee

    You can’t criticise the TPA and Mail for saying stuff for the sake of ideology over actual good sense, when your ideological opposition to anything *they* say leads to you doing the same.

    Should Bury Council strive for greater efficiency? Yes. Should they feel comfortable investing in new technology where it will achieve that greater efficiency? Yes. Are Ipads merely vanity purchases which are significantly over-specced and over-priced for the task at hand (at leats insofar as you’ve explained it to us) Probably, Yes. Are there cheaper, better tailored, and more durable alternatives available? Definitely Yes.

  33. lee

    Oh, and can we also have a look at the £150k+ saving that is hoped to come from this, and ask if it sounds like it might work and, if so, what role the Ipad actualy plays in this?

    As far as I can tell, around 4000+ collections are missed each year (which is fine, these things happen) and it costs £40 to revisit a house where the collection has been missed. The ipads are there to save all these £40’s (or, at least, enough of them to pay for the ipads).

    How?

    Seriously, how does this work?

    The explination above says that “This system should ensure that the number of missed collections is reduced to an absolute minimum, because any problems are reported in immediately to our Customer Contact Centre [rather than afterwards, meaning that houses would need to be revisited]”

    This makes no sense. Who immediately reports the missed collection to the contact centre? The binman who’s just missed the collection? Obviously not.

    All I can think of is that they are using the ipad as a ‘register’.. they (effectively) tick off each collection, that is fed back to the contact centre, and they then get told if they’ve missed one. That would work.. but would be such a staggeringly over-engineered solution to a problem that could be solved with a clipboard and a little bit of diligence i cann’t believe that’s it.

    So, please, I am open minded here.. I like innovative solutions to problems like this, and a modest investment to get rid of the cost and inconvenience (to householders) of those 4000 missed collections would be fine with me… but how the hell does this great plan work?

  34. Leon Wolfson

    A clipboard? Really? So you want them to print off and carry a list of every house on the street every time? This rapidly adds up. Not to mention the issue with pages getting twisted, mangled or mis-marked. Instead of a series of taps on a protected screen.

    The cheaper devices are, so far, buggy and often downright unusable in many situations. There are, on the other hand, far more and cheaper mounts available for iPad’s designed for commercial use, and software development for them is also cheaper than for Android at this time.

    By the time you’ve wasted someone’s time for a few months working down the alternatives, you’ve already cost more than it would have done to just go ahead and do something you can price in a few days for the iPad.

    @20 – Okay, a secretive private organisation with unknown backers, which should be given no more notice than any bunch of idiots with a website. There, happy?

  35. Tom May

    Daniel Elton on the continuing myopia of the Tax Payers' Alliance: http://t.co/FpyWvqI

  36. Daniel Elton

    There has been come criticism of the piece, including from the TaxPayers’ Alliance and on this blog, arguing that the Bury council Binmen would not need a tablet like an ipad, but should use pencil and paper or a traditional phone.

    Now, I am not an expert in refuse collection so I thought I would contact some people who were – private contractors who work with local authorities to collect bins. And, it turns out, they use touchscreen wireless technology.

    May Gurney (works with 21 local authorities, 8 per cent of the market) uses a bespoke MGConnect system, that includes a touchscreen unit in the cab and GPS technology.

    May Gurney say they need the system so that crews get use to new collection routes, can handle customer enquiries, and minimise missed collections. It also allows recycling centres to plan how they will receive the loads.

    Meanwhile, Biffa use in-cab computer terminals to record which bins have been collected, which relays the information to a central hub. It has developed its own technology and allows for two way communication, updating crews on health and safety and other information.

    So Bury Council is merely falling into industry best practice by not using pencil and paper or traditional mobile phones to co-ordinate crews.

    Biffa and May Gurney have developed bespoke systems, which Bury Council decided would cost too much money due to lack of economies of scale, so they chose the tablet that had the functionality that could carry out the appropriate role.

    Surely the TaxPayers’ Alliance should congratulate Bury Council on adopting private sector best practice?

  37. Leon Wolfson

    No, no Daniel. You don’t get it. Because it’s a COUNCIL saving money, it’s inherently evil since there hasn’t been revenue generated for a private company. They’ll just spend the money saved elsewhere, on those communist things like schools or playgrounds!

  38. Adrian Cox

    Have you not examined Bury Council’s own statement before publishing it? What they are saying does not make any sense whatsoever. They say that this will mean they don’t have to revisit ‘missed bins’ – how does logging a problem on an iPad mean they don’t have to go back? The truth is that this is about monitoring the bin habits of innocent residents. I am sick of being accused by my council of doing things I didn’t do – I am an obsessive recycler, yet all we get are letters of accusation because I get mixed up with my neighbouring flats. They can waste staff time and money monitoring innocent residents, yet when I call the council with a problem, I’m told they are under-resourced.

    Furthermore, using their own figures (above – 4228 per annum), this problem only happens 17 times per working day on average. So why not have drivers just text the details – something much cheaper and less prone to damage in such a dirty situation. Also, an iPad is a fashion accessory – equivalent kit can be purchased for half the price of Apple stuff.

    You need to question what authorities tell you before just backing them up. I’m with the Taxpayer’s Alliance on this one. This is not money well spent as (even if technology is required), cheaper alternatives are available.

  39. Leon Wolfson

    Oh, texting the details is cheaper is it? Well, that requires they stop (and you can’t assume they are good texters, so potentially for up to a minute each time, using a printed reference sheet…) after each bin, rather than tapping a screen. Then, 20 texting plans on mobiles the councils need to buy? And you’ll need to develop software to handle the SMS messages and to update a central database, and send texts back if necessary… Nope, not cheaper than the alternatives…

    And yes, it DOES help highlight when they get to the end of the street and it beeps at them “you didn’t do number 12”.

    “equivalent kit can be purchased for half the price of Apple stuff”

    Really? Link it to me. Also remember, as I said, to take into account the cost of mounts, software development and of the time required to develop alternatives…

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  41. Bruce

    Good on Daniel for actually doing some research. It sounds like Bury council also did some research, found out what works best in practice and adopted it.

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