Why Cambridge Council should be sacked

Well, they might rightfully say that since I don’t pay their council tax or business rates I can go and stick it, but these incompetents really showed me why councils can’t be trusted to run services. They are inward looking with no sense of customer service.

I went to Cambridge on the 27th December for some Weimar Germany inflation porn at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Obviously I wouldn’t dream of using the train, although the actual return train fare is only a couple of quid more than the fuel, but there were two of us, instantly doubling the cost of using public transport, ruling it out for anybody rational. DGF went to university at Cambridge, so she knows the town well enough to know where to park near her old college with an acceptable hike into town, but in a momentary fit of madness we thought we would consider the park-and ride. Street parking costs about a fiver for the amount of time we wanted.

Times are hard at Cambridge - no snow clearance at the P&R

Obviously they’re paying somebody too much at Cambridge council, as nobody was up for the overtime to clear the snow. Or it’s all going to keep the Chief Executive in Château Lafite, anyway we had to slip and slide along the uncleared footpath to the bus stop/ticket hall.

Typical council notice of all the things they won't do for you

Here we were greeted by this notice, telling us all the things that the council wouldn’t do for us. Including give change, or accept £2 coins. The £2 coin has been in circulation for 13 years so we aren’t talking some new-fangled Johnny-come-lately here but a coin of the realm over a decade in service. Never mind, you can buy the ticket on the bus.

Buy your ticket on the bus - for a 10% surcharge!!!

Yep, they can fix that for you. For a small fee of a 10% hike in the ticket price. That’s what the public sector does with such a lack of grace. They are so used to being the only source of something that they behave in a high-and-mighty monopolistic manner.

Well, I had a choice. I was not going to be rushed by these self-serving, arrogant toe-rags so we went right back to the car and berated ourselves for the temporary fit of madness that made using this council service look like a good idea.

Cambridge council score extra black marks here since we consulted their website for the park and ride ‘service.’ Nowhere does it tell you some of the essentials like:

  • how much a ticket costs
  • that tickets are per adult, so only single occupancy drivers need bother
  • their usurous 10% tickets on the bus surcharge
  • that ther ticket machines don’t give change
  • that their ticket machines don’t take £2 coins

We’d have been able to raid the piggy-bank beforehand, carefully setting aside those pesky £2 coins of course, had they had the customer focus to tell us some of these fundamental limitations in their operation. That would have got them the business. All in all, the whole experience stank of the laziness and complacency that has come to epitomise some council services, particularly boring Cinderella services that are easy revenue earners, like parking. Why couldn’t this be paid for using a mobile phone FFS? Or a debit card? Cambridge is meant to be the UK equivalent of Silicon Valley, and unlike some councils up North they’re hardly strapped for cash. Do the businesses in Cambridge know that the council is so hostile to their potential customers? Wasters, the lot of them…

Just to show a contrast, Tesco at nearly the same place, same day, same time of day managed to totally clear their car park

Tesco can clear their car park

We’d actually gone here to get some change to avoid the 10% charge, but on seeing this car park we saw that Cambridge Council clearly didn’t give a damn about our custom and couldn’t bring ourselves to patronize such an incompetent organisation.

This wasn’t about the extra 60p. I can easily afford the 60p surcharge. It was about not letting Cambridge Council take the piss, and not supporting such a customer-hostile operation.

Tesco shafts you every step of the way, from their ‘value’ to ‘finest’ branding which in more than one blind test I couldn’t favour one over the other though they were different. But they’re not so damned arrogant and brazen about it. That’s what private enterprise does right about shafting its customers – it does it with a smile, makes them want to be suckered, rather than slapped around the face with a wet kipper with the simplicity of “it’s our way or the highway mate”.