Council red-faced over survey errors

By Ted JeoryEMBARRASSED council bosses have apologised for sending out more than 1,000 error-strewn questionnaires that were aimed at finding out what people think of the quality of their work.

By Ted Jeory

EMBARRASSED council bosses have apologised for sending out more than 1,000 error-strewn questionnaires that were aimed at finding out what people think of the quality of their work.

Officers at Colchester Borough Council admitted failing to properly proof-read the document, which was labelled Best Value Survey and cost almost £8 apiece to produce.

The £8,000 exercise is part of a nationwide Government-led project to gather taxpayers' views on how local authorities are run.


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Twelve-page questionnaires were sent to 1,100 homes in the borough and for those people itching to complete them, it soon became clear not enough attention had been paid to its drafting.

Half a page was devoted to question 22, Accessing Services, which asked people to rate their satisfaction levels on how easy it is to use public transport to visit a range of amenities.

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In case people had changed their minds about their answers, they were given a second chance when exactly the same request was repeated just two questions later.

To increase the feeling of déjà vu, question 33 asked people if they had any long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

If they ticked Yes, they were told to go to question 32 - the one they had just answered. Even more bizarrely, if they ticked No, they were told to go to question 33 - the one they were answering.

A spokeswoman for Colchester Borough Council said: “We are grateful this has been brought to our attention. In proof-reading this document there were errors that were missed.

“We deeply regret it happened. The survey still stands though and the results should not be affected and we encourage people to fill it in.”

Richard Bourne, who used to chair the best value committee at the council - which acts as an internal quality watchdog - criticised the exercise as a “waste of money”.

He added: “It's a bit of an own goal for the council. I'm sure some people will be put off completing the form as a result.

“It's a shame because the idea to consult the public on their views is a legitimate one.

“But it seems to have been done in a half-hearted way - they should have had some pilot exercise on a smaller sample beforehand to pick up these mistakes. E for effort and 0/10 for execution.”

Nicholas Taylor, chairman of the Best Value Panel, was not available for comment yesterday.

However, borough council cabinet member John Jowers said: “We really should have done better - we normally do. Hopefully, it doesn't take away any of the value from the survey results.”

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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