Oct 24 2016

Harrow Council’s Call Centre: Disagraceful performance

harrow_council_broken_2Harrow Council has quietly release details of the amount of time residents have to waste to get through to its call centre, Access Harrow.

The statistics show that callers can expect to wait well over half an hour to get to talk to someone who can help them – an in the worst case, fast approaching an hour.

The council will trumpet, proudly, that it is working to “channel shift” from telephone to web (thus excluding those in the borough that are partially sighted, unable to use computers, possibly unable to use a keyboard due to arthritis, don’t understand the complex flows of some of the council’s web forms, and so on) and yet the number of callers per month to Access Harrow is dropping only by single percentage points – and in three months out of the last 12, actually increased month on month.

Does it get any worse? Well, yes. typically one in ten callers will give up waiting for eternity for their call to be answered and hang up. Whether they get through when they call back, of course, isn’t clear. It’s also entirely possibly some residents never call back, and thus never get the help – perhaps life-saving help – that they might need.

Even the number of automated payments – another cack-handed scheme from Cockwood’s bunch, aimed to keep the council away from the riff-raff they’re supposed to serve – haven’t really improved over the last 12 months.


Month Calls Received Automated Payments % Answered Average Speed to Answer (secs) Maximum Call Wait
October 99,537 17,119 91% 139 39’04”
November 89,666 13,418 91% 89 32’59”
December 84,180 17,154 93% 84 35’41”
January 94,800 18,503 91% 95 38’07”
February 89,690 16,369 91% 113 13’52”
March 107,389 19,109 89% 111 42’05”
April 97,690 16,503 89% 122 47’11”
May 93,565 19,627 91% 125 28’38”
June 104,141 20,088 91% 147 47’56”
July 89,353 17,281 90% 149 47’41”
August 87,364 17,011 90% 152 37’31”
September 84,918 19,827 90% 153 43’44”

It’s shabby. It’s outrageous. And it’s disgraceful that this council get away with providing such appalling service to the residents whom it is supposed to serve.

Source: FOI request 18.10.2016


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  1. Mike McFadden

    Ha ha ha You couldn’t make it up.
    Staff at harrow have increased to 5800 and they still can’t answer a phone in a reasonable time. They refer you to a Web-page that at best is slow or not working properly. At best the staff at Harrow Council should bow their heads in shame. Its time to put the tax-payers first!! There are so many unanswered questions regarding waste, incompetence or possible miss use of tax-payers money in the borough. A message to Harrow council you cannot hide forever.!! Innit Mate. Ave a nice day.!

  2. Bill Stephenson

    I cannot understand your comment. The average time taken to answer calls is around two minutes far better than HMRC, BT, OR many other private companies I have to deal with. The longest waiting times are of course a disgrace but to bring the average down to around two minutes must mean that some calls are answered very quickly. We could do without the voice recognition bit which really does not work and is inefficient and very frustrating.

    1. Susan Hall

      Bill, it was not like this when you were in charge. Residents are complaining all the time that they cant get through. Ask your Labour Councillors, they must be getting as many complaints as I am. Things are going downhill fast and as for the disgraceful behaviour of your former Colleagues in the last Council Meeting when they refused to discuss the £356 million Regeneration Scheme, I fear for the future.

    2. Mike McFadden

      Bill, The calls may get answered by receptionist if you want to be that pedantic but very rarely get resolved or answered pacifically. It always seems Harrows FIVE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED tax-payer funded staff are always out of the office or on annual leave. Something is drastically wrong and tax-payers should no have to pay for incompetence. !!

      1. Harrow Dude

        You do realise that “Harrows FIVE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED tax-payer funded staff” are not all employed to sit at the end of a phone

  3. Concerned Harrovian

    Now you know why it is called Horror (Harrow) Council.

  4. F.D.Billson

    Where is the highly paid Chief Executive that council staff voted to have back in position ? I don’t understand why he should still be in the position apart from Labour’s complete inability to run the council efficiently and for the benefit of residents.


    Well thats rubbish BILL when you ring yr mates you kmow what number to ring-= yr mates answer even when op puts you through no one answers, Esp parking ticket just pay up ???

  6. Concerned Harrovian

    Horror Council can truthfully say it does not have many complaints because no one can through on the telephone. As suggested by OLD HARROVIAN emails and letters are probably filed under B I N.

  7. mike mcfadden

    Harrow Dude, I fully agree Harrows Five Thousand Eight Hundred Staff are not all there to answer the phone’s but all are paid to do a job and it clearly seems to be a problem at Horror Harrow.! The tax-payer seems to lose every time. That MUST change.

  8. Susan Hall

    I actually feel really sorry for our front line staff. They are not the ones who make the decisions but they are the ones that have to implement the ridiculous policies that are causing so many of the problems. The resourses needed in Access Harrow (answering phones etc) has been reduced but demand has gone up with so many people having cause to complain. Brown bin fiasco as one example. The brown bin fiasco has been caused because of the ridiculous decision of the Labour Councillors to start charging, yet our staff get the blame. Very senior staff and the Labour Politicians were told over and over again that the system as it is would not work but they would not listen. Who suffers? Us taxpayers and our front line staff. Until sensible decisions are made at the top us two groups will continue to pay the price.

  9. Concerned Harrovian


    Thank you for your explanation. It would seem the front line staff are as hard done by as are the residents when dealing with the Council. Perhaps the councillors from the current administration should volunteer to do a shift on the telephones. They MIGHT then understand how difficult it is for a reduced workforce to cope. They would also hear residents’ complaints and get some understanding why council taxpayers are so frustrated and annoyed by the poor service. given in return for our council tax.

    Perhaps the councillors should also volunteer to take some residents’ garden waste to the tip. Whilst they are sitting in the long traffic jam they could then reflect on what it is like to be a Harrow resident/worker.

    They do however provide a MAGNIFICENT service for the fly-tipper. The fly tipper dumps the rubbish and the Council take it away for FREE. .The rest of us council tax paying plebs have to pay the council to take our items away or sit in the queue in the roads leading to the tip

    Councillors, remember we vote you in but we can also vote you OUT!

  10. Ilikefilmme (@vespa2222)

    It is annoying to get answered then transferred to the department you want only for the phone to ring out & then be picked up again by the switchboard but not as annoying as the person or persons at the end of the phone at the department you want answering you then putting the phone straight down.

  11. Someonewhocares

    Common problem, worse in the Public Sector (but still unacceptable):-


    “I don’t think the overall trend is worsening,” Lin Homer, HMRC’s chief executive, told MPs.

    – So that’s alright then…

    “Thank you for holding; Your call is important to us…”; Hilarious!

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