Cllr Susan Wise, Cabinet Member for Customer Service, Lewisham (SW) talks to Cllr Mike O’Brien, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Customer Contact, Medway Council (M’OB)
SW: A national version of our ‘Love Lewisham’ scheme, ‘Love Clean Streets’ was launched back in 2010. Earlier this year, London Mayor, Boris Johnson launched ‘Love Clean London’.
I’ve come to Medway Council, in Kent to meet Cllr O’Brien, to find out about ‘Love Medway’, the latest member of the ‘Love Clean Streets’ network.
Cllr O’Brien, we’re really impressed with ‘Love Medway’. Could you tell us how ‘Love Medway’ came about?
MO’B: One of the things we wanted to do, was to have a central point for reporting environmental crime. We looked around at a lot of different vehicles for [doing] that, and the LoveLewisham site fitted all the boxes that we wanted to tick. We’ve only had a soft launch at the moment, but already we’re getting something like two to three hundred reports a week, and this of course is building up every week.
It’s easy to use, it’s easy to download. We started using it with our Community Officers and we’re finding that they are pro-actively using it, reporting things and getting things done cheaper, and more efficiently.
SW: ‘Love Medway’ seems to be much more than a reporting tool for residents. Can you tell us who the other users are?
MO’B: It’s for everyone to use, for officers, for our active Members and for members of the public. This is not replacing anything we have, we already have a first rate Contact Centre, and this is an adjunct to it. Because the app is so easy to use, we’re hoping people will find it easier to use than the telephone. And for people that don’t have a mobile phone, they can still use all the other facilities we have.
‘Love Medway’, we believe, is a much speedier more efficient and cheaper way of producing the goods here.
SW: I understand that your refuse and street cleaning contractor, Veolia Environmental Services are interested in using Love Medway. What benefits do you think Veolia will bring to ‘Love Medway’?
MO’B: Veolia are the people who actually do most of the work, they are very supportive of the ‘Love Medway’ scheme. They are linked-in to the reports that come in through Customer First [Contact Centre] from ‘Love Medway’ and we’re hoping that we can expand on that in due course”
SW: With the focus on delivering ‘more for less’, can you tell me how you think ‘Love Medway’ will contribute to the ‘more for less’ agenda?
MO’B: Here in Medway we’re working to the theme of ‘better for less’ and we’ve already identified savings [via ‘Love Medway’] of nearly twenty thousand pounds, just in Community Officer time alone, and that’s without taking into account the cost of savings in the Customer Care network itself. We believe those savings will be quite significant.
It’s fantastic news for residents because it means we can use that money in other areas.
SW: I see that you use BlackBerrys here at Medway. How are you finding the ‘Love Medway’ Blackberry App?
MO’B: Here in Medway, we use BlackBerry apps. We’re finding them very easy to download, and to use.
Of course the apps aren’t only available on BlackBerry. People with iPhones and Android devices can also download and use the app, from their respective carrier.
SW: Some Elected Members may be anxious about the kind of scrutiny ‘Love Medway’ could open up. What kind of feedback have you had from local residents so far?
MO’B: The feedback is excellent. Not only from our residents, but from our officers who have been using it as well. We’ve recently had elections, so we’re taking the opportunity to run training sessions for new members, to show them how easy it is to use. They have nothing to fear from it. As I said before, it’s an ‘adjunct to’, not a ‘replacement of’, so if people don’t want to use it, that’s down to them. We’re going to encourage them to do so. It’s so easy to use, I’m sure that once they’ve had a go, they’ll be wanting to use it. It will help in our journey to make sure that Medway is a fantastic place to live, a safe place, and a clean place to live.
SW: From your experience, what advice would offer London Councillors who are considering either their version of ‘Love Medway’ or using ‘Love Clean London?
MO’B: My advice is quite simple: Download the app and start reporting!
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