Contact management

For the first time ever I got a performance report on councillor correspondence.

I had been emailed—I suspected with lots of others—by a business looking for a trading location. It was a fairly simple email to deal with, I replied, unable to immediately think of anywhere suitable but also forwarded their enquiry to the council’s economic development team (they have also followed up with the business).

Today the business emailed again with a thank-you for the response and the fascinating information that they had emailed 227 councillors and had 33 responses (a 14½% response rate). I have no idea who the 227 or the 33 were, and since the time between the two emails was fairly short I’m sure more would have subsequently replied.

But it set me wondering what people think are acceptable standards for councillors responses. Most public (and private) bodies will have targets for responding to enquiries and even as a councillor, rather than dealing with the relevant officers, I have to channel most enquiries through a central team who issue me with a reference number and a target date for a response. This type of behaviour must set an expectation of standards of service from public servants.

I certainly try to acknowledge emails within a few days but actually answering can take longer if I need to investigate something. The WriteToThem.com zeitgeist suggests councillors do pretty well at responding (considering they would be the only category on the list who don’t have dedicated staff to handle correspondence coming 2% behind MPs is good going). But I can’t help wondering if members of the public would agree 53% is good.