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Tameside Council criticised for ‘hair-brained’ iPhone app

Authority defends £5,000 app downloaded 200 times

Published on September 30th 2010.

Tameside Council criticised for ‘hair-brained’ iPhone app

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council has come under fire for spending almost £5,000 on an iPhone app that has attracted just over 200 users.

“This is yet another wasteful gimmick from Tameside Council. Taxpayers are already bombarded with council propaganda from Tameside TV, a failed virtual town hall, the council’s newspaper and now this iPhone app.”

The newly formed Tameside TaxPayers’ Alliance uncovered the cost of the council’s “Buy with Confidence” iPhone application through a Freedom of Information request (FoI)The council admitted that is had spent £4,395.44 developing the application, £59 registering it with Apple and another £1,335 promoting it via YouTube and on the radio.The app had been downloaded 222 times as of September 19 – working out at a cost of £21 per user to the council.

The app detects the user’s location via the iPhone’s inbuilt GPS and gives information on local businesses. It is part of a trading standards campaign to approve businesses in the area, and 170 firms in Tameside have signed up to be part of the scheme, launched last year as part of the £12m “Tameside Works First” directive for the council to use local suppliers.

The app was commissioned in June 2010 and involved the use of two staff, dedicating 218 man-hours to the project. It was launched on August 25 and has recorded an average of 8.5 downloads per day.

Tameside has a population of 214,000 people, which means that only 0.1 per cent of the population are currently using the application.

The council has already attracted criticism for spending £36,000 on a virtual town hall in Second Life which nobody used.

Tameside TPA representative, Liam Billington said: “This is yet another wasteful gimmick from Tameside Council. Taxpayers are already bombarded with council propaganda from Tameside TV, a failed virtual town hall, the council’s newspaper and now this iPhone app.

“The council needs to cut back on self-indulgent wastes of money, and focus on the services that really matter to local taxpayers.

“There is a clear lack of judgement and priorities at Tameside Council considering that this project was commissioned at the same time they were being criticised by both local and national press for wasting £36,000 of taxpayers’ money on a virtual town hall in Second Life.

“Not everyone has an iPhone; Tameside Council need to give up on these hair-brained schemes, this is the sort of spending that taxpayers want to see cut.”

Tameside MBC said it had not spent public money on the app, which was paid for througha government grant. It also pointed out that the app had only been available for a short period and was expected to grow in popularity.

It said in a statement: “The Buy With Confidence iPhone application was not funded by the Council Tax payers of Tameside but has been paid for by a grant from the Local Innovation Awards (LIA) which was awarded to Tameside Council for its successful work in building economic resilience.

“Tameside Council will directly make savings as a result of the app because we will reduce the number of printed directories that list the details of approved traders that we send to members of the public as well as a reduction in the number of visits and phone calls to the council requesting this information.

“A key element of the LIA is the sharing of knowledge and the iPhone application has been developed with the view to offering it to other local authorities who run the Buy With Confidence scheme, so it will ultimately be of benefit to customers and businesses beyond Tameside as well as locally.

“The app has only been available for just a few weeks and we expect the number of downloads to significantly grow. The development costs will not increase.”

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24 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

EARL OF DIDSBURYSeptember 28th 2010.


D KesslerSeptember 28th 2010.

Let's be clear: as if Tories would not waste our money. Already forgotten MPs employing family members?

On another note, the regional development funds 'slashed' by the current government (£1bn) are now in the hand of Lord Haseltine (£1bn). Just a rebranding exercise, with new figures calling the shots, obviously...

DescartesSeptember 28th 2010.

Nice idea though, hyper local yellow pages in your pocket. If only they'd just plugged recommended people use google maps instead.

Also, I can't help but feel that if a professional app developer had got involved it'd taken far less than 200 hours to build and been much cheaper as a result, so they idea is sound - it's the council's application of said idea that falters.

And it's only een

Christopher BryanSeptember 28th 2010.

Something that has been available for a few weeks hasn't been widely used yet - shock horror!

Smyth HarperSeptember 29th 2010.

Come on, Mancon, you can do better than this drivel. The Taxpayers' Alliance would consider it wasteful if your average council employed two people and a mouse. You guys do website development, and know that £5k isn't a huge amount of money for this kind of thing - in fact, I think you've charged a lot more for some services you've provided to local authorities. Was that a waste of money? Will you be getting taxpayers' alliance quotes on that?

To be fair to Tameside council, this thing has only just got going. Instead of lazily regurgitating taxpayers' alliance press releases, why not look at the product on its merits, give it a go and tell us if you think it's worth downloading. That's sort of what I expect from Mancon.

If I want to read this kind of crap, I can always go to the Daily Mail.

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2010.

My problem with this product is that it encroaches on private sector services, something the public sector should never do. There are plenty of companies out there who 'approve' tradesmen, without minor councils trying to get in on the act. Concentrate on what you're good at, if indeed you are.

Leigh ScottSeptember 29th 2010.

Smitty we all know you work for the council but the point is the app is a luxury and not needed. Jobs are being cut and we have all known for some time that cut backs and reductions are imminent. Poor judgement and it back-fired (again)!

Smyth HarperSeptember 29th 2010.

Scotee, I've never made any secret of working for the council (not Tameside though!), but your post sort of shows why this is such a bad piece of journalism that I wouldn't expect from Mancon. When you eventually get to Tameside council's quote, thrown in at the bottom of the article almost as an aside, it says that council money wasn't used to make the app and that the aim of it is to save money. So it didn't cost any jobs and the money couldn't have been used to stop any cuts and ultimately it will return its investment.

If this app is crap, and pointless, then fair enough. But I'd rather Mancon found out for itself and let us know, rather than just suckling from the teat of the taxpayers' alliance. Like I said in my above rant, dailymail.co.uk is where I go for that kind of nonsense.

Anon tooSeptember 29th 2010.

Looks like a balanced report to me Smitty. TPA view on one side, council's on the other.

I think these debates need highlighting, then people can make their own mind up.

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2010.

What you need to understand about the public sector is that they have never done anything wrong. Ok, well apart from that time it wasn't their fault. Every single employee is absolutely vital and their removal would see the end of civilisation as we know it. Also you must understand that public sector workers are underpaid, despite what that pesky common sense may tell you. How could you reasonably include someone's pension when calculating their total salary? Anyone who disagrees with this either doesn't understand, has a right wing agenda or reads the Daily Mail.

Leigh ScottSeptember 29th 2010.

I have downloaded the App...

I also realise that I have no qualification with respect to putting in excellent advice against what 'might be' the best of measured approaches when considering the effectiveness and possible return on 'who-ever's investment'.

What I can tell you is that it's shit and i'll never use it whilst I have the internet in the same hand.

Liam BillingtonSeptember 29th 2010.

A few points...

I would of hoped the figures would of been higher considering the publicity they have given it on their website and on the radio. Most iPhone apps are popular when they launch and the popularity usually fizzes away.

The fact of the matter is that only 170 businesses are signed up to the project which has been going on for over a year now. It just goes to show how unsuccessful this scheme is.

This app isn't required. Just download Qype and use that to find local businesses and reviews from actual people, not some jumped up public sector bureaucrat.

RE: Smitty
OK so it didn't come from Tameside Council's budget. But they could of spent their grant money on better things what people actually want. The fact of the matter is, it is still taxpayers' money that has been wasted which has to come from somewhere.

Smyth HarperSeptember 29th 2010.

Liam, according to the article it's been available a month, not a year. Scotee, just downloaded it myself and come on, it's not that bad! I actually think it's quite a good idea because if you need a plumber and if you haven't got a word of mouth recommendation, surely if trading standards have said you can trust the firm, is that not a good thing.

Alternatively, a pal of mine got a kitchen fitted a few years back and got ripped off. It's taken this long for the firm - a local one listed in the yellow pages - to get her money back. I bet if she'd had the option of a service like this it would have saved her a lot of grief.

But what do I know, I'm a mere public sector worker with my snout in the trough!

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2010.

Smitty, the point being there are alternative private sector services available and people can find reviews online anyway. It's just a waste of money and quite concerning that someone who works in the public sector just refuses to accept that.

Smyth HarperSeptember 29th 2010.

Anonymous, which private sector companies provide a listing service that will also guarantee that their listed companies are trustworthy, reliable an won't rip you off? Also you can't always get ratings (which can be unreliable anyway) on every small trader in the country. Example: Madison Garden Service in dukinfield is listed on the app. I've done a web search and, while I can find the firm listed elsewhere, I can't find anything elsewhere that tells me it's a good firm. And I can't find user reviews either. I'm not saying this app is the best thing since sliced bread, but I am saying it's pretty neat if you live in Tameside and are looking for a firm that can be trusted.

Not sure what's so "concerning" about that... Inalso can't believe I'm on here at 7.30 at night - and all because I just thought the story was poorly written and lazy!

Liam BillingtonSeptember 29th 2010.

Smitty, the Buy with Confidence scheme has been going for over a year. The app itself is only a month old. I find it shocking that only 170 businesses are listed. There is a online version of thhe directory, which eager mobile users can visit via their web browser.

So if I buy something from a BWC listed trader and something goes wrong, do you think TMBC will be liable for any compensation? I think not! It's the responsibility of the individual.

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2010.

Smitty, there are loads of listing services, in addition you have trade bodies which are usually better. Plus, who says the Tameside thing is correct, I'd sooner trust a trade body of several reviews. If Madison Gardens do a poor job, you're not really greatly protected. People are generally not thick enough to need walking through life.

EugeneSeptember 29th 2010.

I have used the BWC scheme via a leaflet and the website, but not via the IPhone app. For those that are moaning about the scope and the cost of the scheme, I have this to say:
I have actually used the scheme, unlike most of you who are moaning and it works. A lot of other schemes don't as like some have said, anyone can write a review (including malicious ones). These firms are vetted by TBC. The firms I approached were helpful, prompt and (quite unusually, in my experience of tradesmen), competent. They did the job efficiently, turned up on time, and actually cared about doing a good job. You see to be accredited by the local council is worth a lot more than some fly-by-night website that is probably not even based in your area.
Agreed the cost is a lot in itself, but I think it is probably justified - Tameside are one of the few councils in the UK to be rated as 'Excellent' by Govt inspectors. Ie they provide decent, value for money services and - crucially- the local people who live in that borough are generally very happy with them. I highly rate this scheme - it has saved me a LOT of hassle and given me a lot of satisfaction.

AnonymousSeptember 30th 2010.

I hate the fake 'reviews' on here. Spoils the site and they stick out like a sore thumb.

Temporary HeroSeptember 30th 2010.

Hmmm, seems more like a news story to me anonymous. Colour me crazy if I'm wrong like.

AnonymousSeptember 30th 2010.

'Vetted by TBC' could just as easily equate to 'Run by brother x from our Masonic lodge' in a lot of cases...

AnonymousSeptember 30th 2010.

Jimmy, I meant the the comment above saying the app was great.

ianianSeptember 30th 2010.

This article is a nice bit of press for the app, it'll probably double their downloads. Speaking from personal experience, iPhone app downloads don't always decrease over time, my (paid) apps (both non entertainment apps) have been on a steady upward slope. The BWC iPhone app seems like a decent idea if the firms are properly vetted (and if another 8000 people download it over the year -50p a person doesn't seem so bad for a punt).

EugeneOctober 1st 2010.

Anon, can you please clarify, is your dig aimed at my comment?

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