Cornwall Council is trying to charge town and parish councils £50 to use a 'crypto-card' to access direct dial phone numbers for officers. Not surprisingly, a large number of towns and parishes see this as a rip-off.
At present town and parish councils are sent a telephone booklet which contains a small number of key telephone numbers. This booklet, which is sent out once a year, takes around two weeks to put together. As well as quickly going out of date following changes in staffing, there is also a cost for printing and distributing the booklet. In contrast the CRYPTOCard gives access to the council’s entire phone directory which is kept up-to-date in real-time. The information given includes officer’s land and mobile phone numbers , their line managers, and who they themselves manage. It also includes a keyword search facility to make it easier to find the appropriate officer for their enquiry.
So the crypto-card is undoubtedly better and more accurate. But, whilst £50 to a large town council such as Launceston is not a lot, it is a huge amount for some of the small parishes which don't have a local budget to speak of.
In response to criticism, Cornwall Council says this:
"The cost is not being used to subsidise the Intranet. The £50 charge covers the cost of the CRYPTOCard, distribution and the IT support necessary to provide this access. No rental or annual fee is involved. It is the same amount paid by internal Council services. The charge includes providing parish and town councils with support and advice in the use of the CRYPTOCard to access the council's network via their own computers. Providing the card free of charge to town and parish councils would, in fact, cost council tax payers in Cornwall around £10,600.As a one off payment that gives access to such a huge amount of up-to-date information, £50 must be a good offer!"
But the Council is failing to understand is that money for town and parish councils doesn't grow on trees. If they need to spend an extra £50 then it has to come from taxpayers in the form of an extra levy on council tax - so the result is the same. In order to avoid the negative publicity and bad feeling, perhaps Cornwall Council should have demonstrated a slightly more friendly attitude to localism and not tried to make this charge.