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The Laz Word....On Liverpool Direct

As a £10m overcharge is announced, does anyone know if it is worth keeping or ditching? Larry Neild doesn't

Published on September 30th 2010.

The Laz Word....On Liverpool Direct

THERE was a time when Liverpool City Council published an annual year book, showing the home addresses and home telephone numbers of its senior managers.

Somebody needs to write a book – Understanding LDL for Dummies, so people like me can assess whether it is the biggest rip off of the decade, or the best deal on the planet

Contacting the council could be like an assault course for the inexperienced ratepayer with a problem or a matter of civic importance to discuss.

You would ring particular departments and hope that, eventually, a helpful ear would tune into your call.

Councils have always struck me as organisations we pay for, yet have very little say in the way things are run.

David Henshaw changed all that when he was headhunted to steer the city council through a difficult passage just after the Lib Dems swept to power in 1998.

A revolutionary deal was signed between the council and BT, creating Liverpool Direct. In many ways a municipal trendsetter, the aim was to allow every citizen 24/7 contact with the council.

On paper the idea sounds great, so much so most local councils around the country now have their own versions of Liverpool Direct – some of whom are, indeed, operated by LDL.

But try as hard as you like to speak to someone in a specific council department, and you will find that getting past the first trench – Liverpool Direct’s infamous 233 3000 call number – is difficult, if not impossible. Yes they are helpful and will pass on your comments.

I liked it when I knew the names of the local rodent control officer, or the person in charge of lollipop ladies. It made council’s appear to be of the people, by the people.

Now comes a damning report saying Liverpool Direct is being overcharged by £10m a year for its IT and call handling service.

This year the Liverpool Direct contract with BT will cost the council £70m. I work that out at around £155 for every many, woman and child in the city.

Doctor David McElhinney, one time “right hand” man of Sir David was seconded to Liverpool Direct, becoming its managing director. He is now acting chief executive of the council.

He council has spent £250,000 on a report looking into the LDL contract, and the findings must make uncomfortable reading for new council leader Joe Anderson.

The conclusion seems to be by ditching the contract, the council will save millions of pounds a year. But then what? What will replace Liverpool Direct? How would people navigate the maze of council departments?

Of course, BT insists the council is getting “excellent value and services”.

Currently the council and BT are negotiating an extension of the current contract. If and when that is signed LDL will remain until at least 2017.

The problem for the footsoldiers – the ordinary citizens of Liverpool who foot the bill - it is hard to work out whether Liverpool Direct is worth the money we are paying for it. Somebody needs to write a book – Understanding LDL for Dummies, so people like me can assess whether it is the biggest rip off of the decade, or the best deal on the planet.

We need an idiot’s guide to what we are paying for, what we get for our dosh and how much money is being made in profit by BT.

Until that happens it will stand for many as Liverpool’s Great Wall of Silence.

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

AnonymousSeptember 28th 2010.

Why is anybody worried. It's only our money. Looking at the figures though it does seem Liverpool Direct is an expensive luxury we can't afford in the current climate. We're getting rid of hundreds of council workers whilst paying huge fees to BT.

frabcusSeptember 28th 2010.

Until Liverpool Council publish the contract with BT in full, we can't even begin to assess it. See this FOI request for a redacted version:


RadiorogersideSeptember 28th 2010.

The witchunting and vendettas carried out by the previous administration to silence whistleblowers or critics commenting on the deal with BT. Makes it all the more sinister..The levels of Corporate hospitality accepted from BT should be investigated with regard the players involved in the contract negotiations..The use of the BT logo on Conference Centre is another done deal worth looking into!

AnonymousSeptember 28th 2010.

go for the perks and sod the cost. That seems to be the motto currently of our MPs and local councellors. Let's face it somebody has to pay for all the lollies, such as congerences in sunnier climes, banquets that would put ancvient courts to shame, freebies in private boxes at sports venues etc and the hospitality goodies that go with them. But hey where is the open check to pay for it all? I don't think you need a degree to work that out........try Local taxation income tax and VAT.
An explanation of the Liverpool Direct operation is definately needed, but at the same time an explanation and comparison of the options to it. may be a good idea to investigate who is benefitting from it the most and by how much. (Do they still use white envelopes or have they gone for the less conspicuous brown ones!!!

TourmanSeptember 29th 2010.

Can any-one give me a reason why we need Liverpool Direct, do we really need 24 hour access to council services 7 days a week?

Corpie MacSeptember 29th 2010.

You don´t get access to Council services 24hours a day.

You get access to a bored call centre operator who has no information to give you except to tell you to phone back in the morning or Monday morning when the staff in the relevant department are in their offices.

It´s all a ridiculous sham and the sooner the staff are allowed to go back to their old Council jobs and conditions of service the better.

gonzopixOctober 10th 2010.

Liverpool Direct call centre con? In reality just another trench dug around the council castle to keep those pesky ratepayers at a safe distance.

William NolanAugust 29th 2014.

I was told by a senior member of the revenue section in court, that the call centre would put me through directly to the revenue section, I pointed out to this person at the call centre quite categorically state that they cannot put through a customer directly to a member of the revenue section, indeed a further comment was made they do not have a facility to do this, therefore that particular member of Liverpool direct Ltd missed led the court, when you are taken to court for non-payment of Council tax, why to the court not keep any record of your appearance and the outcome, I have contacted the court this is what they tell me. What exactly is the relationship between Liverpool direct Ltd and the magistrates court when you are requested to appear before the court to answer a summons.

AnonymousAugust 29th 2014.

What exactly is the relationship between Liverpool City Council via Liverpool direct Ltd revenue section, with the magistrates court when seeking liability orders for non-payment of Council tax etc. When you ring the court information office to enquire what happened on a specific case when Tait time of appearance and case number of quoted, the court can provide no further information as to exactly what happened on an application, it refers you back to Liverpool direct Ltd for further information concerning their application on behalf of Liverpool City Council. Is there any way other than contacting Liverpool direct Ltd via the contact centre, to make enquiries was exactly happened in the court.

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