West Northamptonshire Council backs call to ensure it does not discriminate against those without internet access

'This is a group that is often ignored and excluded'

By Sol Buckner, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 4:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 5:01 pm

Liberal Democrat councillor Jonathan Harris' motion on the issue was supported with an amendment at a full council meeting on Thursday (July 15)

The motion also wanted to ensure there are always alternate means of access to council services and to train its workforce on equality matters.

Liberal Democrat councillor at West Northamptonshire Council for Brixworth, Jonathan Harris

Addressing the council before the vote, Councillor Harris, who represents Brixworth ward, said: “This is a group that is often ignored and excluded.

“This could be issues related to affordability or in a lot of cases it could simply be choice.

“Either way, having spent a great deal of time talking to residents during the election campaign and throughout the year, there are people who fall into this category here in our areas and we really must make sure that we provide access to them and not to exclude them."

The agreed amended motion asked the council to:

- Review all of its service access points to ensure that individuals without internet access are not being discriminated against.

- Ensure that there are always alternate means of access, in addition to online access, to services and/or renewal information, and these are readily available and communicated to our residents.

- Ensure that all staff are trained on equality matters, to ensure that all groups are always considered regarding communications and access to services.

Councillor Harris added: “It is incumbent upon our teams across the council to put themselves in the shoes of others when either designing a service or thinking about access to it.

“By the way that is not a criticism of the council staff, it's simply often driven perhaps by cost or ease.

“It is a question of training, it may be a question of retraining.

“But it really is about putting the customers that we serve at the heart of all that we do.”

The motion highlighted a recent situation regarding the garden waste renewal service in the Daventry area.

It stated the renewal service provided residents with a slip detailing the website to access in order to renew the service and no other apparent method of renewing.

Conservative councillor Alan Chantler, who represents Braunston and Crick ward, said: “People who know me well will know that I have been going on for years about this.

“The community in which I live, I chair the parish council, and we carried out a survey by knocking on every door, speaking to every household and during this we discovered that 60 per cent of the households do not access the internet.

“This is not unusual for small rural communities and we must make sure that we find a way of reaching these people that just doing it online won't work.”