CCC recently upgraded their email system with the result that councillors get fewer emails. Unfortunately, it’s not spam and suchlike that is being winnowed out, but emails with mis-spelt addresses – they just get trashed.
In the olden days, with the previous email system, if you sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org in the hope of contacting Councillor Joe Bloggs, you would get an automatic message saying that your message couldn’t be delivered (known as an NDR – Non-Delivery Receipt). That way you would know that something was wrong, and you would probably be able to figure it out, and eventually get it right. However, the new system doesn’t send these helpful NDR messages. So you send your message to joe.loggs and having no reason to think otherwise, believe that your councillor has got your message and is now springing into action.
It gets worse: it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to automatically route these mis-spelt messages into ‘check these’ file, and have a human being scan through them daily or weekly. But no, these mis-addressed emails are instantly destroyed, so there’s no chance of them ever getting through. In the physical world this is like the Royal Mail shredding any letter that is mis-spelt, mis-addressed or even mis-punctuated. The Council have come up with a short-term fix (see below) which simply involves all of us doing a little bit more work, and Customer Services presumably doing quite a bit more work.
Every IT department has its own special mix of considerations and constraints – in banking it’s security, in the stock market it’s ‘up-time’. What CCC’s IT department must not lose sight of is that their special duty is to help, not hinder, local democracy.