Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Council under Fire over Weather Texting Service

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Council under Fire over Weather Texting Service

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil McKay

AS blizzards beset the North East, roads ground to a halt and temperatures plunged below zero for weeks on end, one group of people in the North East were given access to some privileged information - it was snowing out.

But now a councillor in County Durham is hitting out at the system that gave him and his colleagues the inside tip on the winter's big freeze.

Mark Wilkes, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Framwellgate, in Durham City, has criticised Durham County Council for having plans to send its 126 councillors text messages at 25p a time on whether severe weather warnings were imminent.

Coun Wilkes - who points out that most people and even many councillors were aware of the bad weather simply by looking out of the window - has worked out that the text messages could have cost the taxpayer pounds 3,600.

But as the text alert system was widely ignored, it has only ended up landing the council with a bill for a few hundred pounds.

He said: "We are not stupid, we can look at the television, read our email, listen to the radio or look outside to see what the weather is like.

"To be prepared to spend something like pounds 3,600 on text messaging members with weather warnings is an utter and complete waste of money."

The council used an SMS/text service to inform its members of weather forecasts.

Coun Wilkes calculated that the cost of texting 96 severe weather warnings, plus 19 flood warnings, to 126 councillors at 25p per text would be pounds 3,600.

In a reply to Coun Wilkes' concerns, Steve Keetley, the council's head of technical services, said: "The text service is an enhancement to all the other weather forecast systems around.

"With all other systems you need to be proactive and actually log on to a website to see a weather report.

"This text will give an instant message that severe weather is on the way and will prompt the subscriber to go and look at the weather forecast. …

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