HillingdonFirst, ResidentsLast?

HillingdonFirst is an ID Card Privilege Card that will affect upto 243,000 residents based on a consultation of ~150 (which is not available). It will keep a log, for 6 years, of every time and place you park, when you visit the council gym or dump and has some dodgy future uses.

Coming June 15th.

So, its been a very long time since we last did an update but to be honest not much is happening – there are outstanding FOI requests (which hillingdon are completely failing to respond to) and there are plans afoot for the next local election…

Anyhow, why this post now? In the last few days hillingdon have been announcing the latest in the long line of ‘discounts’ that us lucky hillingdon residents are getting. We thought it would be a good time to let everyone in on a little secret method we have been using to gather 50+ ID cards which have been issued to colleagues and friends (why should my staff pay more for parking than I do? They serve us Residents and shop in our local high streets – good way to treat them huh?).

How it works

The hillingdon first scheme relies on using the databases it has at its disposal to issue cards. What most people seem to think is that it is based on the electoral role – this is not true and actually, it would be against the law for them to do so (for once, the law is on our side!). This means that they must use council tax and other databases. This leaves an awful lot of people without cards and therefore paying more than they should, and is the main reason why so many people are still without cards compared to how many we know to live in the borough.

I want my extra Card!

So, to get to the point, here is how you get your cards. Visit the hillingdon.gov website and request a card – enter your address and any name you want (H Sucks ?) and press Submit. A week or so later a nice new ID, sorry Priviledge Card, will arrive at your door. The best thing is that you are not breaking any laws (what are these T&Cs hillingdon talk about?) and you can request quite a few per household. I am sure they have alogorithms or trigger levels to check if you are ordering too many so be reasonably careful. If you want to have plausible denial then use a different computer to the one at home (e.g. at the library), if you do get a letter from the council you can just say it wasn’t you – some naughty scoundrel is playing jokes!).

By the way – if you are a shopkeeper or have more than one property, grab a load more!

Over the last few months things have stabilised a bit – we are still waiting on Hillingdon to answer a fair few FOI requests (see right panel). There appear to be lots of old machines still sitting in the ground next to the new machines, many without signs or covers so confusing matters still. Also, on more than one occasion I have been approached by a parking attendant telling me how to use the machine – I imagine this is for a reason (its confusing!).

Good News though! Over at the Eastbury Residents blog, they tell of two local businesses who were hillingdonfirst signups, but have now pulled out;

In a significant development two local businesses have indicated their intention to withdraw from the HillingdonFirst scheme. Sharmans Pharmacy and Carter Chemist and Ability have stated that it was never their intention to disadvantage residents of Eastbury and that they support the ERA’s campaign to fight for equality for all residents of Northwood.
The businesses wish it to be known that all their offers are available to all their customers and not just to holders of the HillingdonFirst card.

There you go, the first businesses to go public (I know of some more, but they are waiting to the end of the year). Let’s support these two shops who make everyone welcome, not just card carrying hillingdon citizens residents.

Apologies for the long delay in posting, I’ve been very busy.

I visited the Harefield dump this week for the first time (it’s our local) and taking my wife’s card with me (warning: this is against the terms & conditions of use! – but I don’t have a card yet so ?).

It wasn’t long ago that I last visited the site and it’s quite a bit different. Normally you would just drive in when there is a space, dump your stuff and leave. They now have two lanes, one for HillingdonFirst card holders and one for those who are not. As you can see from the pic, every single car in the queue was a card holder and actually I’ve never seen it so busy. Whilst I was waiting, I noticed two separate Land Rover type cars go in via the waybridge (too tall for the barriers). One stopped and spoke with the woman at the desk but no card was shown and they just went straight in.

Entering Harefield.

Entering Harefield.

The whole thing felt somewhat pathetic, there is a barrier which is linked to the machines which amusingly still have the [P] car parking sign on the side. You use the machine just like you would when parking and even get a ticket to put on the dashboard, it is literally the same thing but with a barrier attached. The signs were attached with cable ties and poorly made, so I imagine they will need replacing in a few months time. It really felt that the whole thing had been poorly designed and almost as a last minute thing.

Interestingly, both lanes accept the card (the attendants were asking people to move across),  so why the council felt it necessary to have a separate lane for HillingdonFirst residents is strange – were they really expecting that many out of borough users to pay a £10 fee? I have a feeling that will have to change, just put a sign up and let people use either lane, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Attendents

Attendants

When you finally got to the machine, there was a guy standing there taking the card from us and pressing the yellow button and swiping on our behalf – the machine is not well placed which doesn’t help (its a parking meter, so designed for standing users – and its raised), but he said that the machines were causing people difficulties and hence the queue.

Once we had the ‘ticket’ the guy said “here’s you parking ticket.. yeah I know, you couldn’t make it up”, which seems to be the general consensus on the scheme.

It did occur to me whilst sitting in the queue, that if less people are using the dump I can assume that staff levels will be cut, or will they be reassigned to help confused residents at the barriers?

The roll out of HillingdonFirst continues …

We have had reports of complete chaos at many car parks with parkers not understanding how to use the machine, not knowing about the scheme, not having a card and more worrying, a lot of machines not working.

If you have pictures of the faulty machines or the chaos caused by them, please send them over to us.

Over on the great hillingdonchat.com website (frequented by Hillingdon Councillors) there are more reports of chaos in the posting of cards.

Many cards have had to be returned to the civic centre as they were incorrectly addressed. All the flat numbers were missing on my estate, and I hear that the problem is boroughwide. Our postman has already returned hundreds, and if this is the same across the borough there are probably thousands of returned cards sitting in the civic centre mailroom.

Council Tax and Library records were used, so there are a large number of residents who will not get a card.

and

Sunshine wrote:
I got one but my husband didn’t. I entered his details online and his new card arrived yesterday (doesn’t take too long)

A guy I work with said his 9 year old daughter got one

This email came in yesterday:

I received my HillingdonFirst card earlier this week, and since it replaces the Hillingdon Library card, I put it into my wallet in the Library card’s place.While the HF card is in my wallet, Oyster card readers cannot read my Oyster card.  I tried four different gates and two different ticket machines.  Pressing just my Oyster and HF cards against the yellow Oyster reader also prevents the Oyster card from being read – even out of my wallet. The gates just say “Seek Assistance”, while the ticket machine says “Your Oyster Card has not been initialised for Prestige”.

Oyster & HF Combo not working

This makes sense, LASSeO (the standard of the card) uses the same system that Oyster does. If you look at the Future Uses you can see that there are plans to use the scheme to replace the Oyster card (much in the same way that Barclaycard Wave has Oyster built in).

Is anyone else having this problem? If so, please email hillingdonfirst@hotmail.co.uk

With the cards coming in the post this week, its a good time to discuss the discount scheme for shoppers (a way of softening up the residents). The scheme is voluntary and isn’t actually just a discount, but any additional benefit (for example, giving something away), it just sounds better when they call things a discount (as we have seen with parking).

The list of 335 businesses is up on the web now (click here). With businesses having so much trouble at the moment, it makes sense that they would want as much promotion and extra income as possible.

Unfortunately, judging by the responses we got from a survey of  Bracknells e+ Business members (on which Hillingdon’s is based on) it just won’t work. Here are three responses (all responses were negative about the scheme).

Sorry I don’t think this is working for us.  We did have a sticker in the window prior to it peeling off.

> 5. Do you think the e+ card is 'working' for you? (Please give details).
IT HELPS US IN THE WAY THAT IT GIVES US FREE ADVERTISING BUT APPART FROM THAT
NOT MUCH AT ALL
> 6. Any other comments?
HOW MANY DO ACTUALLY USE THE CARD IN THE TOWN CENTRE WITH THE TRADERS TO GET A
DISCOUNT AND IS IT COST EFFECTIVE OVERALL?
I'm sorry to say that the e+ card has had no effect on us whatsoever, no-one has used it,no-one has mentioned it. Its not working for us.

If you find a business which you plan on using, do them a favour and don’t use your card – free advertising is great for business but giving discounts and benefits in a recession isn’t.

Hillingdon are doing a bit of fire fighting. They have made it so that drivers under 18 can now apply for the card (one of our big annoyances) which wasn’t in any of the information issued before this blog started, or in any of the FOI requests (even Cllr. Mills says Over 18 – see below).

With the bad press and building anger against the scheme (we are getting over 100 hits a day now – not bad for a website being up only 1 month), they have put up the ‘consultation’ that kick started this – although the scheme was first discussed in 2006 but this consultation is from 2008. They also mention that the scheme was discussed at the Question Time meetings that are held in Hillingdon.

Firstly, it appears that the consultation was with about 340 people, so thats 0.13% of the residents of Hillingdon. The consultation isn’t particulary enlightening or that suprising, who wouldnt want discounted shopping?!

Well, actually, it shows that 120 of the respondents (thats 35%) agreed with the statement “I don’t like the idea of a Hillingdon Card, as I am concerned about Data Protection issues“. More than one third of the public were concerned about their data protection, how many more didn’t realise they could be tracked around the borough?

Far from quashing any rumours about the scheme, I think the consultation makes an even stronger case that the scheme is flawed and undemocratic.

As for the meetings – there are no transcripts from the meetings so I took the liberty of listening to the mp3s and transcribing them for you myself. I found no questions or answers and no one discussing it, just Cllr. Mills talking about it.

cllr_mills_nov2008.mp3
Cllr Mills @ 10.00
We are introducing next year a Residents Entitlement card called HillingdonFirst and I have an example, most of you probably can’t see from that far, but its like a little credit card. Plastic. HillingdonFirst will give preferential rates on parking, on use of hillingdon leisure facilities, on even discounts in some of our local shops. It will enable residents to be recognised as exactly that, a resident of hillingdon. So when visitors to hillingdon come and use our car parks they will pay a much higher fee, you wont, they will and we think thats important because that is about a practical example of putting residents at the heart of what we wish to do.

douglas_mills.mp3
Cllr Mills @ 10:20
We’re doing something no other London borough has tried before. We’re going to give you one of these, coming soon in June. All of you over 18, I think you all qualify, will be receiving your own hillingdon residents entitlement card, this means that when you use our car parks you will be paying the hillingdon rate as opposed to those people from outside hillingdon who will be paying more, reason? – you pay council tax, they don’t. Why should they get the benefit of lower car parking when they don’t pay for the council tax, you do – you’ll get a discount on our parking. When you use our amenity facilities and our leisure facilities when they come fully on stream and they’re going to be so good people will come from outside hillingdon to use them, you will get them at a lower rate, they will pay more because you have already paid through your hillingdon council tax. This is also aimed at businesses and I am pleased to say across the whole borough over 300 businesses have signed up to this scheme saying that if you go into one of those businesses and show you this, they will give you a discount because you’re a hillingon resident. Now that is unique. Now, the health warning, there’s about 180,000 of you altogether and to get that out to all of you during june, first time without any problems will be a miracle so things won’t necessarily go smoothly, but you will get one eventually and it will be very beneficial to all of us.

One thing that I do agree with is the “Do you think a Hillingdon Card is a good idea?”. Most of the respondents agreed, yes. The thing is, it is a great idea for discounted shopping (see another post about this later), for using the swimming pool or leisure centre. But why on earth touch parking? Do people really want to carry a card to park? Of course not. We don’t mind (and are used to) using a card to go to the library or swimming pool, but why parking? Its maddening that they mess it up like this.

As for privacy, they can still fix this – change the system so it only stores data for one month before being deleted. I have seen that they store this for ‘financial’ reasons, but do they need to know the exact meter and car park being used? Of course not – a simple note saying parking has been used would be enough to satisfy the financial director.

I, for one, would feel a lot better about a system which guaranteed deletion of our personal ‘histories’ within one month of use (thats the dump, the parking, the leisure facilities, the school meals, the whatever comes next). Wouldn’t you?

Why am I here?

Hillingdon First is a new card scheme that has been introduced in the London Borough of Hillingdon. Unfortunately the hillingdon website is light on facts, so we decided to put up a more informative site.

Something to share? email us.

Not happy about this?

Write to your MP/Councillor. Moan to the papers. Tell your friends. Complain to the ICO (privacy). Complain to Hillingdon. Ask some FOI requests. Link to us (with HillingdonFirst in the anchor). Do Something.

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