Over the last few months I've had a lot of contact with my local council, especially the planning and licensing departments. While the processes have been overly bureaucratic, largely due to central government dictats, the staff have been, without exception, helpful and pleasant. Phone calls have been returned when promised, queries have been dealt with promptly and things happened when they were supposed to. One phone call got me through to a receptionist that connected me staightaway to the right person, who then gave me his/her extension number for future use.
Conversely I have also been trying to open a bank account. Admittedly banks are a perverse form of private enterprise but I have been met with rudeness, a 'don't give a shit' attitude and crass incompetence. They all seem to have telephone systems designed to ensure it is impossible to actually reach the person, or even department, that you need to speak to. Messages have been left on numerous occasions and calls never returned. I tried Barclays and gave up. I had previously tried NatWest but left after hanging around ringing a bell at the enquiries desk for an age without anybody bothering to come and deal with my enquiry.
Finally I went back to NatWest and was dealt with by a wonderful woman who assured us that the account would be open within about 5 working days at most. It is now 8 and nothing. She promised to return calls, if busy, within an hour, three messages were left last week and not one was returned.
I've realised recently that it's all too easy for people to whinge about the public sector and sing the praises of the private sector, including yours truly. But no more, in future many of us need to be a little more objective. And don't even get me started on First Direct or the private utility companies.