The Admin of Moving House
Is it just me, or is it becoming ever harder to communicate with officialdom? That is, both officialdom as in government services, and private-sector service providers such as utilities?
My house move has thrown up several examples, ranging from the painless to the deeply frustrating (though none so Kafkaesque as Virgin Media). Time to record a few cases.
Good: National Government. The process to get on the electoral register was updated between the 2005 and 2010 elections, and now works well. Registering at my new address was quick and painless – though probably (still) wide open to fraud.
Painful: Local Government. Signing off from Plymouth was painless, but West Devon has got much worse since I was previously here. Specifically, their website is now dysfunctional and won’t work without severely compromising one’s own security. I can sign up, but attempting to log in just dumps me at a third-party site that appears to be an identity service provider – but I have no way of verifying that, nor anything I can do even if I do decide to trust them!
So when they demand Council Tax, I can’t log in to set up payment. And there’s no contact information for council tax: their “contact us” offers a bunch of specific services, but no catch-all to contact them on a matter not listed, like how to pay them! It took two visits to their office in person and a letter written to them on paper to sort that.
Still worse was recycling. My request for the relevant recycling bins was submitted several times online and once in person at their offices, but fell into a black hole. Eventually (on a friend’s suggestion) I wrote to my elected councilors, who told the council jobsworths to do their job, whereupon the boxes were finally – three months from my first request – forthcoming.
Amongst utilities, Southwest Water was relatively painless. My first attempt failed on some website idiocy, but that was when my ‘net connection was down to 2G so it was a cup-of-coffee delay as it insisted on my changing “7” to “07” (or something) in a Date field. Returning a second time when it was back up to 4G, it still exhibited idiocy, but at least worked to the point of letting me notify them of my move and submit meter readings. Best of all, no need to change my existing direct debit just because it’s a different address.
At my previous address I had gas and electricity from SSE. Notifying them of my move was painless, and in retrospect I should have accepted their (automatic) offer to supply the new address. But I assumed I could sort that later.
Looking at the Western Power Distribution website, I found the incumbent supplier for my house is EDF. I was a happy customer of EDF from 2005 to 2013 (i.e. my entire time at the address I lived longer than anywhere else), and expected no problem. But it turned out to be another epic story, and one that merits a separate post that’ll make better reading than this TLDR. Suffice it for to say that today I’ve decided to give up the struggle and pay an incorrect bill, just to draw a line under it and move on with another provider.
One more minor epic was my internet connection. On finding that my 4G connection only half-works from here, I signed up for FTTC with Andrews and Arnold, with a view to a longer-term project of bringing some stuff in-house from the Cloud. Due to various issues, some of them genuinely outside the control of either A&A or Openreach, it was three visits over more than a month, and something of a battle, from when I should have had my connection to when it actually went live. Disappointed with the poor communication from A&A over much of that time.
Finally a good news story. Having blown my money on a house, I no longer have £20k cash to keep in a Santander 123 account. At £5/month charge, it could even end up costing me money with smaller balances! After a bit of online research, I opened a new account with Starling Bank, and after verifying that it worked I instructed them to transfer my Santander account. That ran genuinely smoothly, with not just my money but also payees and references moved automatically. Even Santander were polite about it, with no annoying “Customer Retention” crap when they wrote to confirm the closure.