Calling my local taxi firm this week I was somewhat taken aback when the voice I expected was replaced by a call handling system offering me four options to direct my call to ‘the correct team’.

Choosing option one ‘to book a taxi’ (heaven knows what the other three were for) a discordant robotic voice gave me a selection of popular destinations eg ‘Press two if you wish to travel to the town centre, press three if you wish to travel to the airport’ etc.

What it didn’t tell me was what to do if I wanted to travel to the train station.

I was in a hurry and pressed zero a dozen times in sheer frustration until a familiar voice said, ‘CabCars’. It was dispatcher Sharon (commonly known as Shazza to the drivers).

“What’s going on, Sharon?” I asked.

“Why the Stephen Hawking voice on the answer phone?”

“Don’t was Donald Trump last week.”

‘I thought answering the phone was Debbie’s job?”

“She's on her break with Big Bob.”

I requested a cab to the station quickly.

“No can do,” said Shazza. “They’re all on the school run.”

“When will Big Bob be free?”

“Soon as he’s done his airport pick up.”

“How about directing my call to ‘another team’?”

“You’re a funny guy do you know that?”

“I’m a desperate guy, Sharon, and I need to be at the station in 20 minutes.”

“First available car is 40 minutes.”

“Forty minutes!”

“Sorry, got to go Barry’s back with bacon butties.”

I decided to walk to the station but got caught in a blizzard and missed my train.

As I stood on the platform wringing wet, cold and feeling very sorry for myself I received the following text message: How likely are you to recommend CabCar to a friend?

Text 1 for extremely likely, 2 for likely, 3 for neither, 4 for unlikely and 5 for extremely unlikely.

I thought of Shazza, Debbie and Fat Bob squashed together in their tiny back street ‘office’ working around the clock to get unruly kids to school, anxious patients to hospital and abusive drunks off the streets and texted back with a number 1.

(NB: Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)


Cheshire Police’s investigation of council leader Michael Jones has been ‘ongoing’ for three years now with no outcome whatsoever.

Several other investigations into other council members commenced during the same period are also ‘ongoing.’ In fact it is true to say that not a single case passed to Cheshire Police concerning Cheshire East has been brought to any conclusion.

Obviously these cases will involve contacting and taking evidence from a number of witnesses, and clearly three years is insufficient for Cheshire Police to correlate these statements.

So if I was to ask you how long it would take for the same police force to solicit the views of half a million residents and present a statistically accurate record of their responses, what would be your estimate?

I’m betting it wouldn’t be the 28 days it took Crime Commissioner David Keane to initiate a ‘public consultation’ for the whole of Cheshire, collect their responses and pose in front of the cameras to proclaim overwhelming support for his proposed tax increase.

If anyone has been the victim of any crime that was recorded, investigated and resolved within that time-frame do let me know.

If Mr Keane could employ the same vigour and purpose to fighting crime that he has clearly demonstrated in exacting money from taxpayers, residents will be ecstatic.

To organise an effective public consultation right across a county of one million residents, ensure all are given equal chance to have their say, correlate their responses, verify the information was genuinely one-person, one vote and announce the result within 28 days is miraculous.

I look forward to Mr Keane telling us how he did it.


Apparently no less than 26 lessons have been learned by Cheshire East following recent employment tribunals.

Sara Duncalf, acting HR business partner at CEC, said: “At the end of an employment tribunal it is important for us to look back and consider any lessons learned as part of the overall process in the way that we operate.”

Surprisingly improving their recruitment procedures does not appear to be one of them. For a council that has hired and fired more personnel than Donald Trump one would have thought selection criteria would have been high on the list second only to changing the interview panel.

Clearly ‘lessons have been learned’ by the electorate who have funded every investigation. Voters have certainly learned that blind loyalty to one party at every election doth not a clever council make.

Come May 2, councillors are going to find out what lessons taxpayers have learned from returning politicians regardless of their competence. They are going to find what lessons communities have learned about trusting the future of their towns and villages to politicians who solicit their opinions and ignore them.

By Guardian columnist Vic Barlow