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Langley Kent - Parish Council and their Website.

Latest from Langley Kent!

From the Decmber 2009 Minutes

7.6 2010/11 Budget – Following the Finance meeting held on 2nd December, the Clerk
circulated a draft Budget for Members to consider with further debate required on the
following specific items:-
Cllr Reichert left the meeting room at 8.50pm to allow Members to discuss the website.

• Website – Three options were considered:-

  1. Revert to KCC website
  2. Continue as is
  3. Complete revamp and new website

After much discussion, it was agreed to budget sufficient funds to continue as
is current, since it was considered that given all of the tasks involved, such as;
preparing and editing information, researching content for pages, picture
editing/resizing, creating PDF and JPEG files, writing and editing copy,
concept and design and programming pages, etc. that this represented good
value. Further investigations concerning other options will be ongoing.

This is a comment on what happens when a Parish Council (elected / unelected?) starts spending taxpayers money on "pretty" websites!

This is how it should be done: The Linton website has far more information than Langely. Its easy to get to, is DDA compliant, doesn't need somebody with computer experience to update it. And is FREE !!! Well done Linton

Think your Council tax is high enough? Well, read the following and see how it can be both wasted and funnelled into the pockets of your Parish Councillors.

Anyway, back to Langley Kent and their website. This was conceived at almost the same time as Lenham PC considered spending money on websites (see below).

Clearly Langley had greater pressure to move down the high cost bespoke web experience than Lenham. I wonder what sort of pressure that was?

Mr Hans Reichert is a Langley Parish Councilor (with responsibility for web)

Hans Dieter Reichert is a (the?) director of HDR Communication

HDR Communication got the contract to 'do' the Langley Parish Council website. Reading the minutes I can see no indication that other web companies, web professionals or anybody was approached. Surely the PC should have put this, a relatively large expense out to tender, invited interested parties. (Its seems to be over 10% of the PC Budget!)

To summaries the point of my concern: Langley Parish Council had the option of using a free resource to go online. That resource is DDA compliant, it works, it can be updated by the non technically minded and can be adapted / changed / improved for very little investment. The PC decided to ignore this free resource and give HDR, owned by a Parish Councillor, many thousands of pounds to produce a website that appears to lack these key facilities!

As an aside, Lenham PC had announced back in November 2007 that they had allocated £1,000 to start the development of their own website. I went to the public part of the council meeting and challenged them on this, Lenham has avoided (so far I think) this totally unnecessary expenditure and uses the sufficiently capable web facility provided free by KCC. It is occasionally updated.

 

The Website.

When it comes to 'design', personal taste can come into any comments of good or bad. Fortunately, this website is so awful, especially when you consider what it was written to do, that the choice of whether it is any good is simplified.

Before accessing this awful site, this is what to consider.

  • Have a look at the menus, you might have heard of the Disability Discrimination Act, the DDA is the act that says Village halls need to have disabled access. Similar applies to official websites. This site is clearly in breach.
  • The content, there is a bit of content, but why spend thousands of pounds, seemingly in order to make it particularly difficult to find it.
  • The images, words fail me, so far I've only found two that seem to be of Langely, the rest seem to be people just hanging around.

Anyway, brace yourself, "here's Langley" : www.langley-kent.org.uk

Technically it is as awful as it is visually. The use of "frames" harks back to websites that were built in the 1990s and even then they were looked down on. For somebody to charge for a site that uses frames in this way is shameful!

Any modern website, certainly since 2000 and which is supposedly developed by a professional will have content management which allows the user to maintain the site without any access to the 'programming'. Correct me if I'm wrong but this one doesn't seem to, this effectively ties the client into using the developer, is this the £100 a month? Langely being tied to HDR when it comes to any updating of website content. With the KCC option, anybody could do it!

But You might say this is all just my opinion, just web developer rivalry, read some comments from round the world from the professional web developers forum WebProWorld. I asked for some impartial comments. Their view was that a price of £500 to £600 was more appropriate.

I appreciate that this will fly in the face of HDR's comment reported July 2007 "Cllr Reichert advised that the new website is now up and running and Cllr Reichert has already received positive comments, including amendments and suggestions for more pages, etc."

Some Notes and Extracts from Langley Kent Parish Council Minutes:

( July17th 2007, No declaration of Interest from HDR. The Clerk is in receipt of the invoice from HDR Visual Communications for £2,975 + VAT £520.62. The Clerk will seek to obtain assistance from Cllr Hotson for the monthly charge of £98 + VAT for
website updates and amendments.)

(Note 29 May 2007: Cllr Reichert provided the Council with an estimate for modifications and updating the
Langley Website. After much discussion and a vote (5 for and 1 against) agreement was given to the following costs: HDR Visual Communications estimate (full copy available in the Parish files). The work will take 2-3 weeks to complete. The estimate includes publishing a new website, liaison with the different people/parties contributing information and expenses = £2,975 + VAT.

(My comment, the vote 5 for and 1 against, was HDR voting to pay himself money or did he abstain, there is no mention of any abstentions)

Also, there is an on-going monthly maintenance fee of £98.00 + VAT. It was requested that the Clerk look into securing a grant towards the cost of this project

(Note Sept 18/08/07 11.1 The Clerk has written to Cllr Stockell on 24th July to request funding assistance towards the ongoing maintenance costs for the new website totalling £1,176 + VAT per year (£98 + VAT per month). E/mail received 28th July from Cllr Stockell advising we shall receive a Members Grant towards the ongoing costs for the website.)

Another question I would like to ask: Was there a competitive tendering process prior to the award of the contract to Councillor Hans Dieter Reichert?

And something even worse

Well, could it get worse? Apparently HDR Communication have managed to talk Coxheath into using the questionable skills of Hans Dieter Reichert. Another set of taxpayers who will see their Parish precept go into his hands. This is doubly awful as Coxheath have sort of started with the KCC website facility, failed to maintain it and now seem to think that by spending loads of money (taxpayers money) it will all become okay!

Now here's some facts.

Read the following extract from the various Parish minutes and you will see that "HDR Communications" has funnelled close to £7,000 for apparent website work (the minutes are a bit vague and seem to show another £3,000 ish). There is a further close on £3,000 for other activities that has been paid from the Parish Council to the Parish Councillors company.

Hans Dieter Reichert, Parish Councillor has paid himself / (His Company) about £13,000 from Parish Council funds. The question I would ask is would he have got this work and this amount of money if he hadn't been a Parish Councillor?

Summary of Parish Council Minutes and Accounting.

The following notes are extracted from the minutes of the Langley Parish Council meeting 18 September 2007 

Please note that no declarations of interest by Cllr Hans Reichert appear to have been made until 11 November 2008 by which time many thousands of pounds had been paid to his company by the Parish Council. 

The first payment appears to be the one for setting up the website. 

There are also payments later on for services other than the website – see below 

Meeting No: No. 5 07-08

Date: Tuesday 18th September 2007, 7.30pm

Venue: Committee Room, Langley Village Hall

Present: Cllrs; S Knowles (Vice Chair), T Haylor, D Hurley, D Davies,

*H Reichert,* J Tucker, P Stockell.

Clerk – Ms N Dawkins

The meeting was opened by the Chair at 8.05pm.

1. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Cllr C Craven – holiday and PC James Talbot – holiday.

2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

Nothing to declare.   Note 1 

FINANCE

The following payments require approval:

Cheque No. Amount Payee

£485.68 Nicola Dawkins – September Salary

£22.29 Nicola Dawkins – September Expenses

£75.00 2nd Payment – Chairman’s Allowance

£180.00 Mrs Mary Spry – Allotment Rent

£26.92 Mr C Mills – October Salary – Litter Clearance

£26.92 Mr C Mills – October Salary – Litter Clearance

*£3495.62 HDR Visual Communications Ltd – Website production*

£336.05 Neptune – Concrete Litter Bin

£858.46 Paul Fryer Prop. Maintenance – Planters/Park Bench

£297.51 EDF Energy – Repair to Street Light – Rumwood Farm

£117.28 Allianz Insurance plc

£258.50 Barming Engravasales Ltd – prod. of play area sign 

Extracts from minutes since 18 September 2007 which could be considered relevant to questionable payments/receipts:-

18/9/07

£3495.62 HDR Visual Communications Ltd - Website production (to be confirmed, error or duplicate payment)

16/10/07

£345.45 HDR Visual Comms – July – Sept Website Updates

11/07

7.1 Income/Expenditure

It was noted that the following items of income had been received since the last meeting:-

Cllr P Stockell 1000.00 Website (£750) – Flowers/Bulbs (£250)????? Note 2

22/1/08

101908 £115.15 HDR – October 07 – Website Update

101909 £115.15 HDR – November 07 – Website Update

19/2/08

101942 115.15 HDR Visual Communications Ltd – January Website Fees

18/3/08

101954 115.15 HDR Visual Communications – February Website Fees

15/4/08

101971 115.15 HDR Visual Communications Ltd – March website fees

20/5/08

101980 115.15 HDR Visual Communications – Apri l

Website

17/6/08

101999 115.15 HDR Visual Communications – May Website fees

15/7/08

102011 115.15 HDR Visual Communications – June Website Maintenance

16/9/08

102021 115.15 HDR Visual Communications – July Website

102032 £115.15 HDR Visual Communications – August Maintenance

102033 £46.88 HDR Visual Communications – Annual Web Hosting Fee

21/10/08

102041 115.15 HDR Visual Communications – September Website

18/11/08

102062 £45.00 Mr Hans Reichert – Parish Plan expenses – images????? Note 2

15/12/08

102076 £115.15 HDR Visual Communications – November Website Fees

102077 £862.50 HDR Visual Communications – Parish Plan – A2 + A4??????

20/01/09

102091 £112.70 HDR Visual Communications – December Website Fees

102092 £632.50 HDR Visual Communications – Parish Plan – A5 + Website??????  Note 3

102093 £1466.25 HDR Visual Communications – Parish Plan – A4??????  Note 3

17/2/09

102100 £112.70 HDR Visual Communications – January Website Fees

17/3/09

102111 £112.70 HDR Visual Communications – February Website Fees

21/4/09

102132 £112.70 HDR Visual Communications Ltd – March Fee

16/6/09

102150 £112.70 HDR Visual Communications Ltd – April Website Fees

102157 £112.70 HDR Visual Communications Ltd – May Website Fees

21/7/09

102161 £112.70 HDR Visual Communications Ltd – June Website Fees

18/8/09

102181 £112.70 HDR Visual Communications Ltd – July website fees

15/9/09

102192 £158.89 HDR Visual Communications - August Fee + Web Hosting Fee 

NOTE 1 Mr Reichert does not appear (from the Minutes) to have declared any interests until November 2008, at least after the website was up and running. 

Note 2 Was this a personal donation by Mrs Stockell?  I cannot understand why she was handing over this money when KCC (which she represents) already provides website facilities at virtually no cost 

Note 3 We don't have a note of what this work was and how much did it entail? 

It should be noted that this is in no way a criticism of HDR's general artistic or 'design' skills, but as I would not expect a baker to have any great butchery skills (though they both appear to have many similarities, they have shops with a counter, wear aprons and sell fresh food to the public ) in the same sense, for an artist to assume that they are a web site professional is equally ludicrous!

langely kent

hans dieter reichert

Interesting that Tony Monk, not a councillor without having had Code of Conduct Training was able to identify that something inappropriate was going on while Hans Dieter Reichert and the whole of Langely Parish Council seemed to be unaware!

The free option which was DDA compliant, easy and free to maintain and not tied to HDR communications was rejected after "careful consideration". If that was truly the case then I'm sure Langely Parish Council will divulge why the free option was rejected in favour of the one costing £1,000s.