Staffordshire County Council approved almost £5 million in cuts to health and care services in September this year, which would see £439,000 of the Citizens Advice service’s funding being lost.
As part of the cuts Burntwood’s Citizens Advice Bureau has been closed and it’s elderly volunteers replaced with an Amazon Echo, a voice-activated internet-connected intelligent device that answers to the name of Alexa.
The device will be located on a table behind the Bureau’s front door and can be activated by citizens shouting their problems through the letterbox.
One of Burntwood’s many troubled residents is unemployed life coach Paul Mycock. He said:
‘I’ve been a regular at the CAB since I lost my job, especially during bad weather and the Jeremy Vine show.
‘The problem that I don’t really have this week turns on the correct interpretation of the provisions of The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
‘The CAB volunteers are great, particularly Mrs Norman, she’s a lovely old dear, but she hasn’t a clue – not unless it involves organising an online petition.
‘I knew she’d be on the Google for an hour or more before suggesting I see a decent local solicitor in Birmingham. Plenty of time for a brew and a chat by the radiator.’
Paul was shocked to discover the door to the CAB was locked but was intrigued by the instructions to shout through the letterbox. He continued:
‘I called out her name, “Alexa, Alexa are you there?” She said hello, she has a lovely sexy calming voice. I composed myself, placed my hand in my trouser pocket and told her of my 2013 Regulations based problem.
‘Quick as a flash Alexa came back with the answer, “14 days”. No tea, no biscuits and no time to sort myself out. It may be a quick, accurate and cost effective solution to Staffordshire’s financial crisis, but that’s not the point.
‘All I’m after is a bit of company, is that too much to ask?’
Staffordshire County Council refused to comment on the Echo trials although spokesperson Paula Wright did say:
‘There is an 80% chance of rain today.’