LBC’s Ian Dale interviewed Mick Lynch during this year’s Edinburgh Festival and, naturally, they discussed his union’s campaign to retain railway ticket offices.

Rather than rattle the “legitimate interests of our members” tambourine, Lynch placed the closures in the wider context of accessibility, customer service and exclusion.

That conversation embraces increasingly problematic access to all manner of public services, financial institutions, privatised utilities, councils… even the Co-op!

Here are a few recent reflections.

I don’t do online banking so, with our Crouch End NatWest closed, spent three hours on a round trip to Muswell Hill, and then five days wrestling with an automated call system to organise something that used to take 15 minutes.

It’s best to make a pot of tea before ringing the Haringey switchboard. Just like attempting to call the pension 'service', the wait will be horrendous.

Ham & High: David Winskill feels that technology is making some people feel less independentDavid Winskill feels that technology is making some people feel less independent (Image: Archant)

My old friend Margaret, suffering with chronic pain, no longer drives to Muswell Hill as her mobile phone can’t handle Haringey’s parking app.

Rose, 81, bright as a button and health conscious, was advised to get a blood test and to book it via an app. Rose doesn’t have a mobile phone. She could ask a relative or neighbour to help but eventually her surgery agreed to book it, thus dropping Rose down the queue by a couple of weeks.

In effect, both had a little bit of independence stolen.

Scottish Dave does have a mobile and it’s only three years old. FirstDirect have told him he needs a new one as it doesn’t support their new app - £300: kerching!

Last month, I invested ages assuring Thames Water that I hadn’t moved and could they please keep my account open. They emailed confirming that all would continue as before but last week they took a year’s worth of charges from my bank in one hit. Happily, I stayed in the black: overdrafts are charged at 39.34%.

All Ham&High readers will have encountered the flat tones of labyrinthine telephone menus, the chirpiness of the online bot and Wayne (chatting from Delhi) offering endless apologies and thanks for using a service that increasingly makes you feel powerless and abused.

Once we were citizens, then consumers and now we are treated as chattels. We must comply with the way remote, cost-paring middle-managers want us to engage and should be grateful that our data is sold on.

We might be paying, but the Piper has gone deaf.

  • David Winskill is a Crouch End resident and campaigner.